Friday, May 30, 2014
G-mail from Germany on MELVILLE BIOGRAPHY: AN INSIDE NARRATIVE
Since MELVILLE BIOGRAPHY was almost ignored in this country I was happy to see this g-mail this morning. The sad error in Barrie's name I certainly would not have made now, after cataract surgery and toric implants in both eyes!
Dear Professor Parker,
I have just finished reading your highly valuable book "Melville biography", although, perhaps somewhat perversely, I chose to read it before I will make a go at your 2 vol. biography. anyway, I just wanted to let you know that I found the book most thrilling and worth reflecting on how to approach literature, the nature of the text and the role of the author etc. One learns quite a bit about research - and about the history of literary criticism. Your detailed criticism of Delbanco's biography and other publications is very helpful, also with respect to earlier critics such as Edmund Wilson. Of Charles Feidelson, e.g., I have to confess I had never heard before and was not aware of his importance in the context of the New Criticism.
Of particular interest is also your repeated emphasis on Melville's interest in art and relevant comparisons to Hawthorne in this and other matters. And for the future of philology it's surely necessary to give students to opportunity to transcribe handwritings - and even older prints (having recently edited a few German texts from the 18th century, I had to realize that this is not without problems, too). There are now many, many handwritten sources available in digitized archives that provide ample opportunity to retrieve information on a large scale.....
I also found the many hints for further research fascinating, from the riddle of "D. D." to the ways that Melville got transmitted in British contexts. (By the way: J. H. Barrie p. 475 should read "J. M. Barrie").
Your book has the "terrible" effect of making one want to read all (and re-read some) of Melville's writings (I will start with Pierre or the Confidence-Man, perhaps go on to Clarel, who knows....), so I guess one should count the book a success. It's most inspiring.....
All the best,