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Moby-Dick [Norton Critical Edition] by…

Moby-Dick [Norton Critical Edition] (1851)

by Herman Melville

Other authors: Harrison Hayford (Editor), Hershel Parker (Editor)

Series: Norton Critical Editions

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,043612,831 (4.23)16
A section of "Whaling and Whalecraft" features prose and graphics by John B. Putnam, a sample of contemporary whaling engravings, as well as, new to this edition, an engraving of Tupai Cupa, the real-life inspiration for the character of Queequeg.Evoking Melville's fascination with the fluidity of categories like savagery and civilization, the image of Tupai Cupa fittingly introduces "Before Moby-Dick: International Controversy over Melville," a new section that documents the ferocity of religions, political, and sexual hostility toward Melville in reaction to his early books, beginning with Typee in 1846.The image of Tupai Cupa also evokes Melville's interest in the mystery of self-identity and the possibility of knowing another person's "queenly personality" (Chapter 119). That theme (focused on Melville, Ishmael, and Ahab) is pursued in "A Handful of Critical Challenges," from Walter E. Bezanson's classic centennial study through Harrison Hayford's meditation on "Loomings" and recent essays by Camille Paglia and John Wenke.In "Reviews and Letters by Melville," a letter has been redated and a wealth of new biographical material has been added to the footnotes, notably to Melville's "Hawthorne and His Mosses." "Analogues and Sources" retains classic pieces by J. N. Reynolds and Owen Chase, as well as new findings by Geoffrey Sanborn and Steven Olsen-Smith. In "Reviews of Moby-Dick" emphasizes the ongoing religious hostility toward Melville and highlights new discoveries, such as the first-known Scottish review of The Whale. "Posthumous Praise and the Melville Revival: 1893-1927" collects belated, enthusiastic praise up through that of William Faulkner. "Biographical Cross-Light" is Hershel Parker's somber look at what writing Moby-Dick cost Melville and his family.From Foreword through Selected Bibliography, this Sesquicentennial Norton Critical Edition is uniquely valuable as the most up-to-date and comprehensive documentary source for study of Moby-Dick.… (more)



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» See also 16 mentions

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The great American novel of the 19th century in an annotated version with much pith and information, even more than Melville supplies, but all good. A must read for any Anglo-American who wants to be considered a literate person dipping into the mysterium. ( )
  JayLivernois | Dec 5, 2016 |
Oh my. There is certainly a classic story here, but Melville does his best to bore you to death with everything you never wanted to know about whaling before you can get to the end. As usual, the essays in the Norton Critical Edition are helpful. ( )
1 vote datrappert | Nov 30, 2013 |
The third time is usually the charm, but not in this case. After two abortive attempts at getting through this book, I've finally decided to give it up for good.

The first 97 pages were great -- surprisingly accessible writing style, and I loved Ishmael's account of his meeting Queequeg. Hysterical! Such is the stuff that "bromances" are made of. It was also great to see an example of people of different races being friends, considering the time period in which this was written.

But I hit a wall once the ship set out. The long digressions about whales and whaling began, and the narrative became more ponderous and leaden. There was even a chapter told in an utterly incongruous script form that didn't work for me at all. It almost felt like two completely different books, maybe three if you think the script form feels like another one entirely. So I've decided to cut my losses and stop reading here, but I am glad for those 97 pages. ( )
  rabbitprincess | Feb 26, 2011 |
Moby Dick is a massive, messy, maniacal masterpiece. Everyone knows the plot -- a whaling captain is obsessed with killing the Great White Whale that bit off his leg, and chases the whale across the world’s oceans. Beast and man meet in climactic battle.

But the plot really isn’t the reason to read the novel. If you’re interested in a tale of pure whaling drama (and there is nothing wrong with that!), try In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex by Nathaniel Philbrick, which tells the true story of the events that inspired Melville’s work.

Melville’s novel is a chaotic (but controlled) navigation of every writing style one could imagine: poetry, play writing, scientific treatise, technical whaling manual, surreal nightmarish vision, an anthropology of exotic cultures, and plain old “thrill of the chase” narrative. It can give you vertigo (or is that sea sickness?) until you get your literary sea legs. The Norton 50th Anniversary Critical Edition features a series of essays that help make sense of this stunning, bravado pageant. I found the section that deconstructed Melville’s writing process to be particularly interesting.

According to many scholars, Melville set out to write a truly American tragedy, with the crew of a whaling vessel -- rather than kings and their armies -- as the players. He proves there can be as much majesty in those “ordinary” people as in royalty and as much drama on a small boat as in the halls of princes.

Reading Moby Dick requires patience and persistence, and a willingness to let yourself go and take the work on its own terms. If you’re open to it, you’ll experience what I'd dub (with apologies to Twain, Faulkner, and many LibraryThingers) the bona fide Great American Novel. ( )
1 vote ElizabethChapman | Feb 15, 2010 |
Moby-Dick is a very big classic because it's one-third fiction, one-third documentary, and one-third a collection of essays. The whaling theme dominates every bit of all three of these. The plot is very straightforward: a demonstration of the pointlessness of revenge, especially when it becomes one's sole purpose. Melville's use of language is enjoyable and he constantly introduces thought-provoking questions about religion and human nature. ( )
  jpsnow | May 8, 2008 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Herman Melvilleprimary authorall editionscalculated
Hayford, HarrisonEditorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Parker, HershelEditorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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