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By David Marr

Strains the enormous effect of Emerson on American literary and political concept

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Melville's condemnation of Christian capitalist civilization, while dramatizing a few moments of happiness and brotherhood, is mainly a story of terror, exploitation, mystification, failure, and loss. Ruling this life are the two laws of the whale fishery, "Fast-Fish and Loose-Fish," synopsized in Chapter 89. I. A Fast-Fish belongs to the party fast to it. II. A Loose-Fish is fair game for anybody who can soonest catch it. (Melville 1964, 507) The first law in effect says that (1) a thing belongs to you if in some way you control it or are attached to it and that (2) the "party fast to it" is the party fastest in getting to it.

Among them, I suggest, are projects that trace the inner history of America, the history not only of the forgotten lower orders but of forgotten or unacknowledged patterns of thought and feeling. Page 7 The philosophical history of American literature is one such history. American literature does have a philosophical history, just as American philosophy, we are now learning, has a literary history. These transformations in historical perspective encourage new interpretations of old thinkers and artists and interpretations of the dominant interpretive criteria themselves.

For now, I want to stress the sense in which the second passage finds Thoreau in effect admitting defeat, for this passage says that "the infirmity of our natures" is such that there simply is no curtailing the proliferation of meanings. They tumble out of the human imagination continually and always in the guises of new names. " At the same timeand this is the specific function of one such squadron of meaningsthey conceal the very distinction between meaning and naming. ). " It does nothing of the sort.

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