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33. The Melville Revival

Sanford E. Marovitz

Subject Literature

People Melville, Herman

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405122313.2006.00037.x


Melville studies remain confused and misinformed as to the basic facts of the Melville Revival. (Clare Spark, Hunting Captain Ahab .) The “Melville Revival,” widely said to have commenced early in the past century, has become a critical commonplace, but its exact meaning remains unclear. Indeed, most general readers simply assume that Melville's writing has remained alive in the public eye since first published. When and where did this revival begin, who or what initiated it, and how long did it last? How might contemporary social issues have affected the revival's evolution? And what might be said about its long-term effects? Throughout a history that spans seven decades, from the first hint of its advent in 1883 through the publication of the Moby-Dick Centennial Essays in 1953, Melville became one of America's most highly esteemed authors. In 1963 Michael P. Zimmerman maintained that two limited Melville revivals preceded the primary one that began with his centennial in 1919. The first started in 1891, he said, the year of Melville's death, and lasted into the early 1900s, when the second commenced and continued until the major one began. Although Melville's re-emergence as a leading American author did gather force around 1919, the revival actually began at least thirty-six years earlier, when W[illiam] Clark Russell praised Redburn in 1883 as “one of Herman Merivale's ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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