American Literature Association Conference
Two Panels Sponsored by the Melville Society
May 22-25, 2014
Herman Melville’s Poetic (Dis)continuities
Herman Melville’s poetry and poetic career can be characterized as distinctly lacking in continuity. Not only does his turn to poetry signal a dramatic shift in his life’s work, his poems and collections typically defy patterns of continuum—poems embedded into prose pieces, collections strikingly departing from each other thematically and stylistically, publication ambitions and relationships to readers inconsistent and nebulous. Within individual poems, too, we witness Melville’s stylistic and philosophical fissions, abrasions, and reversals. Part of Melville’s inability to attract a wider readership and to fully enter into the canon of American poets is undoubtedly his work’s resistance to interpretive frameworks that foreground narratives of artistic evolution, development, and continuity.
This panel seeks to address the continuous and discontinuous elements of Melville’s poetry and of his career as a poet. What are the threads of repetition, similarity, and consistency that persist in his poetry and in his authorial practices? What are the most revealing and illustrative of his discontinuities? How might his discontinuities ironically help us generate useful narratives of his poetic career?
Melville and the Politics of Print
Presentations on Melville’s work as it relates to book history or the history of periodicals. Issues to be addressed might include: copyright, serialization, illustrations, editing Melville, Melville in/and libraries, adaptations of Melville’s work to non-print media such as film or radio, digital Melville, Melville in the archive, the Melville revival, literary celebrity. How can a focus on practices of writing, printing, and reading from the nineteenth century to the present generate new insights into Melville’s work?