In both Spell (2004) and A Whaler’s Dictionary (2008), Dan Beachy-Quick participates in a long tradition of experimental writing about Moby-Dick, revising the novel as a book about writing poetry. In his deep reading of Melville’s text, Beachy-Quick discerns a “poetics of reading,” or a model of the lyric poem conceived as an intersubjective, even ethical circumstance, which I argue continued to inform Melville’s writing, especially his later poetry. For both authors, this model is used to create poems in which speakers navigate the impersonality of written language toward a recognition of other persons. I provide an interpretation of Melville’s John Marr and Other Sailors (1888), demonstrating how it makes use of a poetics that only becomes legible in light of Beachy-Quick intervention, which refracts Moby-Dick through post-modern theories of language set forth by literary critics like Maurice Blanchot and Paul de Man. Specifically, Beachy-Quick helps me discover a poetics of reading at work in Melville’s sea-pieces that troubles the legibility of written or literary language, foreshadowing some aspects of postmodern and deconstructionist theories of inscription. In John Marr, Melville redeems the instability of the page as an epitaphic surface on which to descry meaningful, significant relations between others.


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 83-103
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.