Call for Papers
Herman Melville Society
Panel for American Literature Association 2011 Meeting in Boston, MA
“Melville Among the Poets”
Melville’s accomplishment as a poet has received increasing attention over the last decade. Driven by new editions of Melville’s poetry, archival discoveries, and growing critical engagement, the idea of Melville as a poet has gone from an afterthought to a concept that has reshaped the agenda of Melville studies. Yet to treat Melville as a poet is still controversial: do his poems stand up to his prose achievements? Is it valid to compare Melville’s work in these seemingly disparate genres? Should we understand his career, as Hershel Parker has recently suggested, as a continuum of work that crosses genres?
One of the difficulties in finding a clear path to intensively studying Melville’s poetry is deciding what company we believe that Melville should, and does, keep among other poets. Is he an Arnoldian Victorian? A forbidding answer to Whitman? A precursor of the rangy Modernist aesthetics of Pound and Zukofsky? A postcolonial sojourner like Walcott? A neo-Byron updating serio-comic poetics for postbellum America? Does his poetry stand, like Moby-Dick, most in line with later writers, or is it more an engagement with his deep reading in Renaissance and neoclassical verse? Are his best poetic kindred even from the Anglo-American world?
Proposals for papers linking Melville’s poetry (and/or prose) to one or more poets are welcome—any period and national or linguistic tradition will be considered, as will theoretical, historicist, formalist, or biographical approaches, as the hope is to offer widely varying models for ways in which we can and do contextualize Melville as a poet among poets.
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