This rich volume of essays restores meaning itself as the focal point of one of our most thoughtful modern writers, Herman Melville. Melville and the Question of Meaning thinks about thinking in Melville. For if Melville’s concerns with interpretation (the contributors to one recent collection variously read the author for "the ‘meaning’ of the characters," the "meaning" of the "body," "recesses of meaning," "deepest levels of meaning," "double meaning," and the "meaning" of "being" and "everything else") overlap with our own concerns, at a cultural moment when meaning feels especially strained, we have lost sight of the central place of meaning making in Melville’s work. My own readings in Melville are a pedestrian’s guide through the self-conscious complications of meaning we meet with in Melville across a range of different disciplines and endeavors. Combining aesthetics and sociolinguistics, history and theory, rhetoric and politics, philosophy and film studies, Melville and the Question of Meaning demonstrates that the project of making meaning in Melville remains as vital as ever.
David Faflik is Associate Professor of English at the University of Rhode Island. He received his Ph.D. in English (major field: American Literature to 1900; minor field: American Studies) from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill in 2005. A specialist in nineteenth-century American literature and culture, he has placed his writing in a wide range of scholarly journals, including American Literature, J19: The Journal of Nineteenth-Century Americanists, South Atlantic Quarterly, and Arizona Quarterly, among others. The author of Boarding Out: Inhabiting the American Urban Literary Imagination, 1840-1860 (Northwestern UP, 2012), he is also the editor of Englishman Thomas Butler Gunn’s classic 1857 account of New York habitation, The Physiology of New York Boarding-Houses (Rutgers UP, 2009). Faflik is currently at work on two additional book projects: Missed Reading: Culture, Class, and the Work of Urban Form (manuscript complete), and Passing Transcendental: Harvard, Heresy, and the Modern American Origins of Unbelief (in progress)