Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Daughters of Gene Costner and Alice Bell Costner

Martha, Euna, Helen, Ethel, Lee, Ona, Mary

MELVILLE BIOGRAPHY: AN INSIDE NARRATIVE

Finally, I more or less mastered Word endnotes and sent the thing off to the press. I opened the blackout curtains for the first time since May. They had been protecting my eyes from the glare as I stare into the computer screen. I have been telling myself I will never have to work this hard again, but someone reminds me that I said that after Flawed Texts and Verbal Icons came out in 1984.


Contents
Preface

§ I.--Biographer and Biography (with short headnote)
01 Melville and the Footsteps Theory of Biography
02 Textual Editor as Biographer in Training: The Norton Moby-Dick and the Northwestern-Newberry The Writings of Herman Melville
03 Entangled by Pierre: Doing Biography Away from the Archives
04 Creating The New Melville Log and Starting the Biography
05 Facts Which Do Not Speak for Themselves
06 Desiderata and Discoveries in Traditional Archives and Databases

§ II.—Critics vs. Biographical Scholarship (with short headnote)
07 Agenda-Driven Reviewers: Melville in the Insular New York Newspapers and Magazines vs. Global Loomings from “Ragtag Bloggers” and Litblogs
08 Little Jack Horners and Archivophobics
09 Biographical Scholars and Recidivist Critics
10 Presentism in Melville Biography
11 The Late 20th-Century Mini-Melville: New York Intellectuals without Information
12 The Early 21st-Century Mini-Melville: New York Intellectuals without Information

§ III.— Biographical Scholarship: Demonstrations and Challenges (with short headnote)
13 Melville as the “Modern Boccaccio”: The Fascinations of Fayaway
14 Melville’s Courtship of Elizabeth Shaw
15 Melville's Short Run of Good Luck (1845-1849): Fool’s Paradise without International Copyright
16 Melville without International Copyright (1850-1854): A Harper “Sacrifice” for the “Public Good”
17 Melville and Hawthorne’s Dinner at the Hotel in Lenox
18 Why Melville Took Hawthorne to the Holy Land: Biography Enhanced by Databases and an Amateur Blogger
19 Melville as a Titan of Literature among High-Minded English Admirers: The Kory-Kory and Queequeg Component
20 Damned by Dollars: Moby-Dick and the Price of Genius

The endnotes comprise a substantial fourth section. In them I quote three or four dozen collections or essays on biography or separate books on biography and a few dozen articles on biography from places like, well, the Hawaii periodical Biography,

Friday, September 16, 2011

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

draft headnote for Section one of MELVILLE BIOGRAPHY: AN INSIDE NARRATIVE

The book is about ready to turn in. I am doing highly intellectual jobs like going through making sure there are no spaces between the final period of a paragraph and the hard return.

draft of headnote for section one.
§ I.--Biographer and Biography


In the June 23, 2002, New York Times Richard H. Brodhead revealed that he knew my deepest secrets, starting with this history: “Many years ago Hershel Parker set out to write the biography to end all biographies of Herman Melville.” Emerson said it best: “The grossest ignorance does not disgust like this impudent knowingness.” The grain of truth in what Brodhead so confidently announced was that I had started to work on Melville many years earlier. Because almost all academic critics, not just the quintessential New Critic like Brodhead, comprehend nothing about what a scholar does, I offer in this first section of Melville Biography: An Inside Narrative six autobiographical chapters on what can go into the making of a biographer and a documentary biography.

When I started to work on Melville I assumed most work had been done. Why, I wondered to Harrison Hayford, did we need to collate the American Moby-Dick against the English The Whale for the Norton Critical Edition--Mansfield and Vincent had done that in the 1940s, hadn’t they? Mansfield and Vincent had made an attempt but they had not been thorough. They had missed much of the evidence, botched the story, and had not read the book for words the copyist or the American compositor had misread. The lesson in the mid-1960s was stark: you have to do everything yourself if you want to know it has been done to your standards. Once you learn to look for good texts, you don’t stop. When I edited the American Renaissance part of the Norton Anthology of American Literature I put in texts of Poe from the Broadway Journal that actually made sense, as the standard truncated texts did not always do. You also think of things that ought to be known and are not available. The single best thing I did as a scholar was to put Whitman’s “Live Oak, with Moss” in that anthology, where, I assure myself, it saves lives of young people every year because it depicts a man surviving a happy but ultimately failed love affair with another man. In 1962 I began hunting reviews of Melville’s books to supplement the work others had done, continued the hunt systematically for the “Historical Notes” of the Northwestern-Newberry Edition of The Writings of Herman Melville, published results in the Higgins-Parker Cambridge Contemporary Reviews, and continued the hunt for my biography and The New Melville Log. There were years I felt like the Little Red Hen. When you spend a career thinking things through for yourself and doing work for yourself, you are grateful when you encounter brilliant fellow-researchers with highly developed work ethics, as I have been lucky enough to do, although a curious fact is that in recent years few of them have held jobs as professors.

Some biographers write about times when they ask themselves whom they should take as their next subject. Some of them even reveal that they have accepted someone else’s take-out asignment for the subject of a biography of. My story is different. I have worked many months on American writers other than Melville—Emerson, Hawthorne, G. W. Harris, Thoreau, Whitman, Dickinson, Clemens, James, Stephen Crane, Fitzgerald, Faulkner, Hemingway, Mailer—and all the work I have done on these writers has been, at bottom, textual and biographical. But my first talk at a scholarly meeting, in 1960, was on Melville, my dissertation was on Melville, and except for The Norton Anthology of American Literature and Flawed Texts and Verbal Icons all my books and collections and the majority of my articles have been on Melville. If I was going to write a biography, it would be on Melville. As I explain in this section, I set out in the early 1980s merely to help Jay Leyda expand The Melville Log, helping again as I had helped with the 1969 Supplement. We would share new information, and I would briskly write a biography. Then I would get back to my interrupted career as textual theorist, for I had plans beyond the 1984 Flawed Texts and Verbal Icons. I must, still, have believed in what I discuss in this section as the Silver Platter theory of biography. I had not yet learned that if you want to know what the manuscripts say you have to transcribe them for yourself. In that dirtiest of all dirty jobs, you just may discover sidelights on episodes in a writer’s life or even astonishing episodes no one had ever known. This section traces the on-the-job training of one biographer to read and interpret evidence, a training (to end the headnote with Thoreau), such as the athletes underwent.