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League of Inveterate Poets

The out-of-context contextuality of a foolish sage

Self-Referential Melville? (Or The Novelist’s Hallelujah)

By on February 24, 2009

From Moby Dick [in reference to the sperm whale’s supposed lack of a voice]: “

Seldom have I known any profound being that had anything to say to this world, unless forced to stammer out something by way of getting a living. Oh! happy that the world is such an excellent listener!”

What do you think of Melville’s observation? Are you ever profound to yourself, in your own mind (without immediately thinking with whom you need to share this profundity)? Melville seems to be making fun of his own profession: writing novels with the hope that someone will pay you for your profundity. But I think this idea could be extended beyond making a living as equal to making a buck. Don’t we profit in other ways by sharing our bits of wisdom (approval of the crowd, admiration of others)?

In fact, isn’t blogging as I’m doing at this moment a perfect illustration of that? (I certainly am not making “a living” at it!) “Oh! happy that the world is such an excellent listener!”



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