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R E V I E W historicists. Yet Seelye also is alert to emergent trends, situating Pierre in the context of the popular “citymystery” genre and exploring Melville’s“intertextual dependence. . . on fiction generally deemed subliterary.” Observing that “postmodernism”(another interpretive category derided by Parker) is “amode that allows for absolute freedom to abuse literary conventions,”Seelyealso celebrates the postmodernism he finds in Moby-Dick. At one point reminding readers that he has been pursuing his interest in Melville for thirty years, Seelye in his essay proves that even an old Melvillean dog can learn new critical tricks. “Everysubject,” G. Thomas Tanselle writes in his essay on textual editing , &‘can be studied endlessly, if it interests us enough, for we can never capture the whole truth or know with certainty that we have caught part of it; and the indeterminacy of the text’s verbal works is a perfect illustration of the necessity for endless reconsideration.” Noteworthy as a documentary record of its occasion, the centennial of Melville’sdeath, Melville’s Evermoving Dawn is also an important contribution to the endless reconsideration of Herman Melville’slife and art. All students and fans of Melville will be well-served by reading it. Lyon Evans Viterbo College The Cambridge Companion to Herman Melville. ROBERT S. LEVINE, ED. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998,xix, 305 pages. M etaphors for literary criticism often harbor an uneasy self-consciousness . “A book is a machine to think with,” I. A. Richards I provocatively began his Principles of Literary Criticism many decades ago. His in-your-face insouciance hides an anxiety common to bookish men in the industrial era, as if to say literary critics can be real men after all: we use machines, we think tough thoughts, we build hard-bodied books from first principles, we’re engineers in disguise. In the feminist 1980s, with a similar mixture of challenge and belonging, Judith Fetterley introduced an anthology of 19th century American women’s writings by musing about how critics collectively function as placentas. Whatever our imperial dreams of explanatory power or presumptions of parity with creative writers, our books and essays serve primarily as nutritional envelopes, or perhaps as midwives to aid in the labor of re-birthing texts for new generations of readers. A J O U R N A L O F M E L V I L L ES T U D I E S 81 R E V I E W Reading Melville can induce an intense self-consciousness about metaphor-making, especiallymetaphors for intellectual labor. Especiallyin his early narratives, their awkward exuberance invites us into intimate alienation, as if we were dancing with young Ahab at the prom. It’s no accident, then, that when a Cambridge series of critical “companions”embraces Melville as a suitably major author, this volume’s editor promptly resists both the monumentalizing and the metaphor. Or rather, Robert Levine does what a good Melvillean should: he takes the metaphor as both friend and foe, bridge and wall, mirror and pasteboard mask. Any good companion to Melville should be a “provocation” as well as “handbook,” opens Levine’s introduction. Besides, Melville’s own narrations are “the best sort of guide” (3). For Melville, as Levine and Andrew Delbanco acknowledge to open and close this essay collection , being a companion demands an uneasy mixture of self-consciousness and intellectual fluidity. Despite the editor’s prickly start, the book is considerably more companionable , or at least portable, than the encyclopedic Companion to Melville Studies that John Bryant edited in 1986. Like the other Cambridge companions , this volume will find one of its niche markets among graduate students and advanced undergraduates who want to get up to speed with recent critical approaches, or who are simply trying to figure out why Melville’s writings “both invite and resist interpretation,” as Levine’s introduction nicely puts it (10). For new and long-term Melvilleans, too, this book will become a frequently consulted resource and prod. The first six essays offer sophisticated and unpretentious explorations of the major prose narratives and the poetry, though most of the stories get short shrift. There’s almost nothing on “The Encantadas,” for instance, and readers interested...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1750-1849
Print ISSN
1525-6995
Pages
pp. 81-86
Launched on MUSE
2013-05-29
Open Access
No
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