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Classics of American Literature

Lecture 18-23

Topics for Further Consideration:

1. How would you make the case that Moby-Dick is The Great American Novel? Discuss Melville's obsession with "greatness."

Many would say that Melville's Moby Dick is great literature. Moby Dick is a classic novel that surely has had, and continues to have, a huge influence on the collective evolution of writing and literary thought. Melville's story of madness and obsession combined with his realistic old English style of writing has been mimicked and transformed to give rise to hundreds, possibly thousands, of new stories and an infinite number of thoughts have been born. There is no question that Moby Dick has been a very influential book. Well some say Moby Dick is great because it invokes thought; while it is fantastical and adventurous, there is meaning in it that comes through to every human being who reads it. The book is praised for its openness to multiple interpretations and depth that can be achieved in those interpretations. It could be said that the greatness of Moby Dick lies in between the lines of writing, in the interpretations, and what is unanswered by the author.

2. How does "Benito Cereno" contribute to your understanding of American politics?

Herman Melville’s novella Benito Cereno is a story that helps to express Melville’s view on slavery. Contained within the text is an intricate story that sheds light on the ultimate underlying problems to the existence of slavery. The way that Melville builds the story in the novella through certain situations brings attention to the ideals of slavery, leadership, and American character. It is most often found that Melville is anti-slavery, however, he is not apt to necessarily conform to anyone side. Melville expresses the qualities of the slave and slavery itself throughout Benito Cereno. The story of Benito Cereno is told in a way that the reader is unknown to the various actions taking place throughout the story, just as Captain Amasa Delano was unknowingly dealing with a ship overtaken by slaves. Herman Melville makes a connection to the underlying problems that faced slavery.

American Passages Unit 4

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