Melville's Mirrors

Melville's Mirrors

Literary Criticism and America's Most Elusive Author

Brian Yothers

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An accessible and highly readable guide to the story of Melville criticism as it has developed over the past century and a half.

Herman Melville is among the most thoroughly canonized authors in American literature, and the body of criticism dealing with his writing is immense. Until now, however, there has been no standard volume on the history of Melville criticism. That a volume on this subject is timely and important is shown by the number of introductions and companions to Melville's work that have been published during the last few years [none of which focuses on the critical reception of Melville's works], as well as the steady stream of critical monographs and scholarly biographies that have been published on Melville since the 1920s. Melville's Mirrors provides Melville scholars and graduate and undergraduate students with an accessible guide to the story of Melville criticism as it has developed over the years. It is a valuable reference for research libraries and for the personal libraries of scholars of Melville and of nineteenth-century American literature in general, and it is also a potential textbook for major author courses on Melville, which are offered at many universities.

BRIAN YOTHERS is Professor of English at the University of Texas at El Paso. He is author of The Romance of the Holy Land in American Travel Writing, 1790-1876 and co-editor of Journeys: The International Journal of Travel and Travel Writing.

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Table of Contents

References to Herman Melville's Works
Introduction: Seeking Melville
Defining Melville: The Melville Revival andBiographical and Textual Criticism
Literary Aesthetics and the Visual Arts
Melville's Beard I: Religion, Ethics, and Epistemology
Melville's Beard II: Gender, Sexuality, and the Body
Aspects of America: Democracy, Nationalism, and War
"An Anacharsis Clootz Deputation": Race, Ethnicity,Empire, and Cosmopolitanism
Epilogue: Encountering Melville
Works Cited


Yothers conducts [the] rather daunting task . . . of synthesizing the history of Melville criticism . . . with aplomb and successfully carries out his intention of creating a "meaningful taxonomy of the various critical mirrors used to understand Melville's work.". . . [T]his engaging and meticulously researched volume dedicated to the extensive field of Melville studies will be a useful text for scholars and reference libraries alike. THE YEAR'S WORK IN ENGLISH STUDIES

Provides a useful guide to the overwhelming quantity of Melville studies produced in the last century and helps to demonstrate the utility of literary criticism for understanding and enriching the author's oeuvre. AMERICAN LITERATURE

Of value to anyone wishing to get a purchase on critical approaches to Melville's work, the study is intriguing for its narrative form; Yothers becomes a disinterested Ishmael following scholars in their quest for Melville. The title and subtitle are appropriate because, as the author makes clear, Melville's work allows for a variety of critical perspectives and yet remains slightly beyond the critical moment. In an epilogue, Yothers highlights how Melville has moved from a figure of literary study to a cultural figure, making way for yet another future for Melville studies. CHOICE

Melville, I think, would have appreciated the scope of Brian Yothers's recent book. With rigor and grace, Melville's Mirrors examines a topic as vast and seemingly ungraspable as Ishmael's snowy phantom: the history of Melville criticism from 1920 to 2010. . . . [This book is] the most comprehensive and judicious study of Melville scholarship to date. . . . Yothers weaves together a compelling guide to the major critical texts and trends. Yet the book's foremost contribution likely inheres in the deep history that it provides for contemporary scholarship. . . . [The] evolution [of interpretation] is slow and accumulative, but it is what makes possible the splendid critical resources we have today-to which this book is an invaluable contribution. LEVIATHAN: A JOURNAL OF MELVILLE STUDIES

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