Palmer, Heather; Guy, Matthew
College of Arts and Sciences
University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
Place of Publication
Much scholarship is dedicated to Melville’s religious themes, and other scholarship carefully analyzes the innovative formal techniques used by Melville, such as biblical allusion, digressive essays, and philosophical musings imbedded in fiction. However, religious analysis often turns to biographical interpretations of Melville’s own beliefs, and formal analysis tends to highlight Melville’s idiosyncrasies rather than determine their function. This thesis uses the Bakhtinian concepts of dialogism and polyphony to show that Melville’s poetic techniques create open texts, allowing readers to freely engage with multiple religious views that are equally valid, though not equally beneficial. Anticipating the methodologies of agnosticism and pragmatism, Moby-Dick exemplifies an attitude of cheerful agnosticism, whereas Melville’s final major work, Clarel, exemplifies the frustrations of uncertainty. A primarily formal analysis allows scholars to view Melville both conforming and breaking out of expected religious attitudes in the nineteenth-century, without considering Melville a prophet of twentieth-century literary attitudes.
Throughout this process I’ve learned that scholarship is always social and collaborative no matter how isolated it seems. Many members of the UTC English faculty throughout the past year and a half helped form this thesis. Special thanks to my advisor, Dr. Hannah Wakefield, whose continual dedication, excellent feedback, and encouragement, allowed this thesis to, hopefully, be worth reading. I’d also like to thank my other readers, Dr. Matthew Guy and Dr. Heather Palmer, whose unique perspectives on rhetoric, literature, and theory are greatly appreciated. Regarding practical matters, this thesis would not exist without the continual help and support of Dr. Rik Hunter. I’d also like to thank past teachers and friends who’ve cultivated my interest in both literature, critical theory, and religion. For encouraging me to pursue Melville, I’d like to thank Dr. Cliff Foreman. For their continual support in conversations about literature, theory, and Spinoza’s Ethics, I’d like to thank Dr. James Arnett.
M. A.; A thesis submitted to the faculty of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in partial fulfillment of the requirements of the degree of Master of Arts.
Counterpoint; Dialogism (Literary Analysis); Religion in literature
; Melville, Herman, 1819-1891. Clarel; Melville, Herman, 1819-1891. Moby Dick
vii, 74 leaves
Overos, Matthias, ""Neither Believer nor Infidel" Dialogic Portraits of Agnostic and Pragmatic Methodologies in Moby-Dick and Clarel" (2021). Masters Theses and Doctoral Dissertations.