Although Herman Melville is best known for Moby-Dick, he also demonstrated mastery of the novella, and this Delve will explore Melville’s best-known shorter works: Bartleby the Scrivener, famous for the Wall Street denizen who “would prefer not to,” no matter what his employer might want; Benito Cereno, where a captain answering a ship’s call of distress ends up in a situation far more perplexing—and dangerous—than what he had bargained for; and the posthumously-published masterpiece, Billy Budd, a story of the “handsome sailor” whose beauty and simplicity result in tragedy and a crisis of conscience for his captain.
In each of the three weeks of this Delve, we will examine one of these shorter works and discuss their position in Melville’s unusual literary career and the issues these stories raise for 21st century readers.
We will use the Penguin Classics edition Billy Budd, Bartleby, and Other Stories. (ISBN 9780143107606). Readers bringing other editions should make sure that the text for Billy Budd is the one edited by Harrison Hayford and Merton Sealts Jr, copyright 1962 by the University of Chicago Press.
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