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The Moby-Dick Marathon; or, What Melville Means Today
The experimental artist Peter Fischli once observed, “There’s certainly a subversive pleasure in occupying yourself with something for an unreasonable length of time.” In this same spirit, David Dowling takes it upon himself to attend and report on the all-consuming annual Moby-Dick Marathon reading at the New Bedford Whaling Museum.
The twenty-five-hour nonstop reading of Melville’s titanic epic has inspired this fresh look at Moby-Dick in light of its most devoted followers at the moment of their high holy day, January 3, 2009. With some trepidation, Dowling joined the ranks of the Melvillians, among the world’s most obsessive literary aficionados, to participate in the event for its full length, from “Call Me Ishmael” to the destruction of the Pequod. Dowling not only survived to tell his tale, but does so with erudition, humor, and a keen sense for the passions of his fellow whalers.
The obsession of participants at the marathon reading is startling, providing evidence of Ishmael’s remark that “all men live enveloped in whale-lines. All are born with halters round their necks; but it is only when caught in the swift, sudden turn of death, that mortals realize the silent, subtle, ever-present perils of life.” Dowling organizes his savvy analysis of the novel from its romantic departure to its sledge-hammering seas, detailing the culture of the top brass to the common crew and scrutinizing the inscrutable in and through Melville’s great novel.
Chasing the White Whale offers a case study of the reading as a barometer of how Melville lives today among his most passionate and enthusiastic disciples, who include waterfront workers, professors, naval officers, tattooed teens, and even a member of Congress. Dowling unearths Moby-Dick’s central role in these lives, and by going within the local culture he explains how the novel could have developed such an ardent following and ubiquitous presence in popular culture within our technology-obsessed, quick-fix contemporary world.
Chronicle of a Texas River Valley
“There was so much space.” These words epitomize ecologist Joe Truett's boyhood memories of the Angelina River valley in East Texas. Years and miles later, back home for the funeral of his grandfather, Truett began a long meditation on the world Corbett Graham had known and he himself had glimpsed, a now-vanished world where wild hogs and countless other animals rustled through the leaves, cows ate pinewoods grass instead of corn, oaks and hickories and longleaf pines were untouched by the corporate ax, and the river flowed freely. Truett's meditation resulted in this clear-sighted portrait of a place over time, its layers revealed by his love and care and curiosity.Truett celebrates his family's heritage and the unspoiled natural world of the Piney Woods without nostalgia. He recreates an older, simpler, more worthy age, but he knows that we have lost touch with it because we wanted to: he laments the loss but understands it. What makes his prose so moving and so redeeming is this precise combination of honesty and sorrow, overlaid by a quiet passion for both the natural and the human worlds.
New Views of an Old Subject
Many dogmas regarding Greek theatre were established by researchers who lacked experience in the mounting of theatrical productions. In his wide-ranging and provocative study, Clifford Ashby, a theatre historian trained in the practical processes of play production as well as the methods of historical research, takes advantage of his understanding of technical elements to approach his ancient subject from a new perspective. In doing so he challenges many long-held views.
Archaeological and written sources relating to Greek classical theatre are diverse, scattered, and disconnected. Ashby's own (and memorable) fieldwork led him to more than one hundred theatre sites in Greece, southern Italy, Sicily, and Albania and as far into modern Turkey as Hellenic civilization had penetrated. From this extensive research, he draws a number of novel revisionist conclusions on the nature of classical theatre architecture and production.
The original orchestra shape, for example, was a rectangle or trapezoid rather than a circle. The altar sat along the edge of the orchestra, not at its middle. The scene house was originally designed for a performance event that did not use an up center door. The crane and ekkyklema were simple devices, while the periaktoi probably did not exist before the Renaissance. Greek theatres were not built with attention to Vitruvius' injunction against a southern orientation and were probably sun-sited on the basis of seasonal touring. The Greeks arrived at the theatre around mid-morning, not in the cold light of dawn. Only the three-actor rule emerges from this eclectic examination somewhat intact, but with the division of roles reconsidered upon the basis of the actors' performance needs. Ashby also proposes methods that can be employed in future studies of Greek theatre. Final chapters examine the three-actor production of Ion, how one should not approach theatre history, and a shining example of how one should.
Ashby's lengthy hands-on training and his knowledge of theatre history provide a broad understanding of the ways that theatre has operated through the ages as well as an ability to extrapolate from production techniques of other times and places.
Archaeology at the Rivas Site, Costa Rica
Racial Formation in Katie Chopin's "Youth's Companion" Stories
Coloring Locals examines how the late nineteenth-century politics of gender, class, race, and ethnicity influenced Kate Chopin's writing for the major family periodical of her time.Chopin's canonical status as a feminist rebel and reformer conflicts with the fact that one of her most supportive publishers throughout her life was the Youth's Companion, a juvenile periodical whose thoroughly orthodox “family values” contributed to its success as the longest-running and, at one time, most widely circulating periodical in nineteenth-century America. Not surprisingly, Chopin’s Youth’s Companion stories differ from her canonical texts in that they embrace and advance ideals of orthodox white femininity and masculinity. Rather than viewing these two representations as being at odds with each other, Bonnie Shaker asserts that Chopin's endorsement of conventional gender norms is done in the service of a second political agenda beyond her feminism, one that can help the reader appreciate nuances of identity construction previously misunderstood or overlooked in the body of her work.
Forty Essays on Philip Levine
Paul Engle and the Iowa Writers' Workshop
With these words, written long before his Iowa Writers' Workshop became world famous, much imitated, and academically rich, Paul Engle captured the spirit behind his beloved workshop. Now, in this collection of essays by and about those writers who shared the energetic early years, Robert Dana presents a dynamic, informative tribute to Engle and his world.
The book's three sections mingle myth and history with style and grace and no small amount of humor. The beginning essays are given over to memories of Paul Engle in his heyday. The second group focuses particularly on those teachers—Robert Lowell, John Berryman, Kurt Vonnegut, for example—who made the workshop hum on a day-to-day basis. Finally, the third section is devoted to storytelling: tall tales, vignettes, surprises, sober and not-so-sober moments. Engle's own essay, "The Writer and the Place," describes his "simple, and yet how reckless" conviction that "the creative imagination in all of the arts is as important, as congenial, and as necessary, as the historical study of all the arts."
Today, of course, there are hundreds of writers' workshops, many of them founded and directed by graduates of the original Iowa workshop. But when Paul Engle arrived in Iowa there were exactly two. His indomitable nature and great persuasive powers, combined with his distinguished reputation as a poet, loomed large behind the enhancement of the Iowa Writers' Workshop. This volume of fine and witty essays reveals the enthusiasm and drive and sheer pleasure that went into Iowa's renowned workshop.
Stories from Haiti
Marilène Phipps-Kettlewell’s award-winning stories transport you to Haiti—to a lush, lyrical, flamboyant, and spirit-filled Haiti where palm trees shine wet with moonlight and the sky paints a yellow screen over your head and the ocean sparkles with thousands of golden eyes—and keep you there forever. Her singular characters mysteriously address the deeper meanings of human existence. They also dream of escape, whether from themselves, from family, from Vodou, from financial and cultural difficulties and the politicians that create them, or from the country itself, but Haiti will forever remain part of their souls and part of the thoughts of her readers.
Some characters do achieve escape through the mind or through sea voyage—escape found by surrendering to spectacular fantasies and madness and love, bargaining with God, joining the boat people. Marie-Ange Saint-Jacques’s mother sacrifices everything to ensure her daughter’s survival on a perilous boat trip, Angelina waits to fly away to Nou Yòk, Vivi creates her own circus with dozens of rescued dogs, Gustave dies a martyr to his faith. Throughout, the “I” who moves in and out of these dream-filled stories embraces the heavenly mysteries found in “the room where all things lost are stored with grace.”
We begin our journey to Haiti with images of a little girl in a pink bedroom reading by candlelight a book about the life of Saint Bernadette, surrounded by the bewitching scents, sounds, and textures of a Caribbean night. Each story stands by itself, but some characters can be followed from one story to another through the transformations they undergo as a result of their life experiences. In this way, the collection can be read as one story, the story of a family trapped in a personal and cultural drama and the story of the people with whom the family interacts, themselves burdened by the need to survive within Haiti’s rigorously class-determined society and blessed by their relationship to the company of heaven in which they live and for which they are destined.