Graduate Thesis Or Dissertation

 

Herman Melville's Moby-Dick : hermeneutics and epistemology in Ishmael's seafaring Public Deposited

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  • This paper defends a reading of Hennan Melville's Moby-Dick that elevates Ishmael's status from mere narrator of Ahab's tragedy to that of protagonist of his own story, a novel of epistemological seafaring. As a metaphysical quester, Ishmael provides the novel's only reliable and complex vision of the condition of man and the universe, despite its necessary incompletion. Not dismissing the tragedy of Ahab, the study illustrates the limitations of his fixed hermeneutics, the simplicity of his "final" interpretations, and the consequent misuse of his will, which ultimately denies him his humanity. Ahab's tragically limited quest is interpreted as the counterpoint to Ishmael's more fluid and complex quest, becoming one of many backdrops for Ishmael' s drama and thus contributing to the novel's main epistemological dialogue. Ishmael's drama is defined as the soul's comprehension completing itself, a drama of epistemology and hermeneutics. His multiple methodologies are explored though the dramatic stress, which is defined as Ishmael's struggle to maintain an independent sense of spiritual and intellectual equilibrium while various experiences and observations on board the Pequod throw this equilibrium off balance. Ishmael goes through a series of "resurrections," regaining lost equilibrium as he comes to a state of balanced acceptance of two key perplexities concerning the human condition and the universe, namely, inescapable polarities and the unattainablity of Ultimate Truth.
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