The Encyclopedic Genius of Melville’s Masterpiece

"Time is a way of keeping track of things, of making order. You can be on time; you can allot the right amount of time; you can time events to be synchronous, or to avoid overlap. This kind of time does not appear in Moby Dick. Time expands and contracts, so that long periods go by in the novel where nothing happens—we wait, and look at the horizon, and look down, and daydream—and then suddenly we lurch into action. Time is not the principle of order in this book; it is a manifestation of chaos. Instead, the principle of order in Moby Dick is that of the encyclopedia, foreshadowed in the book’s first pages and then bursting forth exuberantly in the classification and the anatomy of the whale."

On the 200th anniversary of Herman Melville's birth, Suzanne Conklin Akbari, Professor in the School of Historical Studies, celebrates Melville's classic as a way of seeing the world.

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