The Story of Evolution and the Evolution of Stories:
Exploring the Significance of Diversity

Forum 10
"neither believe, nor be comfortable in [her]his unbelief?"


Name:  kat mccormick
Username:  kmccormi@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  tying it together
Date:  2004-03-29 22:17:04
Message Id:  9061
Comments:
Orah and Ro, your postings have reminded me of a theme I have begun to see throughout the class, starting first with Paul's Lectures, and continuing on here in the forum. Consider Orah earlier posting:

"we are so profisient in being able to argue two sides of an argument that we don't know anymore with which we hold our beleif. i really don't know what i beleive in, i don't know what i like/what i don't like, i don't know how to judge what is quality and what is not quality."

To me, this was strongly reminiscent of Ro's posting quoting Hawthorne's description of Melville:

"still he does not seem to rest in that anticipation; and, I think, will never rest until he gets hold of a definite belief. It is strange how he persists -- and has persisted ever since I knew him, and probably long before -- in wondering to-and-fro over these deserts, as dismal and monotonous as the sand hills amid which we were sitting. He can neither believe, nor be comfortable in his unbelief; and he is too honest and courageous not to try to do one or the other."

Orah, is it possible that reading this novel and getting inside a product of Melville's own brain has infected you with that same torture of "neither believe, nor be comfortable in his unbelief?" I would say this is true, except that in reading your posting throughout the semester, you have exhibited that same sort of torn uncomfortableness, Where you first proclaim strongly that something IS true or definitely IS how you feel, but again you "do not seem to rest" in this resolution. I believe this is connected to your own admitted hesitency about the permanence of your comment on the forum.

But don't suppose that you are alone, Orah. In fact, I specifically remember Paul earlier in the semester proclaiming in startlingly similar language that he "does not believe in ANYTHING". The reason that this stuck with me so is that Paul then subsequently spent the entire lecture trying to convince us all of that the concept of "storytelling" and all it's uses was preferable to the concept of "truth"- an idea, which by his own assertion, he does not "believe". And yet he so forcefully expounded it, as he often does, consistently herding the class into consensus, saying " does everyone agree?" or "does everyone see that?" (Listen for it next time you lecture, Paul). But Paul, Like Orah and, apparently, Melville, "[did] not seem to rest" any in is conclusion- probably because, like he confess, he does not "believe" in any of it, but is "too honest and courageous not to try ".


Name:  orah
Username:  ominder
Subject:  on being pretty pooped, feeling the wind and john lennon
Date:  2004-03-29 23:25:59
Message Id:  9062
Comments:
kat, thank you for for insightful assesment. it's helpful to hear things from a more objective POV. thanks! and i think you might be right i don't beleive in anything either. and i guess i never will beleive in anything if i keep thinking in the way that i think. or at least i can say that to this point i have never come across a statement that i've stuck with for more than a couple months. i still think that is a scary place to be. sounds like a lonely place to be. can't depend on anything. or anyone. because nothing is permanent. i guess, if i moved to being a non-clinger the thing i would miss most is the depending. can one depend on anything if there are no absolutes, no steady objects, only undulating notions ?
but i guess even in the life of a clinger the world is the same as it is for those who are flung around and tossed by the wind. people leave us. no matter if we are a part of the clingers club or the tossed team. i guess the clingers are more tired in the end, after exerting themselves and pouring all their energy into the upkeep of the beleifs they hold....man, i've only been around a couple decades and i'm pretty pooped.
also, i guess by "figuring things out" in life and about life we feel as though we are making PROGRESS...man, this whole world seems to be about PROGRESS. but, in the words of john lennon, "you can't take nothing with you but your soul." no matter the THINGS we acheive in this world it ain't coming with us after we die. and it seems that beleifs can, if stagnant, can be considered possessions, things that we think give us more standing in the world, letters after our names, money in the wallet, mileSTONES passed. but, really, i (might) think, "it's about the journey", to quote the oldest line in the book. ((interesting how i keep finding myself figuring out cliches ... they're not as bad as they're made out to be.)) it's about the struggle and not the ends acheived, because in the end what can we say we have really conquered? nothing, i assert .... ......and we return to melville!!!!!
Name:  Student Contributor
Username:  
Subject:  Meanings
Date:  2004-03-30 16:33:18
Message Id:  9090
Comments:
In class, Ro mentioned Strike Through the Mask: Herman Melville and the Scene of Writing by Elizabeth Renker which I think is such an interesting book. In it, Renker offers an interesting reading/meaning of Moby Dick that I, at the time, thought was fully accurate and acceptable. In ch. 3, "Wife Beating and the Written Page", she argues that Melville's relationship with his wife is a crucial element in understanding the absence of women. In 1975, the Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society published newly discovered letters, dated May 1867, that propose Melville physically and emotionally abused his wife, Elizabeth Melville. Mentioned in only four chapters (out of 133), the two dialogue speaking female characters in the novels are interestingly both servants. Mrs. Hussley is the wife of the Spouter Inn's innkeeper, and serves "Clam or Cod" to Ishmael and Queequeg. Charity busies herself on the deck before it is to set sail making sure "nothing could be found wanting" on the boat (All Astir, 137). This vastly "feminine" character wins the admiration of Melville as he claims that "no woman better deserved the name" and "like a sister of charity did this charitable Aunt Charity bustle about hither and thither, ready to turn her hand and heart to anything that promised to yield for safety, comfort, and consolation to all on board a ship" (All Astir 89-90). Perhaps had Elizabeth Melville behaved more like Aunt Charity "ready to turn her hand and heart to anything that promised to yield for safety, comfort, and consolation" to Melville, or like Mrs. Hussley, the dutiful wife who is mainly known to the reader as the woman who serves soup, she would not have angered Melville to the point of physical abuse. In this light, Charity and Mrs. Hussley function as a means of mental abuse for Elizabeth, both serving as an ideal template for Elizabeth to follow.

Do I fully accept this meaning now? No.

Anne's request for us to think about the meaning of Moby Dick puts me at a loss for words. To reduce Moby Dick to a bantering of womanhood is to ignore all the other beautiful meanings regarding self-perception, the usefulness of academic scholarship, the loss of individuality in the mob, and countless other interpretations. I can't choose a meaning namely because there are so many ways to read this text. Free-will was mentioned briefly in class today and I almost wish I didn't have the freedom to choose a meaning. That someone would just tell me what the function of Moby Dick is. But if that were done and Anne were to announce on Thursday that Moby Dick functions as a means of criticism to academic scholarship (for example), I know I would feel betrayed and disappointed. I don't want to assign A Meaning, but would rather assign multiple readings. Could that be my meaning?


Name:  orah
Username:  ominder
Subject:  THE CATCH-22
Date:  2004-03-30 16:36:04
Message Id:  9091
Comments:
so many things to write, hope i can remember all ...

1. mary very sweetly told me after class that she didn't think my postings were bullshit. thank you. but, though one might "like" them i wonder if they have MEANING. yeh, i LIKE them, too, they feel good and seem to work well, but do theories have MEANING? do theories, that are not based on tangible world experience, have MEANING? do they change anything that matters? anything tangible? or should i quit school and join a God-hunting-expedition? as Melville suggests that we do: get our heads out of theology books and do find IT yourself. or are we already on that ship?

2. i know that i equate ahab and melville. that's why i say that melville is contracted. he has one goal: the whiteness. same as ahab. i know that in the past weeks i have said to myself that melville is monomeniacal, but i don't think i had the guts to post it. but, i'm posting it now: I THINK MELVILLE IS MONOMENIACAL. (((i make this assertion, but after this past weekend of postings, i realize, and hope you do, too, that there is a question mark after EVERYTHING EVERYTHING EVERYTHING that i write from now on ... until i change my mind.)))

3. and finally, in continuation of the protest against our creation of a world full of binaries:
humans crave organization. our existence is based on organization. and i think that is what creates this vast blind spot that makes us unable to accuratly see reality. we have to parcel the world in order to UNDERSTAND it, give MEANING to it, but in so doing we make it impossible to see reality, impossible to acheive meaning. it's a catch-22. we organize in order to find meaning but in organizing we make it impossible to find meaning. so, is the key to stop organizing and perceive? stop time and live in the moment? time, actually, is the perfect example. objectively, from an aerial view, time is an eternity of present moments, but we, in order to understand time, parcel it and make it impossible to actually experience time for what it is. in order to pin point the moment we destroy our ability to be IN IT. so, md is an attempt to counteract this blinding organization? and in so doing help us to get closer to the whiteness. but, melville fails because he is human and though he tries not to organize he is ahab and has parceled THE OTHER, THE WHITENESS.
This catch-22 is the reason why humanity is a part of a tragic story.

and THE QUESTION is: if we can't get that aerial view of time, the aerial view of reality does it really exist????????????????????????????? (those question marks should go on forever)

and i think THAT is the key to Melville : THAT is the UNGRASPABLE PHANTON. THAT IS THE IMPENETRABLE ABSENCE. because IT, REALITY, THE MOMENT, might not exist, and YET, it's a PRESENCE, it's moby dick, it is there and we can't get into it to find out if it is really there.

oh man oh man. i know that doesn't make sense, but i feel like i just figured IT out. (((THIS is why i'm going to keep thinking even if none of this matters and it's all bs and i'll regret it later. THIS is what IT'S all about.....i guess we spend our whole lives trying desperatly for people to UNDERSTAND us .... (eliot, "that is not what i meant at all." the tragic last words of EVERY person) and i wish that i could tattoo this post accross my face so ya'all and everyone else would GET ME. and i would get that tattoo, but i'd probably change my mind the next morning and regret it.)))
;)


Name:  Elizabeth Deacon
Username:  edeacon@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  Passion
Date:  2004-03-30 16:53:47
Message Id:  9092
Comments:
I was thinking about what Anne asked in class today, why the crew followed Ahab, and I think that I have at least one reason. The thing about Ahab is that he has an all consuming passion, like some religious missionary, and like a missionary he draws people in, fascinated by this obsession, this emotion, whatever you want to call it.

People are often, though certainly not always, drawn to passion. I think I know part of why that is, too. It makes people feel alive, to feel passion, not like daily life where nothing seems especially important and we just do things because they keep everything running pleasantly as it has been, and because we always to them. When passion touches us we feel alive, we do things for reasons other than maintaining the status quo and habit. Everything seems sharper when driven by passion, more important.

The peculiar thing here is that following mad passions like this usually lead people to disaster. It certainly does the crew, as it did tons of historical and storied figures. Yet people keep following passions. Perhaps passion blinds us to memories of all those cautionary stories. Perhaps we remember the cautionary stories but simply don't care, or feel that the benefits will outweigh the costs.

I think in the case of the crew it's the former; they don't think about what the consequences of following the whale might be. Indeed, they seem to be actively trying not to think about it, sometimes. But didn't they do the same thing shipping out to sea in the first place? The sea kills so many people, but as Ishmael said in one of the early chapters, the land would make him kill himself, and perhaps what spurs him to thoughts of suicide is the monotonous, unescapable boredom of life on land. Schoolteachers never have to risk their lives, unless they're in very rough districts, but on the other hand, they rarely have something exciting enough to be worth risking their lives for.


Name:  Emily S.
Username:  
Subject:  
Date:  2004-03-30 18:16:34
Message Id:  9093
Comments:
Our discussion of blind spots today and how our own motivations often elude us (Ahab)reminded me of another book on whaling and the Arctic region called "Arctic Dreams" by Barry Lopez.

He makes reference to the Latin motto from the title banner of The North Georgia Gazette: per freta hactenus negata, "meaning to have negotiated a strait the very existence of which has been denied. But it also suggests a continuing movement through unknown waters. It is simultaneously, an expression of fear and of accomplishment, the cusp on which human life finds its richest expression." (406)

Lopez spends a lot of time exploring the reasoning behind whaling. Though there are obvious economic motivations, the ultimate factor is far more difficult to define. Why did these whalers choose to live their lives on the cusp rather than with both feet planted safely ashore?

He also suggests that this intangible drive has played a large part in biological evolution. For example, examine the correlation between man's emerging capability as a hunter and the mass extinctions at the end of the Pleistocene Era. Although I'm not sure I can fully attribute such a large-scale event to a relatively small group of pre-historic populations, Lopez argues that "his capacity to do so is clear and, to judge from the fate of the plains buffalo, the passenger pigeon, the great auk, and the bowhead whale, he can be lethally and extensively efficient." (52)

Man's motives are in constant conflict with nature, resulting in one or the other emerging as the victor in any given situation. Countless sailors lost their lives in the harsh Arctic environment because, biologically speaking, men are simply not equiped for such a hostile climate. However, something drives them out to sea...perhaps the same singular desire that led Ahab to engage in a battle with Moby Dick. In a sense, Ahab is engaging in the archetypal battle of man versus nature.

Another reading of the book could focus on Ahab and Moby Dick as a metaphor for this conflict, or the ultimate struggle of our own innate and mysterious desires in conflict with the natural order of things.


Name:  em
Username:  emadsen@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  orah's tattoo
Date:  2004-03-30 18:42:57
Message Id:  9094
Comments:
orah, i have this image of you and you like some strangely ciphered maori,
and it is amusing and appalling all at once... i want to try and understand
what you're posting about, and i want to try and dialogue with you about it:
i am so thrilled you brought time back in! but i am wondering about the
ramifications of what you are saying as they relate to Student Contributor's posting: you say that when we organize and parcel and sort, we are doing ourselves a disservice, no? so we should not ignore the fact that melville may have beaten his wife, and we
should follow up on the threads ro. has been posting about melville and
hawthorne's relationship, and we should read the chapters on cetology with
just as much interest as the narrative-propelled chapters.
why doesn't it work this way? why do we get dead-locked, or say, "it doesn't
matter," why do we allow ourselves to be boxed in? i don't know if i agree
that this is human nature, i think that while we do like to name and
categorize, there is a great impulse towards transcendence, too... i guess
this is what i've been working towards with my time thinking as well. once the papers are posted you'll be able to see what i mean... the combination of no time and no language creating an atemporal seizure, kind of... and that timelessness and wordlessness crossing the border into sacredness.
i feel that this forum has been doing a stupendous job of crossing borders and defying categories. there is always someone saying, "well yes but...", or "for example"... i love it. this forum is so cool. and it does not keep religion or the sacred out of the pot, something that i think is really important, especially, i'm coming to see, with this novel. in the beginning there was the whale? i relate more and more to ahab now, with his feeling, the deep feeling he has. i wish i could have a passion like that. i wish my questing bordered on the Sacred Quest with capitals that he has chosen to embark upon with his crew (as elizabeth suggested) like his disciples... all right, i'm signing off for now, but count me in for tattoos and regrets and messes. because i like this mess and i'm sticking with it.
Name:  becky rich
Username:  rrich@bmc
Subject:  hhmm.
Date:  2004-03-30 20:52:32
Message Id:  9095
Comments:
i'm sorting out my thoughts on what i took away from class today, so i hope it's not too repetitive/summary-esque. here goes-

starting with the premise that the second half of our brain functions as a meaning-creator, i'm not sure that we can reeeaaally think anything is meaningless (or only a joke). i'm not sure we can really even get our minds into the idea of meaninglessnes to understand it- perhaps why, even when melvelle's on a missions to demostrate the impossibility or pinning down meaning, suggesting it's not there at all, it's nonetheless a book that tries on meaning in different ways all over the place. we're mean green meaning machines (puctuate with ! or with ? ?)
(if i got this confused i don't think what i wrote next is relevant.)

however, this fabulous capability of ours to entertain to ideas at once, or be binary, allows us to endlessly question meaning.

AND this, being able to consider meaninglessnes and meaning in general, is a "sounding board"- the meanings we deal with on the surface being the board and the possibility of meaninglessnes the space in which our ideas resound, so to speak (i'm thinking of that violin.)
i guess from saying that i realized that i don't think of there being "naught beneath" the sounding board- i prefer to see it as full of untold possibilities, or, then again, perhaps it is empty space, but it makes space for all the untold possibilities. it sounds very floofy, but we cannot help but hear the tree falling if it falls- we cannot help but apply meaning to what we experience.

AND/OR (dealing with the binary brain) our consiousness is the surface, and our unconsiousness is our blind spot that we continually build stories do cover. and/or our unconsiousness is the inside of our sounding board, the inside of the story-instrument, where things can exist before the brain gets to them and tells a story about them.- where our shadow/our selves/motivations that we are unable to pin down "exist". (hhhmmm. again, i'm not sure i think things in our unconsious mind really exist untill there's a story about them or act them out or something. but our unconsiousness is still where they are given the space to be possible. i'm not really sure this makes sense, what do you think?)

we can never tell enough stories to formulate all of ourselves, especially since we don't understand ourselves completely anyway, and all those possible stories are like shadows lurking behind our surface selves/stories.

maybe... ...?

like others, i'm suspicious of this binary bussiness. from my experience, things just don't come in twos exactly. there are men, there are women, and then there's a variety of different ways to be a hermaphradite, to take the first example that came to mind. and that's only addressing biology- forget cultural categories and whatnot. and can you really draw a clear line between consiousness and unconsiousness (that really is a question- i have no idea) ? i think it's always a spectrum, or a population, or something with gradiation. saying something is strictly one thing or another for a given set of reasons smells to me like essentialism.


Name:  Diane Scarpa
Username:  dscarpa@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  
Date:  2004-03-30 22:37:48
Message Id:  9097
Comments:
I don't agree that passion is the cause of our undoing. Anne is passionate about literature, and she channels that energy into her work. So I think that to say the crew of the ship is doomed because of passion is taking the easy way out, or, rather, overlooking something.

I can't answer why people follow their passions despite the sometimes unfortunate ramifications of them, but I can tell you why I do. It isn't about the end result, which is something that Orah hinted at as well. The passion itself, the state of it, is worthwhile enough. It isn't a means to an end. It is something I aim to dwell in, a state to be achieved. Its as if I'm an addict without a drug. And if you still insist that it is this passion that leads to our downfall I suggest we consider why this has become a socially acceptable way to commit metaphorical suicide. Maybe we should consider what it is about passion that links us all.

As an aside, I'd really like to get back to what Ro mentioned at the end of class today, I don't remember what it was, but I remember being intrigued by it, and I can't wait to hear more.


Name:  Diane Scarpa
Username:  dscarpa@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  
Date:  2004-03-30 22:46:43
Message Id:  9098
Comments:
ps: this forum medaites my thoughts like therapy would, i feel as if i should pay $300 an hour for it or something.
Name:  orah
Username:  ominder
Subject:  merging our minds. not only getting under each other's covers, but getting into each other's skin
Date:  2004-03-30 23:12:05
Message Id:  9099
Comments:
an attempt at clarification for em:
have you ever read a line in a book or heard a line in a song or read a poem or whatever medium with which you most identify, maybe a line of music and said to yourself, "THAT is my soul." and if others could understand THAT line, and FEEL that line as you feel it, then they would understand you? ((my line has always been the last stanza of mr. tamborine man)) well, wouldn't life be so much easier if our souls were tattoed on our faces? so everyone could immediatly recognize who we ARE? and then we could get down to the DIVINE business of inter-soul relations. but, alas, we spend our whole lives in the space before this conversation of the depths, in the space of learning, and interprating, and constantly misinterprating each other and by the time we are on our death beds we realize that no one really ever understood us, fully felt mr tamborine man i i feel it.
so, that's what i mean by expressing a desire to tatoo a statement on my face.
the statement i said before that i would want to ingrain into my very appearance is that it is the aerial view of life, the fully objective view of reality, the view that, as living beings, it is utterly impossible to direct... THIS view is the view that we are all striving for. and don't you see that it is utterly impossible to have this view of life as living beings ? it's the whole question of whether md actually exists or is he just a phantom ...or some suggest "that Moby dick was ubiquitous" (154). THAT is the aerial view. and the tragedy of humanity is the fact (?) that THAT is exactly what we want and Truth is exactly what we search for, though knowing the Truth is impossible because we cannot step out of our own Truth.
still not so clear i guess (i'd have to word it a little better to get it onto my face.)

em, i don't really understand what you're saying about meville and his wife. what i'm saying is that we parcel the world in order to find meaning and yet in the very act of parceling we make it impossible to acheive meaning. ........i can't wait to read you paper....been talking in my anthro class about the timelessness of ritual and it's relationship to the sacred.

and, becky, I FULLY AGREE !!!!! (it's very exciting to FULLY AGREE) i agree that because our brain functions as a meaning-maker it is impossible to get our heads around meaninglessness. i think that's what i've been trying to say all semester and you just said it so eloquently, thank you thank you. we can't step out of our meaning searching minds in order to see and understand the actual meaning of the world. it's impossible. so we are stuck searching for that meaning forever. it's the same catch-22. .... i'm reading your post as i write this and ... i don't know .... it's a really beautiful post, i think. the idea that the shadow of the unconsious comes before the pinning of meaning, before the physical body. melville: "Methinks that what they call my shadow here on earth is my true substance." yes yes yes yes. i really understand that line now. thank you! and i wish you could see my unarticulated thoughts instead of these bodied words ....because the unarticulated thoughts are ME... articulation mutilates that shadow, my soul. my body is a crude, violent representation of my flucuating shadow.

and i think someone brought up the idea that we, here, are telling a collective story ... are revising each other's stories, revising each other's beleif's , merging our minds, here. and so maybe authorship doesn't matter so much. we are all a part of hobbes' leviathan, but, here, the whole story depends fully on each individual ... are we greater than the sum of our parts as hobbes suggests?

that's it for now, i guess. sleep well, all.


Name:  Anne Dalke
Username:  adalke@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  soundings and sounding-boards
Date:  2004-03-31 10:49:38
Message Id:  9102
Comments:

I was amused/frustrated/angry w/ myself for being so (Ahab?-Ishmael? Melville?-like) overly-ambitious in trying to risk the delivery of "the meaning" of Moby-Dick to you all during yesterday afternoon's class. Am very glad to see (from all the postings after class) that the wild morass of ideas I tumbled through have served as a very resonant "sounding-board" for your further thinking (for which many thanks to you all).

So (she said, ever-ambitious), for Thursday:
finish the novel, thinking about

as they-and-you answer these queries: Can't wait to hear *some* answers!
In much gratitude for your good company--Anne
Name:  reeve
Username:  rbasom@haverford.edu
Subject:  
Date:  2004-03-31 14:56:33
Message Id:  9103
Comments:
There's something important about blind spots that we didn't consider even though it was clearly demonstrated by the dot and cross exercise. That which can not be seen because it falls in our blind spot is constantly changing. The dot is not always in your blind spot and if you cover the other eye, you can make the cross disappear instead. Blind spots do not create a static void, an ungraspable phantom- if we shift our gaze we can see what our blind spot was hiding before. So I'm not so sure how to make the idea of the blind spot meaningful- I still think it is very provocative, but I don't think it necessarily represents what we have been trying to make it represent.
On another note, I find myself especially tuned in to snippets of Melville that echo our discussions from the first half of the semester about randomness and absolute truth and debunking evolutionary "progress." In chapter 23 when he talks about the highest truth being indefinite and infinite, in chapt. 41: "all my means are sane, my motive and my object mad," and the "ungraspable phantom" (in I don't remember what chapter.) This reiterated notion of the limitations of meaning and an absolute truth that is obstructed by our very search for it through meaning... I don't mean to suggest that the right thing to do is to reduce Melville to Dennett's terms, but i found myself thinking "means" = algorithms (sane in the sense that they create order, etc.) and "motives" and "object" = meaning/intent and perfection (mad in the sense that there is no motive, only randomness and there is no object except continual change). Or you could say that motives and object = randomness which is mad in the sense of completely lacking intent.
Name:  Diane Scarpa
Username:  dscarpa@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  
Date:  2004-03-31 21:02:13
Message Id:  9104
Comments:
we are such lovely creatures. i think our blind spot is a gift. what other creatures on earth can take nothingness (ie the spot) and create something more beautiful than was even there in the first place (ie what we have constructed to fill it in with)?
Name:  orah
Username:  ominder
Subject:  
Date:  2004-03-31 22:48:28
Message Id:  9105
Comments:
"we are such lovely creatures." -diane

THAT is such lovely thing to say. makes my just smile.


Name:  ro.
Username:  Anonymous
Subject:  
Date:  2004-04-01 08:23:55
Message Id:  9109
Comments:
Reeves wrote, "Blind spots do not create a static void, an ungraspable phantom- if we shift our gaze we can see what our blind spot was hiding before. So I'm not so sure how to make the idea of the blind spot meaningful..." I agree and was wandering around in the same complex of thoughts.

According to HM (with a bit of a leap), whales have "extraordinary vacillations of movement" when they are "beset by three or four boats" ..."from the helpless perplexity of volition, in which their divided and diametrically opposite powers of vision must involve them" (ch 74). Birds also do this backing and forthing for lack of overlapping fields of vision from one eye to the other, I presume. And, as Paul mentioned, rabbits do this also. Seems rabbit sight has been studied well enough for some to conclude that there's not "interocular transfer of learning" from the rabbit's left eye to his right or vice versa. If he is trained on one side to demonstrably fear a triangular shaped thingie, he does not react fearfully when he sees it with the other eye. Whatever it's like to be a whale or a bird or a rabbit, it may be different depending upon its "view point." So, I find it difficult to buy into the notion that the whale's brain is rationalizing the gap between its images as we do our blind spots. And this is relevant...IF Dennett is correct in thinking that some sort of unification of information is necessary for consciousness –the human kind, anyway.

I'm kinda hung up on a few ideas short of the ones Anne has asked us to think about next (after having been blasted with a fascinating FIREHOSE of information on Tuesday)...I cannot think about social structures that one might extrapolate/fantasize from Moby Dick until I do two things first: rationalize how the man, Melville, with his particular experiences up to the time he wrote Moby Dick, could have possibly precipitated the mega-book in the Library of Babel, the book that is a representation of all others (if we think hard enough, smart enough, fancifully enough, etc). I can't lose the hunch that he stumbled into a general systems "algorithm" for the symbolic allegory/novel and its openness allows the rest of the world to fill in the blanks—all of them.

If I make it past that itch, I need to ask a bunch of questions about animal consciousness, how we view animals as relates to their having/not having consciousness AS WE DESCRIBE IT, if Melville's Moby adds/changes our understanding of that question, and then how we interact with/might better interact with animals as the first step towards thinking about how we interact with other, "more complex" creatures, i.e., other humans.


Name:  emhab
Username:  emadsen@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  just a tidbit
Date:  2004-04-01 11:45:25
Message Id:  9114
Comments:
i recently visited a science museum for children
and found out that fish (and, i'm assuming, whales?)
are not built to swim backwards

this is a useful metaphor for me
for even in moby dick when i seemed to be
doubling back
i was always returning to things
with a greater sense of understanding
or a new level of processing
never, in a sense, going backwards
just circling and circling

this a more useful metaphor for me
than the blindspot (i think i'm with ro and reeve)

unless moby dick is just one giant blindspot for me


Name:  orah
Username:  ominder
Subject:  damn consiousness, tricky anatomy.
Date:  2004-04-01 13:24:22
Message Id:  9117
Comments:
interesting to think that fish/whales are not anatomically able to swim backwards, retreat. we can use that as a hoaky metaphor to say that because fish/whales don't have consiouses they are unable to regret actions as humans are (like they are unable to physically retreat.) we are anatomically made so that we can move backwards, and we have consiousness of our actions and yet we are unable to retreat to past times and change that which we regret. so, our anatomy is kind of a tease. we think we can move backwards but we are ever pushed forward by time. while whales never know what it's like to move back, we are always struggling to retreat as we are taught that we can. but in the end both anatomies are basically the same because of the power of the sea. whales can't move back because of the way their bodies are made, and humans cannot move back because of the power of the sea (and time ... a metaphor to contemplate) ... i guess the only difference is that ours is a life of frustration, always trying to GET BACK TO WHERE WE ONCE BELONGED. but, in a way the salty-sea-water is where we all started out.
Name:  orah
Username:  ominder
Subject:  
Date:  2004-04-01 16:18:44
Message Id:  9118
Comments:
THAT
was a
mind-blowing
life-altering
class.

thank you all.

someone else explain it to the other section; i'd just start to cry.

thank you all.


Name:  Anne Dalke
Username:  adalke@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  out with those damn spots
Date:  2004-04-01 18:13:27
Message Id:  9121
Comments:

There was in our section considerable concern expressed (frankly, we were "wierded out") that we all could not but HELP fill in our blindspots w/ what we expected to see (yellow sheets, checkered sheets). So, we fretted, if we are interested in feminism, we'll inevitably see in Moby-Dick Melville's wife beating; if we are interested in Marxism, then we'll see the incipient rebellion of the crew. Good evidence of this seems to be the variants in reading produced by each section this afternoon: the one led by the maniacal she-quester-for-meaning read the novel as a comedy that inexorably turned into a tragedy ("The drama's done....the devious-cruising Rachel...in her retracing search after her missing children, only found another orphan"), while the one led by the laid-back guy read the final scene as totally Zen ("Buoyed up by that coffin...I floated on a soft and dirge-like main....The unharming sharks, they glided by as if with padlocks on their mouths....")

Question is, then, of course--being aware of the inclination to read in accord w/ our inclinations--MIGHT we learn to see differently, outside the frame of reference we bring to our initial engagement w/ the text, with life? For my account of last night's astonishingly rich discussion of this possibility--what Orah calls "the aerial view"--see The (Continuing) Evolution of (My) Mind: An Engagement with Dan Gottlieb.


Name:  ro. finn
Username:  Anonymous
Subject:  
Date:  2004-04-01 18:50:13
Message Id:  9123
Comments:
Anne, Paul

Would you mind posting what you expect the last few classes of the course to look like--the ones where we are in groups doing something or other in front of the class... for some amount of time ...
1-what is it that you would like us to prepare to do?
2-how much time does each small group get?
3-can we talk/bribe our way out of this exercise?

Thanks! :-)
ro


Name:  orah
Username:  ominder
Subject:  tear drop learning
Date:  2004-04-02 00:35:30
Message Id:  9126
Comments:
8 hours detached from class i will try to convey what happened in my mind, as a result of our talking, in that hour. i'll fail, i know, but it's worth the fling ... so i step aboard.

1. i think it is so relevant that md starts out "call me ismael" and ends with this orphan child being picked up by the rachel. 2 important biblical images. ishmael was the cast out son of abraham. even more poetic is the fact that he is picked up by the rachel. rachel is the matriarch who had a very hard time conceiving. she competes with her 3 co-wives (including her sister and her maids), but just cannot get pregnant. she goes a little mad and screams at her husband and says that she would rather die than be childless. so she has two children, but while giving birth to the second she dies. She dies while the family is traveling and is buried on the side of the road.
how beautifully poetic that this restless, childless, weeping woman represents the ship that retreives ishmael, the unwanted son.

2. we talked about whether ishmael is changed. time washes over past tragedies without a flinch. and you'd think that, you'd hope that, with all the pain in the world time would allow us a rest stop, a place to gasp amidst the tears, but the sea and time roll on as they have for five thousand years. and you wonder if this erasing quality of time makes life meaningless ... would we rather spend our lives visiting annonymous coffin warehouses (page 1) or would we rather dangle ourselves on the coffins of those we love? is life worth the pain of loosing those we love? and i think melville argues, yes. the sea rolls on and there is no record, no meaning to lost loves, but but but but it is still worth doing and i'd argue that if ishmael knew he was going to loose quequeg, he would again fall in love with him again, knowing full well that he would die. ((reminds me of this folk song my family listens to about these two people who fall in love, but because of life circumstances cannot be together. and the poet says that though her soul has been torn "she chance that love again without regret."))

3. Also, i think that amidst all the characters in this book, including meville himself, ishmael is the only one who is not a clinger. he does not cling to the whiteness as everyone else does, instead he is objective and reports. and that is why he survives. as i've said before: i think that the life of the drifter is one that is safer yet lonlier than the life of the clinger. the clinger attaches herself to people and things and is thus easily broken. but, the drifter who is not attached to any single thing, any single person, or notion, is not dependant. and though ishmael is orphaned he survives. because he is the only drifter.
and as we talked about on tues. the whole ship becomes one mob, without selves and so when ahab leads them to the vortex there is no way to scramble free, because they are all one with him ... all except lonely ishmael who again is cast out, upward burst.

4. and then grobstein talked about gotleib. and how gotleib has lost so many people he has loved in his life, as ishmael does. and yet he is able to say that he would not be the person he is today, he would not be the person he wants to be, unless his life had been as it was. and gotleib does not seem like a clinger. his loved ones die and he continues he does not follow them into the vortex ...and i would guess that loosing loved ones makes him lonely ... but, he survives .... while a clinger would not. and this is ishmael. ishmael loves, but does not cling. and he survives. and i guess that writers cannot be clingers because writes must know the deepest human tragedy of loss, but must not leave. ... writers are present.

5. and oh how very appropriot to end with a quote from job. i wrote about job from the class reeve and i are taking. i wrote this before, "job talks about the utter asbence of God. before, in the bible, we are told of a god that depends on absolutes i.e. he is good or he is bad or he is just etc. but, here we see something beyond that: god is. and there is nothing to say about god except that he is. there are no categories in which to put him, no words to pin him. job says of god in chapter 41, "can you fill its skin with harpoons, or its head with fishing spears? any hope of capturing it wil be disapointed."
don't you see how appropriote and sublime the end of this book is? and job, who realizes that the vortex, the meaningless, unintelligent, heart of all existence, he escapes alone to tell the story. he escapes because he does not cling to the whiteness. this man, who has lost all his love. this man, who has been as close to the vortex as a living man can go. this man, escapes alone.
and i would not think it worth it if he had not been picked up by the weeping woman desperatly searching for her children...the weeping, mad woman who frantically searches for the children she has lost. the woman frantically searching for the love of her children. she does not find the children for whom she is searching, but she picks up the castaway anyways .... we are all in this together to soothe each other and pick each other other out of the water.
THAT IS WHY LIFE IS MEANINGFUL.
though, as writers, we shan't cling to each other, we can sob on each other's shoulders.


Name:  ro. finn
Username:  Anonymous
Subject:  
Date:  2004-04-02 08:11:22
Message Id:  9128
Comments:
Anne wrote: "Question is, then, of course--being aware of the inclination to read in accord w/ our inclinations--MIGHT we learn to see differently, outside the frame of reference we bring to our initial engagement w/ the text, with life?"

"Might we learn to SEE differently"—that might mean any of the following, which are definitions of "see." Or it could imply a progression of experiences, a path, and where each of is on that path might be different for now, maybe different forever, as we think about this book. Here's a view of my markers as the gradient rises:

First, we
NOTICE—become aware through seeing, hearing, then
DETECT—discern something hidden or subtle, then
OBSERVE—watch it systematically, attentively, then
VISUALIZE—form a mental image of it, then
CONSIDER—think carefully about that image, form an opinion, then
IMAGINE—conjecture, make some preliminary judgment, then
UNDERSTAND—grasp the nature of it, then
APPRECIATE—recognize some significance, then (maybe?) we
KNOW it—fix it in our mind as some truth or touchstone.

Each of these words (there are others) is one (culture-made) definition to explain "see," yet there is also this entire spectrum of stages and degrees associated with "seeing." Like the Inuit's umpteen words for SNOW, there are so many shades for what Anne has asked us to do—learn to see differently.

Orah has seen not "the light" but "her light." (Your post was wonderful, Orah.) D.H. Lawrence has seen his. Melville surely followed some beacon of his own in the conception and creation of this voyage of voyages. In fact, I wonder how many voyages one person can take at one time? It is overload, and maybe that's the formula that makes us dive for the most familiar "view" from within this book...as a way for our mind to manage overload. We want to see patterns. They make hooks for us to hang our ideas. They give us boundaries.

I'm thinking about the "arrows" graphic Paul showed us—with the green arrows going one way, the yellow arrows going the other. The point was about free will. Each of us CHOSE to see it one way, our brains even suspended "seeing" until that perspective came into view. Melville's montage of meanings is like so many this way/that way arrows. His book is landless:"in landlessness alone resides the highest truth" (ch23). It offers no boundaries. If you take away everything— make it flat and vast and undifferentiated— whatever you put there stands in high relief. It demands to be noticed. We cannot not consider it. We cannot escape forming questions, escape forming answers to those questions. Escape choosing. That is our nature and Melville has used what makes us tick.

To what end? Now we're back to Anne's question, more or less. Every reader of this book (let me qualify that by saying every western-acculturated reader) is going to see the skeleton as Melville erects it, but not necessarily the same sheathed animal. How could we? The book makes us confront the unknown (the future)...takes away all the structure that has defined and refined our culture(s). Replaces it with stark totems that bear confusing, conflicting messages—just to make sure we cannot revert to what we know, what makes us feel safe and smug. So that's what we try to do—revert, read it from our remembered perspective. Cling to that which we know or knew (which is it?). Melville offers either no preferred perspective or too many, and that is this book's genius, in my opinion.

"All means are sane. My motive and objective mad" (ch 41). Think about it...Ahab is defined by what he stands against. Isn't that true for all of us to some degree? We can notice, detect, observe, visualize, consider, imagine, maybe understand, maybe appreciate, but probably not "know," not take to heart and mind those stories that would displace our own—the ones that seem to define us.

And I agree—that may be our loss. We need to keep trying.


Name:  Diane Scarpa
Username:  dscarpa@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  
Date:  2004-04-02 14:31:57
Message Id:  9134
Comments:
I have a confession. I began Ahab's Wife with an open mind, hoping that I could understand why this is one of the books in Anne's "cannon," but the text seems completely condescending and "fluffy," to quote Katherine. It is only a book about women insofar as it concerns the most superficial things that make a woman a woman. I feel that if we (women) embrace such a text we are taking a step backward. I have yet to find any intellectual merit in this text other than the ways in which it relates to Moby Dick. Both this book and Moby Dick seem to imply that there are only two types of people, the woman and the man. I suppose I am a man.

Our brains Think and so they should be nouriched appropiately. I promise to keep my mind open and try to benefit from this book, and I apologize to those of you who I have offended, but I cannot see any of Us in this book, and I think that those of you who do are being modest.


Name:  orah
Username:  ominder
Subject:  Auden
Date:  2004-04-02 17:44:49
Message Id:  9135
Comments:
thought i'd leave ya'all to the weekend with some Auden that we spoke of in class ... ((didn't know Musee ... found it buried in an unread Auden collection on my shelf )) and a few extra of his words:

the part of Musee that we talked about in class ... and the begining ... just sublime ...i can't type the whole thing...you should look it up...

"About suffering they were never wrong, / The Old Masters: how well they understood / Its human position; how it takes place / While someone else is eating or opening a window of just / walking dully along ... In Brueghel's Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away / Quite leisurley from the disaster; the ploughman may / Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry, / But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone / As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green / Water; and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen / Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky, / Had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on."

so, like the indifferent, uncaring nature of time we too sail past? no, the rachel picks him up ... though his story is irrelevant while she mourns her children. we nurse our sorrow in life ... and have not enough tears for other's pain ... but, nevertheless, we do pull each other out of the water....maybe that's all we need.

in february of 1939 Auden wrote a poem mourning the death of William Yeats ... i think it relevant...if just for it's interpratation of the job of a writer.

"Time that is intolerant / Of the brave and innocent, / And indifferent in a week / To a beautiful physique,
...
Intellectual disgrace / Stares from every human face, / And the seas of pity lie / Locked and frozen in each eye.
Follow, poet, follow right / To the bottom of the night, / With your unconstraining voice / Still persuade us to rejoice;
With the farming of a verse / Make a vineyard of the curse, / Sing of human unsuccess / In a rapture of distress;
In the deserts of the heart / let the healing fountain start, / In the prison of his days / teach the free man how to praise."

that's what ishmael does ...right? he farms his verse and creates this enchanting novel from the despair of the pequod.


Name:  Student Contributor
Username:  
Subject:  The Constraints of Meaning
Date:  2004-04-03 23:14:15
Message Id:  9143
Comments:
Ro: "Melville offers either no preferred perspective or too many, and that is this book's genius, in my opinion."

"But I want to know the truth" Una says to her mother (22). As do I. I spent most of my journey with Moby Dick trying to find the book's truth, but alas...I think there is none, or at least none that is manifested without my conjuring. And so I thank Ro for her comment for I think she's right on the mark – there is either no intended meaning, or there are numerous meanings.

"We each adopt or create our truth." I think these few lines on pg. 22 from Ahab's Wife are Naslund's way of saying that those of us on a quest to find 'The Meaning of Moby Dick' are on a quest that is destined to sink. Even, if by an ounce of chance, Melville did intend for there to be some hidden message, does it really matter what it is?

"The truth about the unseen makes little difference to me." I agree. We each create our own truths. We are each bound by the chains of our imagination, our thoughts. (Talk about constraining.)


Name:  simran
Username:  skaur8
Subject:  For Orah:
Date:  2004-04-04 16:47:32
Message Id:  9148
Comments:
Thank you for your posting. It was just what my mind needed, just when it needed it...
Name:  Anne and Paul
Username:  adalke@brynmawr.edu, pgrobste@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  bringing it all together
Date:  2004-04-04 19:38:11
Message Id:  9150
Comments:
Ro. asked us to post what we're expecting during the last few classes. You'll see we've updated the syllabus with these instructions:

Week Fourteen: Bringing it all together--telling each other new stories
Tues, Apr. 27 and Thurs, Apr. 29
Spontaneously formed emergent groups of four or so students each should prepare ten-fifteen minute presentations reflecting on some aspect of the course readings. Presentations should encourage, in a provocative and entertaining way, further story development on the part of others in the class.


Name:  em
Username:  emadsen@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  scattered thoughts
Date:  2004-04-04 21:09:00
Message Id:  9151
Comments:
Student Contributor-- thank you for your posting. i realize that i have been somewhat stubborn about my interpretations of moby-dick, and it has helped to read your words (expansion!).
diane-- we must talk! i respect your opinions so much, and i read your posting before i started ahab's wife, so i was really worried that i would dislike the book. but in spite of what you have said i do not dislike the book, in fact, i cannot tear myself away sometimes: it is like gazing into the face of a sister i never had. while i do sometimes uncover and fret over the same dead earnestness (and terrible melodrama) that frustrated me in moby-dick, something about the book speaks to me in ways that melville's text does not.
can it be that i connect simply because it is a story penned by a woman? yet i cannot find in any of the circumstances anything that matches mine: the story is as fantastical to me as ishmael's wild ride on the pequod. but perhaps, as i aligned myself formerly with ahab, i am now able to do so more fully with his female counterpoint. ahab and una's love is a truly awesome construction that confounds me with its clarity and tempestuousness and spontaneity. surely the book has flaws, but with that grand love burning at the core i am ready to forgive them. and once again, i reveal the romantic ideals i keep close to my bones. surely love can be like this, ageless, timeless, safe for that halcyon time that ahab and una spend together, rocking the boat.
maybe i am not searching for meaning anymore, but rather clarity, and in "ahab's wife" i have found it, as opposed to ishmael's prattling (i was thoroughly annoyed when he showed up again, but i feel sorry that i hold so much against him when it is really myself who is to blame). maybe this is the most valuable lesson for me: there is something within me that does not love the idea of moby-dick. it is a peace i will have to make with myself, not the novel. i can recognize what in me burns towards the star-gazer, so what is it that prevents me from reaching towards melville's outstreched hand? right now, i do not know.
Name:  orah
Username:  ominder
Subject:  For Simran:
Date:  2004-04-04 23:10:09
Message Id:  9155
Comments:
isn't that the best feeling: when your mind gets something it needs, right when it needs it? Auden did that for me, too, this weekend ((were we in a similar space of mind?)) the image of the poet venturing to the depths of the night, and helping those in the depths of despair. and i feel that so offen. that i find a poet or writer in my mind, there to keep me company right when i need it the most. ever feel like a poet was talking from your inside-out, rather from the outside-in? (my closest writer mind buddy: JD Salinger. sometimes i think he keeps a vacation house in orah minder's head.) and ... i don't know ... that image of singing human unsucess in a RAPTURE of distress ... it seems so relevant to a lot of what i've (we've?) been thinking about this semester ... humans, by nature, fail; so what can we do? sing about it rapturously. and it's that whole image of standing on a cliff alone where no one can see you. that's us. an existence without an areial view. and what is there to do knowing that when we walk away from that cliff that space in time will not be recorded, will drift through existence, or non-existence, maybe dabble through both. what is there to do while standing there??? maybe just feel the warm breeze on the palms our open hands? maybe sing a song that used to lull us into sleep ? maybe SCREAM of the injustice of being unseen? ......................... we get lost, our sorrows are lost in the seas of sorrows, like icarus. man, we get so caught up in our own pains that we forget, so easily, other's pain. do we see the sobbing man standing right next to us on the cliff? and does he see us? and i guess our only salvation is those who know how to bring water to the desert. those who can teach us that we are free. those who can teach us to turn our heads.......maybe that is too much. maybe it's just about the lifting of each other out of the seas of despair. maybe it's just about
Name:  orah
Username:  ominder
Subject:  humm...
Date:  2004-04-05 08:11:56
Message Id:  9159
Comments:
another revision: i don't think we're all wallowing in seas of despair. i'm not. maybe struggling in stormy seas, in which the waves keep coming and knocking us over. but we "beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past." (gatsby ... didn't realize how very relevant that quote was until i'd typed it out.)
see ya'all tomorrow.
Name:  ro.
Username:  Anonymous
Subject:  Been thinking about this a while...
Date:  2004-04-05 09:21:55
Message Id:  9160
Comments:
Orah,
I think that you need to write/say "I," not "we" in your recent postings...not that "we" is bad...just imprecise and inaccurate. It presumes a great deal.
Name:  ro.
Username:  Anonymous
Subject:  Still thinking--but not always clearly...
Date:  2004-04-05 09:42:09
Message Id:  9161
Comments:
Hey, Orah...I hit the post key too quickly :-)
What I also meant to write is that I have been using "we" in my postings, too... and found myself wondering why, ie, what triggers my presumptions. I think that it waters down my thinking--dilutes the points I mean to make and lets other points get "weedy."

"We" is so comfortable, and so co-opting. Anyway...that's what preceded what popped out.


Name:  daniela
Username:  dmiteva@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  Live long, Ishmael!
Date:  2004-04-05 09:47:49
Message Id:  9162
Comments:
On the death ship Ishmael was given life and another identity (that of a adventurer, dreamer, shipmate). "Buoyed up by that coffin [the ship](427)" he managed to survive to tell the story. What is its point? Did all of the events take place in his head?
Name:  orah
Username:  ominder
Subject:  sorry, ro.
Date:  2004-04-05 10:10:26
Message Id:  9163
Comments:
notice that i wrote "we all" ... i'm not presuming that NO ONE is wallowing in a sea ... i'm presuming that NOT EVERYONE is wallowing ... which is accurate because i'm not, and i count among the ALL so it is inaccuarte to say at everyone is wallowing. i have tried so hard to make it clear that my theories are not meant to apply to everyone, or work for everyone, but it is hard to write effectivly when you start everything with "some might..." or "a lot of people, but not all ..." i'm sry if i've insulted some by making generalizations, please know that they are not meant to confine anyone. i will be more careful in the future.
Name:  orah
Username:  ominder
Subject:  
Date:  2004-04-05 10:13:28
Message Id:  9164
Comments:
or maybe you have a problem with the way Fitzgerald phrases his statement from gatsby. "So WE beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past." ??????
Name:  ro
Username:  Anonymous
Subject:  my turn...
Date:  2004-04-05 12:04:03
Message Id:  9165
Comments:
Orah,
I was in no way insulted. I did not mean to mislead you to that conclusion. I was intrigued by your and my uses of the word "we" and the affect that seems to have when one writes. No more, no less.

Well, that's not entirely true as I think about it--the "no more, no less" part. I know that you are thinking through stuff as you post. We all are. What comes out are mostly spontaneous thoughts we want to share. Sometimes the reactions to them are equally spontaneous and intuitive--like my feeling of being 'clung to' when I read (or is it that I read into?) your passionate searchings. This is neither good nor bad. it just is, for me.

Maybe I am overwhelmed by the single-minded passion (passion is good) in your persuit of answers or paths to answers to questions that, for me, are imponderable, and therefore, I don't ponder them much, or expect much when I do. There's something coming out of your writings though, something that I feel--and it may be only me feeling it--that wants to draw me to it and into it. Does this make any sense? Anyone else feeling it?

As an aside, did you guys know that the word "read" by itself means "read into," Unlike most other western European languages, our verb comes from the old English word that means "to advise or interpret something (difficult)" ...WHICH SEEMS TO FIT what we've been doing in this course! The derivation for "write" in English is equally unusual. It comes from old English for "to cut, scratch, tear, sketch an outline," not Latin (scribere). Sounds like what I keep imagining Melville doing when he wrote Moby.

Anyhow, Orah, disregard my noise!
Ro


Name:  roz
Username:  rschorr@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  thoughts
Date:  2004-04-05 12:04:37
Message Id:  9166
Comments:
I've been thinking more about the evolution of all things, not just organisms but literature and even human emotions. My mind recently came to a strange (to me) conclusion. The reason that organisms evolved and changed in the beginning was because something in the atmosphere changed. The environment was different, therefore the organism had to become different in order to survive. This works for stories as well, because as generations gane, the social environment changes. The academies change, therefore we get different kinds of literature. An author has different influences and expectations from this changed environment, therefore must produce a book that he/she sees fit to survive.
Name:  Julia
Username:  jeddy@bmc
Subject:  yeah! what she said...
Date:  2004-04-05 14:44:05
Message Id:  9171
Comments:
I compliment Student Contributor for her posting, and i share Em's sentiment. Whereas I agree with Diane that Ahab's Wife is a little "fluffy", I think it is kind of wonderful. I too find myself struggling a little sometimes to put Naslund's book down, and don't really know why I identify better with Una more than any of the characters in Moby Dick.... perhaps just because she is a woman and she writes with clear romantic images and emotion. Perhaps romanticism is fluffy, but I like it. I also find humor in reading these deep emotional passages about Ahab or quotes from the madman himself... I find it almost impossible to believe Ahab could have been so... well human... but I suppose that could be the point that Naslund and Student Contributor are making that no one REALLY knows anything, "we each adopt or create our own truths" (22) and who is to say that Ahab, while hard for me to believe, was not a passionate lover, husband and father? He could be anything, not just what Melville depicted. So many readings and interpretations... the possibilities are endless and no real truth.
Name:  Elizabeth Catanese
Username:  ecatanes@brynmawr.edu
Subject:  quick thought
Date:  2004-04-05 20:05:52
Message Id:  9179
Comments:
Di, you were in a dream I had last night. I think that maybe the dream came in part from reading your post and more of Ahab's wife last night. The part of Ahab's wife that I think it came from was the lighthouse part as it has factored in where i am thus far in the book. At any rate, the dream was that we were walking on my old elementary school stairs and you said that you were going to help me study for a quiz on "Mesopotamia". I don't know why it was called Mesopotamia in my mind... it was more like a dusty and ancient city with very few buildings. But anyway we were looking over the top of this one giant grouping of buildings (we were actually there flying above them or something) and you were saying that I had to memorize each one and I kept thinking that I couldn't memorize each one because I could only see them together but you were very encouraging (and also persistent) And then when I woke up I sort of saw a flash of the picture of the buildings that I was looking at in my dream and I realized (while awake) that the buildings, when taken together were in the shape of a whale.

There is indeed a stark difference between Ahabs Wife and Moby Dick-- I like them both... and am finding Ahab's Wife to be a really enjoyable story in part because it is so beautifully written. There is a significant amount of depth in this book. It's just arrived at in a styalistically different way. The varying opinions are fascinating though.


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