Cast by Means of Figures

Herman Melville's Rhetorical Development


The power of Herman Melville's fiction owes much to his literary voice--a protean speaking presence brought to life by innovative and masterful rhetoric. In this book Bryan C. Short explores the evolution of that voice through close analysis of Melville's works, the deft application of literary and rhetorical theory, and new biographical insights.

Described by the author as a "rhetorical biography," Cast by Means of Figures presents Melville as a self-consciously experimental writer whose literary development was shaped more by rhetorical concerns than by philosophical, psychological, or social influences. Short begins with an examination of Melville's early immersion in the theory of his day, especially that of the widely popular Scottish rhetorician Hugh Blair. He then analyzes each of Melville's major fictional writings from Typee to Billy Budd, tracing the structural force and interplay of Melville's key figurative devices. He shows how each work either builds on or departs dialectically from its predecessors in ways that explain the complex and shifting aesthetic of Melville's fiction. In the final chapter, a coda entitled "Tropics of Fiction," Short reviews theories of figurative language from classical times to the present and details his own theoretical synthesis.

Related Subjects: