Friday, January 05, 2024

The Alps as figure and as a real place in Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick” (1851)

The Alps first appear in Herman Melville's "Moby Dick" (1851) in a simile about "the Nantucker", who "climbs [the waves] as chamois hunters climb the Alps." Then they appear in a simile about keeping watch on the masthead, exposed "like an ignorant pilgrim crossing the snowy Alps in winter." But later, the actual mountains are referred to in a list of places where whale fossils had recently been found: "[...] at the base of the Alps, in Lombardy, in France, in England, in Scotland, and in the States of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama." First a figure of a landscape to be crossed, the Alps finally become an geographical and paleontological site. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 5 January 2024)

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