Sunday, September 16, 2012
Draft for front flap of dust jacket of MELVILLE BIOGRAPHY: AN INSIDE NARRATIVE
Melville Biography: An Inside Narrative, Hershel Parker’s personal history of Melville biography, is enriched by his intimate working partnerships with great Melville scholars of different generations and by his witnessing and weighing successive phases of literary criticism. Part One is a mesmerizing autobiographical account of what went into creating his award-winning two-volume Herman Melville: A Biography. Next, Parker traces six decades of the “unholy war” waged against biographical scholarship in which critics repeatedly impose the theory of organic unity on Melville’s disrupted life, not just on his writings, even while truncating his body of work and ignoring his study of art and aesthetics. Here Parker celebrates discoveries made by “divine amateurs” and praises writers of litblogs as potential redeemers of anemic, partisan reviewing in the academic journals and the mainstream media. In Part Three, Parker throws open his biographical workshop and challenges readers with ambitious research projects. Afterwards, Parker turns many of his endnotes into a significant fourth section in which he engages prominent life-writers (mainly British) in a provocative, highly original seminar on the theory and practice of biography. Throughout this bold book, Parker champions archival-based biography and the all-but-lost art of embodying such scholarship in literary criticism.