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A companion to Herman Melville by Wyn Kelley

By Wyn Kelley

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Extra info for A companion to Herman Melville

Sample text

Given what we know about the disappointments and frustrations Melville had suffered in publishing, his failure to secure a comfortable government job, his physical ailments, and his wife’s family’s fears for his mental stability, it’s not surprising to find Melville experiencing ‘‘a genuine Jonah-feeling’’ in Joppa, where he felt ‘‘emphatically alone’’ with the wind ‘‘rising and the swell of the sea increasing, & dashing in breakers upon the reef of rocks within a biscuit’s toss of the sea-wall’’ ( J 80–1).

New York: Clarkson Potter, 1996; Boston and Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1998. A Companion to Herman Melville Edited by Wyn Kelley Copyright © 2006 by Blackwell Publishing Ltd 2 Cosmopolitanism and Traveling Culture Peter Gibian Cosmopolitanism and American Literature When people first hear the words ‘‘cosmopolitan’’ and ‘‘American Literature’’ in the same sentence, they tend to think of the early twentieth century. Two major waves of famous American writers went abroad in that era to put American writing at the forefront of international literary developments, forging an American literature centered on the ‘‘International Theme’’ and defining an international modernism fundamentally concerned with issues of cosmopolitanism in what was seen as a newly ‘‘cosmopolitan’’ world.

In October, the Melvilles’ oldest son Malcolm shot himself in the head. In whatever free moments he could find at work, Melville coped with his son’s tragic suicide and his own tumultuous and troubled psyche by focusing A Traveling Life 17 on poetry. In 1876, with a generous subvention from his uncle Peter, he published Clarel: A Poem and Pilgrimage in the Holy Land. Malcolm’s death and the illnesses and deaths of close friends and relatives combined with advancing age and intimations of his own mortality gradually mellowed Melville.

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