Melville a Post Modern Author
by Angela Cockayne
Spider Crab Font copyright Angela Cockayne
Wood Cutters Font copyright Angela Cockayne
Non-verbal leakage is communication which contradicts the message being spoken -a gesture or body language that may imply the opposite to the spoken text which may also be unintentional.
Gertrude Stein’s ‘Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose forces us to consider the context of the repetition and reconsider the narrative, juxtaposition and purpose of text. Likewise Andy Warhol’s pictorial depictions of electric chairs or car crash images repeated over and over again desensitizes the horrific nature of these images.
The Raw Shark texts by Steven Hall- a metaphysical novel uses concrete poetry, linguistic references in the same way that George Sterne uses blank pages in Tristram Shandy inviting the reader to interact with the narrative.
The meaning resides with the reader and the author- the text is the conduit.
Tennyson’s text ‘Tho’ nature, red in tooth and claw’ is not intended as a description but a metaphor for the conflict between the ruthlessness of nature and religion, the noble savage and the innate goodness of humanity.
Therefore it would seem the potential of language beyond text is unfixed and negotiated, between author /reader, speaker/ listener – and by context, meaning, intention or function.
Herman Melville equally allows a space within his text for such interaction but when Moby-Dick was first published it was ridiculed. As a novel it exceeds all expectations of a literary work, wonderfully uniting both fiction and fact in a digressive metaphorical way. A work ahead of its time it took 70 years to be fully appreciated re appraised and celebrated by DH Lawrence, Auden and others before becoming one of the greatest novels ever written.
Now, in the 21st Century, a century and a half since it was first conceived and launched onto a misbelieving world, Moby-Dick retains its power – precisely because we are still coming to terms with it, and what it said. Incredibly prophetic, it foresaw so many of the aspects of the modern world with which we deal with. The abuse of power and belief; of nature and the environment; of the human spirit. It deals with art and artifice and stark reality – in an almost existential manner. It is truly a book before its time – almost ancient myth, as much as futuristic prophecy.
Meaning in Melville’s text is negotiated, the text is suggestive rather than literal evoking a visceral response to the themes within the book which embraces the potential for new narratives to emerge, exploring intuition, myth, fact and evidence.
Like footsteps in the snow suggest a narrative without words, its so sad this pioneering book which paved the way for other greats writers W G Sebald among many, sent him into literary exile.