Herman Melville


Unappreciated at the time of his death, Herman Melville is known today as one of the most important figures in the development of American literature. While Moby-Dick now is universally acknowledged as Melville's masterpiece, during his lifetime his travelogues Typee and Omoo were more widely read. Melville also wrote classic short stories such as "Bartleby the Scrivener" and "Benito Cereno," as well as the posthumously published novella Billy Budd. This new edition of essays, introduced by Harold Bloom, gathers ...
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Unappreciated at the time of his death, Herman Melville is known today as one of the most important figures in the development of American literature. While Moby-Dick now is universally acknowledged as Melville's masterpiece, during his lifetime his travelogues Typee and Omoo were more widely read. Melville also wrote classic short stories such as "Bartleby the Scrivener" and "Benito Cereno," as well as the posthumously published novella Billy Budd. This new edition of essays, introduced by Harold Bloom, gathers together some of the best criticism available on the works of Herman Melville.
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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature
For modern students the name Herman Melville conjures up images of great white whales, sea stories set in distant lands, and struggles between good and evil. Yet, what may surprise current readers is the fact that Herman Melville lived almost his entire life in financial ruin and broad-based critical scorn. In this selection from the "Bloom's Bio-Critiques" series, Harold Bloom presents the contradictory life and work of this famous American author. As is the case with other books in this sophisticated series, this title presents a series of in-depth essays focused upon the life and work of the featured author. In Melville's case his life featured a combination of grinding work and great critical rejection of his writing. During his lifetime Melville's novels were seen as scandalous and vague, his poetry was rejected as insignificant, and his stories were either rejected as fanciful or heaped with scorn for being irreverent. It was not until years after his death that future critics and readers resurrected the work of Melville. In this particular book, editor Bloom offers a weighty biography and critical essays that analyze the work and themes of Melville. The end result is an informative, albeit somewhat intellectualized, look at this 19th century author. This is a book for serious students of Melville or those engaging in advanced studies of his writings. As such this title will serve a purpose for those who wish to critically study the life and work of this now renowned American author. 2006, Chelsea House Publishers, Ages 14 up.
—Greg M. Romaneck
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780791095577
  • Publisher: Chelsea House Publishers
  • Publication date: 12/28/2007
  • Series: Bloom's Classic Critical Views Series
  • Pages: 224
  • Age range: 14 - 17 Years
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Harold Bloom
Harold Bloom
One of our most popular, respected, and controversial literary critics, Yale University professor Harold Bloom’s books – about, variously, Shakespeare, the Bible, and the classic literature – are as erudite as they are accessible.


"Authentic literature doesn't divide us," the scholar and literary critic Harold Bloom once said. "It addresses itself to the solitary individual or consciousness." Revered and sometimes reviled as a champion of the Western canon, Bloom insists on the importance of reading authors such as Shakespeare, Milton, and Chaucer -- not because they transmit certain approved cultural values, but because they transcend the limits of culture, and thus enlarge rather than constrict our sense of what it means to be human. As Bloom explained in an interview, "Shakespeare is the true multicultural author. He exists in all languages. He is put on the stage everywhere. Everyone feels that they are represented by him on the stage."

Bloom began his career by tackling the formidable legacy of T.S. Eliot, who had dismissed the English Romantic poets as undisciplined nature-worshippers. Bloom construed the Romantic poets' visions of immortality as rebellions against nature, and argued that an essentially Romantic imagination was still at work in the best modernist poets.

Having restored the Romantics to critical respectability, Bloom advanced a more general theory of poetry. His now-famous The Anxiety of Influence argued that any strong poem is a creative "misreading" of the poet's predecessor. The book raised, as the poet John Hollander wrote, "profound questions about... how the prior visions of other poems are, for a true poet, as powerful as his own dreams and as formative as his domestic childhood." In addition to developing this theory, Bloom wrote several books on sacred texts. In The Book of J, he suggested that some of the oldest parts of the Bible were written by a woman.

The Book of J was a bestseller, but it was the 1994 publication of The Western Canon that made the critic-scholar a household name. In it, Bloom decried what he called the "School of Resentment" and the use of political correctness as a basis for judging works of literature. His defense of the threatened canon formed, according to The New York Times, a "passionate demonstration of why some writers have triumphantly escaped the oblivion in which time buries almost all human effort."

Bloom placed Shakespeare along with Dante at the center of the Western canon, and he made another defense of Shakespeare's centrality with Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human, an illuminating study of Shakespeare's plays. How to Read and Why (2000) revisited Shakespeare and other writers in the Bloom pantheon, and described the act of reading as both a spiritual exercise and an aesthetic pleasure.

Recently, Bloom took up another controversial stance when he attacked Harry Potter in an essay for The Wall Street Journal. His 2001 book Stories and Poems for Extremely Intelligent Children of All Ages advanced an alternative to contemporary children's lit, with a collection of classic works of literature "worthy of rereading" by people of all ages.

The poet and editor David Lehman said that "while there are some critics who are known for a certain subtlety and a certain judiciousness, there are other critics... who radiate ferocious passion." Harold Bloom is a ferociously passionate reader for whom literary criticism is, as he puts it, "the art of making what is implicit in the text as finely explicit as possible."

Good To Know

Bloom earned his Ph.D. from Yale University in 1955 and was hired as a Yale faculty member that same year. In 1965, at the age of 35, he became one of the youngest scholars in Yale history to be appointed full professor in the department of English. He is now Sterling Professor of Humanities at Yale and Berg Visiting Professor of English at New York University.

Though some conservative commentators embraced Bloom's canon as a return to traditional moral values, Bloom, who once styled himself "a Truman Democrat," dismisses attempts by both left- and right-wingers to politicize literature. "To read in the service of any ideology is not, in my judgment, to read at all," he told a New York Times interviewer.

His great affinity for Shakespeare has put Bloom in the unlikely position of stage actor on occasion; he has played his "literary hero," port-loving raconteur Sir John Falstaff, in three productions.

Bloom is married to Jeanne, a retired school psychologist whom he met while a junior faculty member at Yale in the 1950s. They have two sons.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Harold Irving Bloom (full name)
    2. Hometown:
      New York, New York and New Haven, Connecticut
    1. Date of Birth:
      July 11, 1930
    2. Place of Birth:
      New York, New York
    1. Education:
      B.A., Cornell University, 1951; Ph.D., Yale University, 1955

Table of Contents

Editor's Note     vii
Introduction   Harold Bloom     1
Towards "Bartleby the Scrivener"   Milton R. Stern     13
Melville's Problematic "Being"   Sanford E. Marovitz     39
Reenvisioning America: Melville's "Benito Cereno"   Sandra A. Zagarell     57
Allegory and Breakdown in The Confidence-Man: Melville's Comedy of Doubt   John Bryant     77
"The Author at the Time": Tommo and Melville's Self-Discovery in Typee   Bryan C. Short     93
Melville and the Woman's Story   Nancy Fredricks     113
"To Tell Over Again the Story Just Told": The Composition of Melville's Redburn   Stephen Mathewson     127
Israel Potter: Melville's "Citizen of the Universe"   Bill Christopherson     135
Disquieting Encounters: Male Intrusions/Female Realms in Melville   Judith Hiltner     151
Narrative Self-Fashioning and the Play of Possibility   John Wenke     167
Whose Book Is Moby-Dick?   Merton M. Sealts, Jr.     185
Naples and HMS Bellipotent: Melville on the Police State   Stanton Garner     201
Naturalist Psychology in Billy Budd   Thomas Hove     211
We Are Family: Melville'sPierre   Cindy Weinstein     227
Discipline and the Lash in Melville's White-Jacket   Peter Bellis     249
Chronology     265
Contributors     267
Bibliography     271
Acknowledgments     275
Index     277
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