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The archetypal quest and Moby-Dick : Melville's "ecological, cosmic democracy"


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Jenkins, M 1993 , 'The archetypal quest and Moby-Dick : Melville's "ecological, cosmic democracy"', Coursework Master thesis, University of Tasmania.

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The quest is an archetypal theme of myth and literature, one which indicates the dreams, ideas and beliefs of a society. Our myths, and our literature, contribute to the way we are today, how we are shaped, how we think, and how we act. "Intentionally, or accidentally, [they have] been a major source of the models used to perpetuate our past".
Much can be learnt from the wisdoms of these stories. However, we need to be aware of the fact that the dominant
recorders of society's myths, literature, and history, including the Bible, have been men who, in many instances, have been able to achieve political and social ends by the manipulation of these recordings.
Today we have the patriarchal, technocratic, inverted quest for domination and 'progress' at the cost of nature; and opposed to this, the ecosophic quest: that of "ecologically wise action and ecological wisdom" which seeks to regain harmony and egalitarian relationships between man and man, man and woman, and humankind and nature. The questers of Herman Melville's Moby-Dick, Captain Ahab and Ishmael, in their opposite roles (one heading towards disaster and the other towards survival) can be seen to represent the two kinds of quests described.
Ahab is the tragic hero-quester. He is capable of greatness but is flawed by hubris and his dark desire for vengeance against the whale which has dismembered him, Moby Dick. Ishmael, the narrator of the novel, turns away from Ahab's mad, inverted quest. His progressive insights, his bonding with his dark partner, and his acknowledgement of the whale as a fellow being, contribute to his 'democratic' attitude and to his survival. It is through Ishmael's eyes that we see Melville's "ecological, cosmic democracy".
If we are to change our direction from its present course, which seems to be one directed towards disaster, we need to learn from the past, but with a reminder of how the past has been transmitted to us. We need to actively strive towards reshaping our future, so that we perpetuate archetypes that are nature oriented. We need to consciously re-verse and re-quest a shaping of our present and our future, bearing in mind Melville's reminder of the "obstinate survival of old beliefs". Change will occur only with a change of our thinking patterns:
The borders of our minds are ever shifting
And many minds can flow into one another ...
And create or reveal a single mind, a single energy.

Item Type: Thesis - Coursework Master
Authors/Creators:Jenkins, M
Keywords: Melville, Herman, 1819-1891, Archetype (Psychology), Ecology
Copyright Information:

Copyright 1993 the author - The University is continuing to endeavour to trace the copyright owner(s) and in the meantime this item has been reproduced here in good faith. We would be pleased to hear from the copyright owner(s).

Additional Information:

Thesis (MEnvSt)--University of Tasmania, 1993. Includes bibliographical references (leaves 91-94)

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