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Performer - Culture & Literature Marina Spiazzi, Marina Tavella, Margaret Layton © 2012 Herman Melville and the American Renaissance (1819-1891)

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Presentation on theme: "Performer - Culture & Literature Marina Spiazzi, Marina Tavella, Margaret Layton © 2012 Herman Melville and the American Renaissance (1819-1891)"— Presentation transcript:

1 Performer - Culture & Literature Marina Spiazzi, Marina Tavella, Margaret Layton © 2012 Herman Melville and the American Renaissance ( )

2 Herman Melville and the American Renaissance Performer - Culture & Literature He was born in New York in 1819, into a wealthy merchant family. At the age of twelve he left school because of his father’s death. After various jobs, in 1839 he signed on to a merchant ship. In 1841 sailed on his first voyage as a member of the crew of the whaling ship ‘Acushnet’. 1. Life Arrowhead, home of Melville, Pittsfield, Massachusetts

3 Herman Melville and the American Renaissance Performer - Culture & Literature In 1842 he deserted the ship and spent some time in the Marquesas Islands (now French Polynesia). He came into contact with the way of life of the Typees, a tribe thought to be cannibals. Then he escaped to Tahiti, and later to Hawaii, where he joined a US ship and returned home. In 1851 he published Moby- Dick, his masterpiece. He died in Life Arrowhead, home of Melville, Pittsfield, Massachusetts

4 Herman Melville and the American Renaissance Performer - Culture & Literature The story Ahab, the captain of the whaler ‘Pequod’, has devoted his life to hunting down and killing a white sperm whale, called Moby Dick. Moby Dick had attacked him and bitten off his leg during a previous whaling expedition. 2. Moby-Dick (1851)

5 Herman Melville and the American Renaissance Performer - Culture & Literature The crew of the ship consists of mixed races and religions: Starbuck, the wise and cautious first mate. Queequeg, a superstitious Maori whom Ahab has hired because of his skill with the harpoon. Pip, the cabin boy. Ishmael, the narrator, who joins them in Nantucket before the departure of the ship. The whale, which is eventually seen and then hunted for three days. 2. Moby-Dick (1851)

6 Herman Melville and the American Renaissance Performer - Culture & Literature Ahab wounds Moby Dick, but in its rage the animal destroys the Pequod and its crew. Only good Ishmael is not caught in the vortex of the sinking ship and manages to float upon a coffin. He survives to tell the story. 2. Moby-Dick (1851)

7 Herman Melville and the American Renaissance Performer - Culture & Literature Two different perspectives 1. Ahab’s quest  a blasphemous activity. Ahab equals himself to God. He rejects God in favour of an alliance with the devil. 2. Ahab  the voice of the instinctive spirituality of the New World, which rejects the tyranny of nature over man. Ahab  a tragic hero who, in his quest for his enemy, takes his crew with him in the final disaster. 3. Captain Ahab

8 Herman Melville and the American Renaissance Performer - Culture & Literature 4. The meaning of the white whale Ishmael’s description of the sperm whale  the problem of its superiority over all other creatures. The excellence of the whale places Ahab’s quest as a very hard task doomed to failure.

9 Herman Melville and the American Renaissance Performer - Culture & Literature 4. The meaning of the white whale Various interpretations more than a natural creature; the personification of the evil in the world; a mirror in which Ahab and his crew look for their own image; the embodiment of mankind’s quest for a reason for their existence. A symbol of the hidden and mysterious forces of a wonderful and powerful nature, capable of sudden and incredible acts of destruction.

10 Herman Melville and the American Renaissance Performer - Culture & Literature Towards the middle of the 19th century a group of intellectuals and writers developed a movement the ‘New England Renaissance’ The term did not indicate the rebirth of something, but the beginning of a truly American literature, with themes and a style of its own. 5. The American Renaissance

11 Herman Melville and the American Renaissance Performer - Culture & Literature The period between 1830 and 1865, saw the publication of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s essay Nature (1836). Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter (1850). Herman Melville’s Moby–Dick (1851). Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass (1855). 5. The American Renaissance Engraved illustration from an 1878 edition of The Scarlet Letter

12 Herman Melville and the American Renaissance Performer - Culture & Literature The most influential figure in framing the thought of the American Renaissance was Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–82) with his philosophy called Transcendentalism. 6. Transcendentalism

13 Herman Melville and the American Renaissance Performer - Culture & Literature Key ideas All reality was seen as a single unity (oneness and multiplicity were the same thing). A concept which well suited the reality of the ‘melting pot’, of a country where people from all over the world formed a national unity. Contact with nature was the best means to reach truth and awareness of the unity of all things. The ‘over-soul’ was the spiritual principle linking everything together. Man was the emanation of the over-soul, and the emphasis lay on his individuality, on his self-education. 6. Transcendentalism

14 Herman Melville and the American Renaissance Performer - Culture & Literature The influence of Transcendentalism encouraged an optimistic and self-reliant point of view in the poems of Walt Whitman; in David Thoreau’s essay Civil Disobedience (1849). Non-violent protest against unjust government policies. 6. Transcendentalism Thoreau memorial at Library Way, New York City


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