1/1000

The Constructivist questions the benefit of color-blindness, and proposes thus –

I want to question the assumption that to “stop” doing any of these things is a simple and easy process. I want to question the assumption so endemic to “color-blind” thinking on race that the best way to fight racism is to attack the notion of race by showing it to be a cognitive error.

Be sure to read all of his insightful reflection (and mind the helpful bibliography at the bottom). The above sentence made me think, spontaneously and from there: not so spontaneously and more directedly, on the logical relation, as it is presented and written out in Lovecraft’s prose (fiction), of race as a biological fact and race as a construct.

There is a very definite sense in which race is available and necessary as the former – these cognizant, rational, hyper-intelligent, space-travelling aliens in his works cry out “Other! Other! Other!” with every tentacle of their polymorphous (and only very occasionally: anthropomorphic) physical bodies. Critically then, Lovecraft’s characters still cannot quite bring themselves to bring up a dichotomy of human vs. alien in their confrontations with Cthulhu & Co. – more specifically, they habitually, instinctively?, narrow it down to white human vs. alien. I must have made that point before, remember making something like it when I discussed The Call of Cthulhu (a call that, notably, goes out not only to the great white male narratorship and characterstock) and its violent police raid on the feasting, “bastardized” worshippers of grand Cthulhu – and will make it at greater length, & discuss it as a central conflict.

Not quite coincidentally, I will teach a class on the Harlem Renaissance in the upcoming (and still very far removed) winter semester, and having George Hutchinson’s (I’m sure) excellent (but still unread, by me) study on The Harlem Renaissance in Black and White standing on the shelf and all waiting to finally be read – I wonder, if I might not sneak Lovecraft in there as a WASP exponent and counteragent…sort of as a running gag: the seminar has not yet been devised that I cannot integrate Lovecraft into.

The table of contents I spun up in the previous post is, now that I look at it, extraordinarily biased toward a frontier approach, almost toppled over by the “weight of the frontier” (googled for, that phrase chokes up six results, and only two of these seem in any way pertinent on literary-cultural-matters: treading the near-neological, as a scholar of ultra-encyclopedic Lovecraft probably shouldn’t) – I feel this is one approach I can take to the concept of Gothic Apocalypse I would like to write up for Lovecraft in my work. In that first chapter I would like to generally weigh and measure gothic, frontier, and apocalypse against each other, to see how their respective rhetorics go together for me. I could also point to an anthology from the mid-90s that got me thinking on the gothic frontier – Frontier Gothic, edited at the time by David Mogen, Scott P. Sanders, and Joanne B. Karpinski.

So. Melville is waiting. The confidence man is waiting.


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1000 Posts for the End

Back!, at the: there I have just running the new Queens of the Stone Age record, Era Vulgaris, with a three week or so delay and oh, are these guitars ever so wonderfully bold! Stephen Thomas Erlewine, over at allmusic, takes Josh Homme outside the time stream and makes him a temporal refugee, Lovecraft style.

Josh Homme is a man of many talents, but he’s not quite a man of his time. He floats outside of it, sniping and sneering at it, but he’s not part of it — he’s too in love with rock & roll to belong to a decade that’s seeing the music’s slow decline.

If the decline of rock & roll sounds thus, may it never again start not to decline: hail to the band that’s pumping and twisting guitar speedfire riffs like they mean them.
____________________

Back! First! Now that my seminar on the apocalypse is drawing to a close, I feel…do I say it?…a certain confidence in the final things, strong enough, indeed, to finally launch the inquiry on the third subchapter of the longdrawn multi-month inquiry Lovecraft and Race. The original list of agenda points read thus –

(- Race in Lovecraft scholarship)

(- Race and Decay)

– Race and Apocalypse

– Race and the Reader

– the brackets closed around the two points I have so far tried to deal with. Both chapters involved pretty far-strung and detailed readings of a limited text corpus, prose from both Lovecraft and his critics. These readings, if nothing else, helped clarify in how far certain concepts were purposeful to a reading of Lovecraft as part of an apocalyptic tradition – think participation mystique and chronos/kairos, both of which, among others, I will be able to refer to when I go on to put a more definite shape to my working assumption that in Lovecraft’s case race, horror, and apocalypse necessarily go in productive unison, reserving him a unique place not only in the American Gothic, but in fact pushing the literary mode in a distinctly modern direction and introducing a vital and important division – Gothic Apocalypse. Both Gothic and Apocalypse involve definitions and re-definitions of concepts of power and race, prior to and after Lovecraft’s time bracket: he combines the two in an innovative way and in the process introduces new and radically efficient varieties of alterity and hybridity. Or, bereft of the jargon: racism was never quite as creepy.

My plan for the upcoming weeks and months into the inquiry, as far as it occurs in this blog, go into a timid table (leaving enough space for any late entries). Quite unabashedly I confess that this is in preliminary study of chapters 4-6 of my dissertation, Providence and Apocalypse – chapters on Apocalypse and Power, Apocalypse and Race, and Gothic Apocalypse [working titles, all of them], as well as in preparation of more quotable scholarly articles. For all the jouissance of the online-writing experience, I want to see this go in a direction where it has my main concern, the diss, in its eye.

The table, timidly, looks thus –

Apocalypse, Decay, and Race

1) The Frontier as Apocalyptic Place

1.1) Melville’s Indian-Hating Revisited

1.2) The Riders of the Purple Sage and the End of History

1.3) A free state for the final things: Californian Apocalypses (Jack London – The Scarlet Plague/Nathanael West – Day of the Locust/George R. Stewart – Earth Abides)

1.4) Black Hole Sun, anyone? Southern heat, apocalypse, and race in Erskine Caldwell’s Tobacco Road.

1.5) Witchhunts in the final days: Puritan Apocalypses

1.6) Apocalyptic Borderlines: Apocalypse as Frontier experience

2) Gothic Frontier/Frontier Gothic

3) “Those accursed tomb- legions...”: WWI, Race, and the End of History

4) Lost Cities, Puritan Pastiches: Lovecraft’s rebuilt Frontiers

5) Terror from the Stars: New and old Frontiers in Lovecraft’s Fiction

6) Hybridity as the final frontier

__________________

That’s still a little botched and unbalance. I need to re-balance these points a little, I guess. So I might as well add another one –

0. Musings in Preparation of the End

– and with this point I’ll wrestle some more, also to avoid redundancies with my previous blogging on the complex. In any case, the above outline will give me months of blogging material, all the more because there are subchapters hiding under each point.

April is the cruellest month? No, June is!

Browsing through the pages of Amazon to find ISBN numbers for the reading materials I’ll use in my winter class, what do I see if not that little preciousness here, titled Imaginäres Museum [Imaginary Museum, that is]? – an anthology on artworks and their representation. Unfortunately it doesn’t say just what Lovecraft story is included, and given the number of times he discusses not only the presentation of art, but also the decay of the art experience, I can think of several candidates – and would risk the grandest bet on The Horror in the Museum.

As part of that ominous second chapter of my dissertation, I’ve reflected quite a lot in recent months on art experiences in Lovecraft. That ominous chapter has turned out to be a rather…valid? durable? endurable?…general paraphrase of Lovecraft’s apocalypse, and the role of the artist and of art is of special interest here. By now, I’m pretty short from finishing it, a 20.000 word birth-of-pain, all it takes will be some of Spengler’s and Adams’ thoughts to get a little more precise hold on Lovecraft’s model of history. Of course, Spengler wrote The Decline of the West, and I’ll go lightly on that…for one thing, because Nietzsche, Spengler’s overwhelming philosophical role model, is already invited into my work on an honor’s seat…and anyway: compared to Nietzsche, Spengler is a boring pain-in-the-neck. Borrowing Spengler’s name, Joshi published, in more recent years, his personal Decline of the West, where the reference to Spengler is more namecalling: Joshi doesn’t really investigate Lovecraft’s model of history, and certainly not sub specie revelationis. On a sidenote, the Joshi book is a folio-sized, tenuous something that looks like a schoolproject, not one of Wildside Press’ finest.

Ménage à trois, deuxieme fois

Both protagonists envision the(ir) end, both enroll the audience in their telling of it and take them all the way through it: the end, not necessarily in an apocalyptic sense (though in Moby Dick it is as much as that), is a shared experience.

This is radically different in Lovecraft. The phrase borders on the pleonastic.

One of the ongoing concerns of my dissertation, complementary in the realm of concerns to my interest in the apocalyptic, is the representation of what I would call his cultured anti-sociality: he places his stories in unmistakably our world, and needs to do so, for better or worse – in order to find words to his narrative voice. As k-punk puts it in a two-part summary of the, rather: THE London event on the man’s weird realism

Thinking of the Weird as the ‘out of place’ or the ‘out of time’ will take us some way to distinguishing the Weird from both the Fantastic and the Uncanny. Lovecraft’s texts are not Fantastic in Todorov’s sense because in his ‘localised realism’ there is no sense of being suspended between naturalism and supernaturalism. In Lovecraft’s ‘non-supernatural cosmic art’, naturalism has been rejected, but not in favour of a ‘marvellous’ supernaturalism. As we have already seen, Lovecraft’s emergence as a writer in his own right is only secured once he has left behind the Fantasy worlds of Dunsany. Worlds may be entirely foreign to ours, both in terms of location and even in terms of the physical laws which govern them, without being Weird. It is the irruption into this world of something from Outside which is the marker of the Weird. (my emphasis)

The world is ours, the words are not: Lovecraft, I argue, killed the notion of communality and replaced it with a weird aesthetic depending largely for its effects on the mediation of strong narrator figures – operating as prophets of doom reminiscent in their rhetoric, though not in their scope, of more traditionally apocalyptic models of history. His narrator- prophets are reliant on their audience, but their narratives are riddled by the certainty that social and historical institutions have already been rendered defunct. They therefore try to re-establish the sense of historicality, foundational to their apocalypses as it is to all apocalypses, by continously reverting to historical markers, posts, and symbols that are remarkably inefficient at creating either historicality or, following from it, communality.

Memories of the past are, by default, always fractured and fragmented in Lovecraft’s prose, incoherent in dangerous ways that slide easily into events of local or global threats to, well, the world as we know it.

An example: mutant miracle boy Wilbur Whateley, unshapely protagonist of The Dunwich Horror – what advice would YOU give a near-7-foot tall 15 year old who tries his best to manage his barn-sized monster twin? Right, send him to the library.

‘More space, Willy, more space soon. Yew grows – an’ that grows faster. It’ll be ready to serve ye soon, boy. Open up the gates to Yog-Sothoth with the long chant that ye’ll find on page 751 of the complete edition, an’ then put a match to the prison. Fire from airth can’t burn it nohaow.’

The reference is to the non-book Necronomicon, quite a tome in the “original” edition, it seems. The edition I have stacked here runs only to a page-count of slightly more than 170 – the remaining pages must have gone amiss in the transference from textual non-entity to actual cult object. Wilbur’s attempts to procure the manuscript in its entirety are frantic: he breaks into the university library of (fictional/mythical) Miskatonic university one night – his only means of securing his and his brother’s identity by opening the gates to their dad Yog-Sothoth’s abode are failing, and the effects of that disintegrate him into a humungous swivel on the floor. More precisely, in the process his non-human, non-earthly identity is being revealed in the wrong context, our world, and that rift in contextuality spells out his death.

It was partly human, beyond a doubt, with very manlike hands and head, and the goatish, chinless face had the stamp of the Whateley’s upon it. But the torso and lower parts of the body were teratologically fabulous, so that only generous clothing could ever have enabled it to walk on earth unchallenged or uneradicated. Above the waist it was semi-anthropomorphic; though its chest, where the dog’s rending paws still rested watchfully, had the leathery, reticulated hide of a crocodile or alligator. The back was piebald with yellow and black, and dimly suggested the squamous covering of certain snakes. Below the waist, though, it was the worst; for here all human resemblance left off and sheer phantasy began. The skin was thickly covered with coarse black fur, and from the abdomen a score of long greenish-grey tentacles with red sucking mouths protruded limply.

Their arrangement was odd, and seemed to follow the symmetries of some cosmic geometry unknown to earth or the solar system. On each of the hips, deep set in a kind of pinkish, ciliated orbit, was what seemed to be a rudimentary eye; whilst in lieu of a tail there depended a kind of trunk or feeler with purple annular markings, and with many evidences of being an undeveloped mouth or throat. The limbs, save for their black fur, roughly resembled the hind legs of prehistoric earth’s giant saurians, and terminated in ridgy-veined pads that were neither hooves nor claws. When the thing breathed, its tail and tentacles rhythmically changed colour, as if from some circulatory cause normal to the non-human greenish tinge, whilst in the tail it was manifest as a yellowish appearance which alternated with a sickly grayish-white in the spaces between the purple rings. Of genuine blood there was none; only the foetid greenish-yellow ichor which trickled along the painted floor beyond the radius of the stickiness, and left a curious discoloration behind it.

As they erupt into our world, Lovecraft’s monsters are already in the process of disassembling, as Gothic monsters are habitually wont to: I remember making that point somewhere here on these pages before. Still, their function to the reader is different from that of Dracula or Frankenstein’s monster – their humanity and humaneness are, at best, a complimentary addition to grant them freedom of movement without being “uneradicated” (which would inevitably happen at the hands of state authorities: police and military are quick to move when the status quo is endangered and when decay is about to spread from the biotopes it is ocassionally locked into – Dunwich, Innsmouth, Red Hook, you name them). As members of Lovecraft’s narrative worlds, they are objects of study, not points of identification. While Wilbur Whateley dies in an academic environment, the academic environment is shoved out into the waste in At the Mountains of Madness. Here, an academically sponsored polar expedition (under the auspices of Miskatonic U, of course) bores and drills into the Antarctic ice and stumbles upon a dormant group of elder things, which are then examined with all scientific rigor and scalpellic sharpness. Their physiognomy is unsayable, which in Lovecraft’s stories notoriously translates into lengthy alien teratology treatises, and I won’t quote this one. Their scene on the dissecting table is of more interest than their outward forms –

This dissection seemed to be a greater task than had been expected, for, despite the heat of a gasoline stove in the newly raised laboratory tent, the deceptively flexible tissues of the chosen specimen – a powerful and intact one – lost nothing of their more than leathery toughness. Lake was puzzled as to how he might make the requisite incisions without violence destructive enough to upset all the structural niceties he was looking for. He had, it is true, seven more perfect specimens; but these were too few to use up recklessly unless the cave might later yield an unlimited supply. Accordingly he removed the specimen and dragged in one which, though having remnants of the starfish arrangements at both ends, was badly crushed and partly disrupted along one of the great torso furrows.

The dissection being a vivisection really, a reaction comes shortly afterward – the now awakened group of elder things goes rampaging through the expedition. Their stage on earth is exactly not the public pillory or the pulpit (think Puritan), nor the whaling vessel (think Moby Dick), nor any vessel at all (think Frankenstein) – but the academic floor, aka library, aka dissecting table. Sympathy or pity are neither required, nor indeed possible: for all its sticky fascination, Lovecraft’s ultra-detailed alien teratologies effectively stifle any compassion.

Ménage à trois, premiere fois

It is possible to read these passages I quoted in my last post, from Moby Dick and Steppenwolf, as social critiques: in fact, how not so? They are positing their speakers in an unmitigated opposition to society, squarely, and for very similar motives: to escape the drudgeries of modern life, Ishmael and Haller take off into their own violent escape routes. Both are ineffective, of course, in pursuing these, so the critique is rather a commentary, and Haller’s is more deeply politically and historically charged. It adds mechanized routine to the worldweariness so strong in Ishmael. To revived Melville and Hesse – add Lovecraft, child of no age: add Lovecraft and see how he stirs the ensemble out of its agreed-on hang to self-irony and destruction, and the combination of the two. Both passages, quoted in the previous post, share in that self-ironic narrative voice that is probing for the audience, almost desperately, at the same time that it tries to repel it, & and all humanity at all.

that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people’s hats off –

Just moments later, Melville’s Ishmael re-invites the reading audience that he had implicitly included in his general regimen of hat-knocking –

There now is your insular city of the Manhattoes, belted round by wharves as Indian isles by coral reefs – commerce surrounds it with her surf. Right and left, the streets take you waterward. Its extreme down-town is the battery, where that noble mole is washed by waves, and cooled by breezes, which a few hours previous were out of sight of land. Look at the crowds of water-gazers there. (my emphasis)

And so on. Out goes the romantic violence-fantasy, in comes the (disciplined) narrative and with it the readers. From the second paragraph onward, they are re-admitted, re-addressed in an immediate way. The steppenwolf’s ennui du monde seems a little more self-centered, in contrast, presumably because his narration is processed within a personal log-record of some kind, “For Madmen only”: nevertheless he is far from unraveling a monologue, but instead includes narrative gimmicks as, for example, sustained dialog sequences in exposition of himself and his partners in dialog.

Both protagonists envision the(ir) end, both enroll the audience in their telling of it and take them all the way through it: the end, not necessarily in an apocalyptic sense (though in Moby Dick it is as much as that), is a shared experience.

Participation Mystique, some

When I thought about and out of my last post, it came to me that both Melville and Lovecraft were somewhat thwarted in their attempts to reach out the invitation into the (participation) mystique – quite obviously thwarted. Both are posthumous authors,  accepted for the full span of their authorial creativity only in posthumous existence. Melville’s success story is breathing on a grander scale here, maybe – after Typee and Omoo his reception into the literary scene was basically stopped short for another 70 years or so, and that despite perennials like Moby Dick and Pierre dropping out at a fairly regular rate. Lovecraft, at least, had the Weird Tales-ghetto of literature as a forum and a sound, if small, readership by the time of his death.

The date of the Melville revival, the 1920s, keeps stomping me over with some gentle nodges, to that other grand novel of that decade that I find myself citing, in an ongoing soliloquy that set on a few days ago, as a background noise to my reflections on Melville. The novelist-turned-custom-officer is joined in that scene by Hermann Hesse, who brings in his 1927 Steppenwolf

and the two square scenes from their most renowned novels that I find strikingly similar in tone, vocabulary, voice.

First, the opening scene of Moby Dick:

Call me Ishmael. Some years ago – never mind how long precisely – having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world. It is a way I have of driving off the spleen, and regulating the circulation. Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people’s hats off – then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can. This is my substitute for pistol and ball. With a philosophical flourish Cato throws himself upon his sword; I quietly take to the ship. There is nothing surprising in this. If they but knew it, almost all men in their degree, some time or other, cherish very nearly the same feelings towards the ocean with me.

Then, from the opening scene of the steppenwolf’s narration –

There is much to be said for contentment and painlessness, for these bearable and submissive days, on which neither pain nor pleasure cry out, on which everything only whispers and tiptoes around. But the worst of it is that it is just this contentment that I cannot endure. After a short time it fills me with irrepressible loathing and nausea. Them, in desperation, I have to escape into other regions, if possible on the road to pleasure, or, if that cannot be, on the road to pain. When I have neither pleasure nor pain and have been breathing for a while the lukewarm insipid of these so-called good and tolerable days, I feel so bad in my childish soul that I smash my rusty lyre of thanksgiving in the face of the slumbering god of contentment and would rather feel the most devilish pain burn in me than this warmth of a well-heated room. A wild longing for strong emotions and sensations seethes in me, a rage against this toneless, flat, normal and sterile life. I have a mad impulse to smash something, a warehouse perhaps, or a cathedral, or myself, to commit outrages, to pull off the wigs of a few revered idols, to provide a few rebellious schoolboys with the longed-for ticket to Hamburg, to seduce a little girl, or stand one or two representatives of the established order on the heads. For what I always hated and detested and cursed above all things was this contentment, this healthiness and comfort, this carefully preserved optimism of the middle classes, this fat and prosperous brood of mediocrity.

(I use the translation done by Basil Creighton, in a tacky Penguin paperback I’ve had lying around for more than 10 years – strange how these great “first” milestone-reading experiences keep popping up when you don’t even see them around the corner)

The steppenwolf, Harry Haller, is ahead of Ishmael by one world war, one revolution, one genocide. There is – more feel? more momentum? more depth? to his implicit threat against the symbols of church and commerce, more historical gravitas than is lined out in Ishmael’s egocentric, romantic self-reflectory morbidity, or rather – Haller takes that morbid hang to the anarchic and adds a more explicitly social and commercial dimension. Still, both rants are railed against behated mediocrity, and from both rise these salvatory expeditions for the chauvinist ego of the great while male who makes a menace of his hatred of society and then settles for a way to find back into it. Ishmael goes a-whaling and is, for the time being, glad to sink back into the collective of the whaling vessel, Haller goes through drugs, sex, and meditative sessions at the neighbor’s araucaria and finally sees his bold, cathedral-smashing agenda reduced into a game of illusions: “One day I would be a better hand at the game. One day I would learn how to laugh. Pablo was waiting for me, and Mozart too.” – as the final sentence of the novel has it.

Shall we trade monsters?

Upon the heel of the last scene, Melville and Lovecraft enter the blog, mutual benedictions on their lips.

I’ll add a few more words on Melville’s Moby Dick, will then segue the discussion into more theoretical waters, until it finally arrives at Lovecraft – Melville, of all people, as he is closer to Lovecraft in pace, tone, and scale of his narratives as most other writers, the Puritan poets and preachers excluded here, but that is another, far-outreaching issue: Lovecraft’s Puritan heritage – an issue I’ll postpone to some definite future.

I stopped, in my second-to-last-post, when Melville’s Ishmael just had his hands up to the elbow in whale grease. His sensuous experience is, as was seen, not shared by the shipmates whose hands he is reaching out for. In fact, he seems to be the only person investing into an image of the whale per se that transcends the commercial into the spiritual –

As I sat there at my ease, cross-legged on the deck; after the bitter exertion at the windlass; under a blue tranquil sky; the ship under indolent sail, and gliding so serenely along; as I bathed my hands among those soft, gentle globules of infiltrated tissues, woven almost within the hour; as they richly broke to my fingers, and discharged all their opulence, like fully ripe grapes their wine; as I snuffed up that uncontaminated aroma, — literally and truly, like the smell of spring violets; I declare to you, that for the time I lived as in a musky meadow; I forgot all about our horrible oath; in that inexpressible sperm, I washed my hands and my heart of it; I almost began to credit the old Paracelsan superstition that sperm is of rare virtue in allaying the heat of anger: while bathing in that bath, I felt divinely free from all ill-will, or petulence, or malice, of any sort whatsoever.

The sperm-bath turns into a sacrament that absolves him from sin – a hostie, if you will, that the other sailors refuse to ingest: the apocalyptic community spirit falters in their refusal to experience the sperm bath as Ishmael does, and consequently salvation is imbued only to the faithful narrator. His narration, I would propose, will also be an attempt to re-validate the participation mystique, à la C.G. Jung, for himself, and for that to be a possibility he needs to recruit the audience into complicity with his reading of the whale, that particular reading with the hands in the fat.

Participation mystique, in Jung’s definition(s) of the term that he borrowed originally from French anthropologist Lucien Lévy-Bruhl, is a term descriptive of the identification a subject builds with a totem-object, thereby projecting unconscious content onto the object. Hence, Moby Dick is not just a repository for barrel loads of lamp oil (and oh, is Ishmael ever prone to slip into cynicism when he had to touch on that most prosaic and pragmatic area of the whaling business: the Leviathan processed into lamp oil! –

But, though the world scouts at us whale hunters, yet does it unwittingly pay us the profoundest homage; yea, an all-abounding adoration! for almost all the tapers, lamps, and candles that burn round the globe, burn, as before so many shrines, to our glory! (chapter 24)

!)

– not just a repository for lamp oil but also for the sailors’ projections, and in sending out these, the crew enter the participation mystique proper: they assume Ahab’s anger and hatred for themselves and are thereby not only obliged, but elect to do battle against the whale.

Save Ishmael, of course: the boat’s leading intellectual & story teller cannot quite bring himself to digest anger and hatred, is therefore excluded from the experience of the crew’s primitive and fatal participation mystique – and has that fact save his life.

Jung went on to refine his notion of participation mystique, when he applied it, in The Archetypes of the Collective Unconscious, to theater audiences –

The mass is swayed by a participation mystique, which is nothing other than an unconscious identity. Supposing, for example, you go to the theatre: glance meets glance, everybody observes everybody else, so that those who are present are caught up in an invisible web of a mutual unconscious relationship.

The “mass” is united in a focus on a non-human entity, on the Pequod: the whale, in the theater: the play, for and with the audience, which is engaging a dialog in aesthetic terms that it adresses to the audience, and rather than responding to the entity of the play, as represented by its actors, the audience enter a mutual participation mystique to play out the play’s effects on themselves.

Ishmael’s role in the Moby Dick play is not all that ambiguous: he is not actor (on the whaling-stage) and narrator (on the book-narrative-stage) rolled into one, incoherently, but quite definitely and exclusively – narrator, who lives by and through and for his narration. As he puts it in the Epilogue

The drama’s done. Why then here does any one step forth?- Because one did survive the wreck. (not my cursives, but Melville’s)

and, half an inch above that, attached as a header, the biblical reference –

“And I only am escaped alone to tell thee.” (Job)

______________________________________________________________

I feel slighted, by myself, for upping these botched, half-finished arguments all the time that drool on into subsequent posts – like this one inevitably will – quite directly correspondent to my sleep circle: I figure it will kick in, for my eyes keep dropping on me. Had I but caffeine enough! And time!