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January 29, 2007

A First Attempt at Aestheticly Approaching "Benito Cereno"

Ok, well, I have saved this entry for last because I feel utterly lost as how to best "engage directly in this week’s critical approach." But, I'm going to give it my best shot...wish me luck!

"From no train of thought did these fancies come; not from within, but from without; suddenly, too, and in one throng, like hoar frost; yet as soon to vanish as the mild sun of Captain Delano's good-nature regained its meridian" (Melville 500).

Basically, I selected to quote this passage because I thought it was a good example of a passage someone who looked at this work from an aesthetic point of view might use to prove why we should bother reading this particular work of Melville's. I think one could fairly argue that the beauty of Melville's language in this passage is what makes the work significant. It does have a certain aesthetic appeal. Melville uses multiple literary devices, such as the metaphor of the Captain's good nature to the sun, to make this sound good. He could have said the same thing using much plainer, less "beautiful" language, but they would have not had the same effect. Who wants to read "These thoughts came out of nowhere and then quickly left as Captain Delano resumed his usual good-natured state of mind" when they can instead read about a "mild sun" that "regained its meridian"? This isn't how Melville had to write this sentence in order to make his point, but it does get his point across in an aesthetically pleasing way - meaning that the content doesn't really matter as much as how he says it. As the slogan goes, it is "art for art's sake."

I have no idea if that is even close to what we are supposed to do, or if it even makes sense...but I tried...I promise!

Posted by LorinSchumacher at January 29, 2007 10:27 PM


Lorin, that's fine... my expectations are very open for this first exercise because I want to see where we stand. Think of this as the "before," and do your best. I'd be happy to see this expanded into a 2-page exercise.

Posted by: Dennis G. Jerz at January 30, 2007 9:57 PM

Some would argue, myself being one of them, that Melville's works, in a purely aesthetic fashion, he is one of the ugliest and blockiest writers to read. For a general population, Hell, even an educated population, Melville is not a pick-up-and-go type of reader. Opening to a random page in one of his works reveals large, colossal paragraphs which far over-reach the levels of a common reader. The complexity of his structure is also troubling, if nothing else than for his use of commas and semi colons.

Whether the literal aesthetics are beautiful or not doesn't matter when people won't read it for the ugly "outside" appearances.

Posted by: Kevin at February 1, 2007 3:55 PM

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