October 17-19, 2019 (Université de Lille, Université Paris Diderot)
"The measure! the measure!" cried Ahab.
Ahab’s exclamation notwithstanding, Moby-Dick more readily calls to mind the longing for the “unshored, haborless immensities” (ch. 32), “indefinite as God” (ch. 23), than down-to-earth measures taken to apprehend or comprehend “the ungraspable phantom of life” (ch. 1). Significantly enough, “if money’s to be the measurer,” Ahab’s doubloon is an ambivalent gold standard, at once the symbol of rampant capitalism that has transformed the world into a “great counting-house,” the effigy of Ahab’s sovereign self and a figure for Ishmael’s continual forging of symbols of his own coinage. Even as it bears the stamp of Ahab’s empire, the gold coin remains a source of numberless speculations for Ishmael. “The measure” is rife with ambiguities.
The aim of this conference to take measure of Melville’s grappling with the measureless by surveying the various sets of gauging, computing, measuring instruments designed to circumscribe and contain it. In the end, we may wonder whether Melville’s works amount to an irregular system of sorts or whether measures are bound to anagrammatically “erase sums.” In what sense do they unsettle and even subvert “the art of measuring” advocated by Newton in his Preface to Principia Mathematica? To what extent are they doomed to be appropriated as canonical criteria by academe? If measures re-assume (yet another anagram) the part once played by a unique lost paradigm, what will result from their multiplication? Or, in Melville’s own words, “If Luther’s day expand to Darwin’s year / Shall that exclude the hope—foreclose the fear?” (Clarel)
Keynote speakers (confirmed): Branka Arsić (Columbia University); Cody Marrs (University of Georgia)
Deadline for submissions : February, 1st, 2019
Contact : email@example.com
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