However, the resistant materiality and corporeality space lacks in this context is precisely what Olson seems to posit as a primary topos in Call Me Ishmael. To broach the topic of corporeality in Call Me Ishmael , and to disclose a fleshly space of insurgency at that, is not to prescribe an alternative poetics for Olson in toto, but a different vein of thought at the foundational level of Call Me Ishmael. For to reduce space in that oeuvre to a single maxim, attribute, or poetics is often to overlook its mutability. Call Me Ishmael has five chapters or Parts.
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I wish to acknowledge the grant of a fellowship from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation to do this book. Herman Melville was born in New York August 1, , and on the 12th of that month the Essex , a well-found whaler of tons, sailed from Nantucket with George Pollard, Jr. A year and three months later, on November 20, , just south of the equator in longitude West, this ship, on a calm day, with the sun at ease, was struck head on twice by a bull whale, a spermeceti about 85 feet long, and with her bows stove in, filled and sank.
Her twenty men set out in three open whaleboats for the coast of South America miles away. They had bread lb. Although they were at the time no great distance from Tahiti, they were ignorant of the temper of the natives and feared cannibalism. To alleviate the thirst which followed, they killed turtle for its blood. The sight revolted the stomachs of the men. In the first weeks of December their lips began to crack and swell, and a glutinous saliva collected in the mouth, intolerable to the taste.
A few flying fish struck their sails, fell into the boats, and were swallowed raw. After a month of the open sea they were gladdened by the sight of a small island which they took to be Ducie but was Elizabeth Isle. Currents and storm had taken them a thousand miles off their course. They found water on the island after a futile search for it from rocks which they picked at, where moisture was, with their hatchets. It was discovered in a small spring in the sand at the extreme verge of ebbtide.
They could gather it only at low water. The rest of the time the sea flowed over the spring to the depth of six feet. Twenty men could not survive on the island and, to give themselves the chance to reach the mainland before the supplies they had from the ship should be gone, seventeen of them put back to sea December 27th.
In one they found eight human skeletons, side by side as though they had lain down and died together. The only food the three had was a sort of blackbird which they caught when at roost in trees and whose blood they sucked.
With the meat of the bird, and a few eggs, they chewed a plant tasting like peppergrass which they found in the crevices of the rocks. They survived. The three boats, with the seventeen men divided among them, moved under the sun across ocean together until the 12th of January when, during the night, the one under the command of Owen Chase, First Mate, became separated from the other two.
Already one of the seventeen had died, Matthew Joy, Second Mate. He had been buried January 10th. Two days more and Lawson Thomas, Negro, died and was eaten. Again two days and Isaac Shepherd, Negro, died and was eaten.
The bodies were roasted to dryness by means of fires kindled on the ballast sand at the bottom of the boats. The fifth, Samuel Reed, Negro, had been eaten for strength at his death the day before. Within three days these four men, calculating the miles they had to go, decided to draw two lots, one to choose who should die that the others might live, and one to choose who should kill him. It became the duty of Charles Ramsdale, also of Nantucket, to shoot him. He did, and he, the Captain and Brazilla Ray, Nantucket, ate him.
That was February 1, On February 11th, Ray died of himself, and was eaten. The men in the third boat, under the command of Owen Chase, the first mate, held out the longest. They had become separated from the. Upload Sign In Join.
Home Books History. Create a List. Download to App. Length: pages 2 hours. Passionate in his poetry, Olson was no less passionate in his reading of Melville.
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“Half Horse Half Alligator” — I Review Charles Olson’s Inimitable Melville Study, Call Me Ishmael
Some of these were now in the hands of private collectors; some were in libraries; some were still owned by family members. I think of the legwork of Olson as a young and gigantic graduate student he was six feet eight inches tall. And I think of the work of librarians and scholars, still in progress, cleaning and repairing and transcribing and digitizing all those index cards. Call Me Ishmael , with its bold argument about Melville and Shakespeare, would not have been possible without those note cards.
Charles Olson: Call Me Ishmael
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Call Me Ishmael
The classical Greeks understood that literature is a form of competition. To put this another way: What does it take to write after, say, The Odyssey? How does one answer to The Book of Job? What about Moby-Dick? What are the possibilities of even writing about Moby-Dick?
Post a Comment. My latest book, Suicide: A Memoir , can be purchased in ebook and paperback form at Amazon. A literary blog by Brian A. American poet Charles Olson's nearly page meditation on the Dick written in the late s and available today in the volume of Olson's Collected Prose published by University of California Press in is more than a work of textual interpretation written in an exemplarily muscular prose--although it's that too. Olson's book, like its obvious precursor, D. Lawrence's Studies in Classic American Literature , uses the literary text as pretext for a deeper exploration of the darker-than-dark American Insane. I spell it large because it comes large here.