Send a Tweet
Most Popular Choices
Poll Analyses
Share on Facebook 6 Share on Twitter Printer Friendly Page More Sharing
Exclusive to OpEdNews:
Life Arts    H3'ed 8/5/20

Take, and Read, Young Men! (REVIEW ESSAY)

By       (Page 1 of 3 pages) (View How Many People Read This)   No comments
Author 38575
Message Thomas Farrell
Become a Fan
  (21 fans)

Herman Melville by Joseph O Eaton.
Herman Melville by Joseph O Eaton.
(Image by Wikipedia (commons.wikimedia.org), Author: Author Not Given)
  Details   Source   DMCA

Duluth, Minnesota (OpEdNews) August 5, 2020: Young men today who are in search of meaning in their lives might want to consider the cafeteria of possibilities that the American poet Herman Melville (1819-1891) presents for the young Clarel to experience up close in his 18,000-line centennial poem Clarel (1876).

Young men today in search of meaning in their lives are presently living their lives in a barren desert, figuratively speaking. So Melville invites them to travel with Clarel to the Holy Land and to go on a pilgrimage there with Clarel. As a young man, the historical Jesus went out to the desert to listen to John the Baptist.

Long before that, God's chosen people, following their human leader Moses, lived for forty years in the desert, where they lived on manna provided by God as their daily bread. I guess this means that they made themselves at home in the desert - the proverbial waste land we may all live in today under President Donald ("Tweety") Trump.

Now, young men today who are willing to accompany Clarel on his pilgrimage in the Holy Land imaginatively might want to consider taking up and reading the 1991 authoritative edition of Melville's Clarel: A Poem and Pilgrimage in the Holy Land, edited by Harrison Hayford, Alma A. MacDougall, Hershel Parker, and G. Thomas Tanselle, which includes Walter E. Bezanson's "Historical and Critical Note" (pages 505-613) and "A Critical Index of the Characters" (pages 613-637).

However, the text of the 1991 authoritative edition of Melville's Clarel is also available in the 2019 Library of America edition of Herman Melville's Complete Poems, edited by Hershel Parker (pages 153-646, with notes on pages 949-975).

VINCENT S. KENNY ON MELVILLE'S CLAREL

According to the database WorldCat, Vincent Stack Kenny (born in 1919) completed his doctoral dissertation Herman Melville's Clarel at New York University in 1965. So Kenny's 1973 book Herman Melville's Clarel : A Spiritual Autobiography is the revised and updated version of his doctoral dissertation. The director of Kenny's NYU doctoral dissertation, Gay Wilson Allen, author of Melville and His World (1971), contributed the "Foreword" to Kenny's book (pages ix-xiii).

But what does Kenny mean by describing Melville's 1876 centennial poem Clarel: A Poem and Pilgrimage in the Holy Land as his spiritual autobiography? Kenny means simply that he sees Melville's long poem "as a clear reflection of the author's life and work" (page 6). Kenny claims that Melville's "primary purpose was to record his own spiritual and psychological inventory" (page 6). Of course, Melville had undertaken to make similar records in various earlier quasi-autobiographical publications, so Kenny will work in references to those similar records from other works by Melville as he proceeds. In addition, Kenny works in certain biographical information about Melville from his letters and other sources. Even so, Kenny's fine book is not a biography of Melville. Rather, it is a thorough discussion of his work.

In my estimate, Kenny's most valuable contribution "involves a series of eight possibilities [about directions the impressionable young Clarel might be influenced to take with his life], each one posed by a character, or a set of characters, each one representing a solution to the religious and psychological problem of faith" (pages 151).

Now, there was a body of literature in the nineteenth century known as faith-doubt literature. From one standpoint, Melville's centennial poem Clarel appears to fit into this body of literature, because the impressionable young man Clarel certainly seems to fit into the faith-doubt construct. That much seems clear. However, throughout the poem, Melville works with a head/heart contrast. But more often than not in Melville's poem, faith seems to mean faith in propositional statements expressed in narratives such as the gospels and in creeds - in short, the head. Consequently, in the faith-doubt literature of the time, doubt seems to mean doubt about certain propositional statements - in short, the head. But where is the heart?

In the eight possibilities identified by Kenny, Melville instructively provides exemplars for the young and impressionable Clarel to be attracted to and to take to heart as possible role models for him to identify with at his age. But we are not told Clarel's exact age.

Now, I would point out here that all eight possibilities identified by Kenny involve either degrees of love and enthusiasm or degrees of hate (the root of which may be a form of love). In Dr. Henry A. Murray's lengthy "Introduction" to the 1949 Hendricks House edition of Melville's 1852 novel Pierre, or, The Ambiguities (pages xiii-ciii), Murray calls attention to the discussion of love in Plato's dialogues and in the New Testament (e.g., page lxi). Love energizes us. Love is the fuel of our enthusiasms and manias in life, including, of course, our enthusiasms for exemplars we identify with such as the historical Jesus as portrayed in various New Testament portrayals.

Next Page  1  |  2  |  3

(Note: You can view every article as one long page if you sign up as an Advocate Member, or higher).

 

Rate It | View Ratings

Thomas Farrell Social Media Pages: Facebook page url on login Profile not filled in       Twitter page url on login Profile not filled in       Linkedin page url on login Profile not filled in       Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in

Thomas James Farrell is professor emeritus of writing studies at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD). He started teaching at UMD in Fall 1987, and he retired from UMD at the end of May 2009. He was born in 1944. He holds three degrees from Saint Louis University (SLU): B.A. in English, 1966; M.A.(T) in English 1968; Ph.D.in higher education, 1974. On May 16, 1969, the editors of the SLU student newspaper named him Man of the Year, an honor customarily conferred on an administrator or a faculty member, not on a graduate student -- nor on a woman up to that time. He is the proud author of the book (more...)
 

Go To Commenting
The views expressed herein are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website or its editors.
Writers Guidelines
Contact AuthorContact Author Contact EditorContact Editor Author PageView Authors' Articles
Support OpEdNews

OpEdNews depends upon can't survive without your help.

If you value this article and the work of OpEdNews, please either Donate or Purchase a premium membership.

STAY IN THE KNOW
If you've enjoyed this, sign up for our daily or weekly newsletter to get lots of great progressive content.
Daily Weekly     OpEdNews Newsletter
Name
Email
   (Opens new browser window)
 

Most Popular Articles by this Author:     (View All Most Popular Articles by this Author)

Was the Indian Jesuit Anthony de Mello Murdered in the U.S. 25 Years Ago? (BOOK REVIEW)

Who Was Walter Ong, and Why Is His Thought Important Today?

More Americans Should Live Heroic Lives of Virtue (Review Essay)

Martha Nussbaum on Why Democracy Needs the Humanities (Book Review)

Hillary Clinton Urges Us to Stand Up to Extremists in the U.S.

Matthew Fox's Critique of the Roman Catholic Church

To View Comments or Join the Conversation: