Melville's Short Fiction, 1853–1856

Title Details

Pages: 400

Trim size: 5.500in x 8.500in



Pub Date: 09/01/2008

ISBN: 9-780-8203-3271-0

List Price: $32.95

Melville's Short Fiction, 1853–1856

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  • Description
  • Reviews

This study treats comprehensively the sixteen short works of fiction that Herman Melville wrote between 1853 and 1856, most of which were published in Harper's and Putnam's magazines. Concentrating on the writer's two basic motivations for writing as he did in these stories, Dillingham argues that Melville created a surface of almost inane congeniality in many of the works, an illusion of vapidity that camouflages a profundity often missed by his readers. He sought to to hide disturbing themes because the magazines for which he was writing would almost certainly have rejected his attempts to be more direct.

Dillingham's method is not, however, confined to a reading of the texts. Melville's stories contain so many allusions to the contemporary scene that they constitute in themselves a cultural study. An important contribution of Melville's Short Fiction is its discussion of these allusions. Finally, Dillingham examines the relationship between the short fiction and Melville's own life. Much of the writer's frustration and struggle is concealed in these early works. Melville's friendship with Hawthorne, for example, an intense and yet in some ways disappointing relationship for both men, is explored as an important influence on several of the stories.

Dillingham has written a thoughtful and provocative analysis . . . because his study is so well done, he may have succeeded in raising our appreciation for [Melville's lesser known short fiction] and in raising the stories to a higher place in the Melville canon.

Studies in Short Fiction

About the Author/Editor

WILLIAM B. DILLINGHAM is Charles Howard Candler Professor of American Literature at Emory University. His books include An Artist in the Rigging: The Early Work of Herman Melville and Melville's Short Fiction, 1853–1856 (both Georgia).