Saturday, September 22, 2012
MELVILLE BIOGRAPHY: AN INSIDE NARRATIVE--copy for front flap of dust jacket
Melville Biography: An Inside Narrative is enriched by a lifetime of intimate working partnerships with great Melville scholars of different generations and by the author’s experience of successive phases of literary criticism. Throughout this bold book, Hershel Parker champions archival-based biography and the all-but-lost art of embodying such scholarship in literary criticism.
First is a mesmerizing autobiographical account of what went into creating the award-winning and comprehensive Herman Melville: A Biography. Then Parker traces six decades of the “unholy war” waged against biographical scholarship, in which critics repeatedly imposed the theory of organic unity on Melville’s disrupted life—not just on his writings—while truncating his body of work and ignoring his study of art and aesthetics. In this connection, Parker celebrates discoveries made by “divine amateurs” and praises writers of litblogs as potential redeemers of anemic, partisan reviewing in academic journals and the mainstream media. Finally, Parker throws open his biographical workshop and challenges ambitious readers with research projects.
Provocative annotations engage prominent life-writers (mainly British) in a highly original seminar on the theory and practice of biography. This is a book for Melville fans, Parker fans, as well as readers, writers, and would-be writers of biography.