The Value of Herman Melville
By Geoffrey Sanborn
Henry S. Poler '59 Presidential Teaching Professor of English
In The Value of Herman Melville, Geoffrey Sanborn presents Melville to us neither as a somber purveyor of dark truths nor as an ironist who has outthought us in advance but as a quasi-maternal provider, a writer who wants more than anything else to supply us with the means of enriching our experiences.
In twelve brief chapters, Sanborn examines the distinctive qualities of Melville's style—its dynamism, its improvisatoriness, its intimacy with remembered or imagined events—and shows how those qualities, once they have become a part of our equipment for living, enable us to sink deeper roots into the world. Ranging across his career, but focusing in particular on Moby-Dick, "Bartleby, the Scrivener," "Benito Cereno," and Billy Budd, Sanborn shows us a Melville who is animating rather than overawing, who encourages us to bring more of ourselves to the present and to care more about the life that we share with others.