Two-Way Street

January 18, 2012

Alex Steele never took a class from me.    I don’t think I’d ever seen her around the department.  But my colleague, Richard Deming, who was going to direct her senior essay, is away on a Fellowship from the Berlin Academy.   So here she was.

And did she really say “prosody in Moby-Dick”?

It turns out that what Alex has in mind is something like the poetics of characterization: the rhythm, pacing, and orchestration of, say, the trio of mates, or the trio of harpooners.   Here is Stubb, for instance: ”like his nose, his short, black little pipe was one of the regular features of his face.  You would almost as soon have expected him to turn out of his bunk without his nose as without his pipe.  He kept a whole row of pipes there ready loaded, stuck in a rack, within easy reach of his hands; and, whenever he turned in, he smoked them all out in succession, lighting one from the other to the end of the chapter; then loading them again to be in readiness anew.”  More detailed than is strictly necessary, but maybe that’s point.  A a metrical fabric needs that kind of pattern.

Meanwhile, Alex has sent me the link for “One Drawing for Every Page of Moby-Dick,”  by the artist Matt Kish.   I’ve posted some of the images on our Facebook page.   These, along with the Andrew Seguin illustrations sent by David Greven (also once a student, now a tenured professor), say louder than words what Moby-Dick means in the age of the new media — and what teaching means.   A two-way street, in both cases.   It feels good to be there.

About wcd2

Professor of English and American Studies
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