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赫尔曼麦尔维尔战事集中的视觉意象分析[范文]

时间:2018-02-10 09:14:17 编辑:知网查重入口 阅读:

Ⅰ. Introduction

Herman Melville is considered as one peak in the history of American literature. Kevin J. Hayes indicates that “Herman Melville created a rich and diverse body of work unparalleled in American literature” (25). InThe Cambridge Companion to Herman Melville, Robert S. Levine stated that “Melville is justly said to be nineteenth-century America’s leading poet after Whitman and Dickinson, yet his poetry remains largely unread, even by many Melvillians” (135). Herman Melville’sBattle-Pieces and Aspects of the War first published by the Harpers & Brothers in 1866, since the 1920s, there appeared a trend to study Herman Melville’s poems.

There was a boom in the study of Melville’s poetry at the beginning of the 21st century. In 2001, Robert A. Lee published four-volumeHerman Melville: Critical Assessments, which studies on Melville’s poetry. In 2002, a two-volume biography of Melville, made by Hershel Parker, was published. All the second volume of this biography was to research Melville’s poet’s life, took a record of his activities during the Civil War and analyzed his war poems from the perspectives of theme, subject matter and style. In 2008, Cheng Wen, in “Conflict, Coherence and completeness in Herman Melville’sBattle-pieces and Aspects of the War”, analyzed the relationship between the poet’s thought and the production of the war poems, the way that Melville’s aesthetic credos shape the style of theBattle-Pieces and his techniques of the formal aspects of the poetry. In 2009, Zhou Xin, in “The Forgotten Corner: Melville’s poetic Creation”, explored Melville’s career as a poet and commented on this master’s literature achievements. Zhou Xin stated that inBattle-Pieces, Melville not only feel comfort from the victory of the North, but also notice the misery that the war brought to people of the south (8). This statement indicates that the emotions in theBattle-Piecesare intricate.

However, specific researches on the images in Melville’s poems are comparatively rare. As one of the most important elements in poetry, image is considered as bearing the intermediary between poets and readers, through which a poet expresses his feelings and interests. Images can be generally divided into visual images, auditory images, tactile images, olfactory images, gustatory images, kinesthetic images and abstract images. The present paper focuses on the visual images.

In order to generate a good poem with high visual value, a poet juxtaposes various images organically according to his personal aesthetic credos and emotions. Actually, good poems, on the whole, are woven by a set of images. By rendering images as accurately and properly as he could manage, poets present a world which consists of some natural scenes or natural objects and appeals to readers’ senses. Correspondingly, with the wing of imagination, readers literally approach the poet and sense what the poet senses. As mentioned above, images, as the intermediary, are endowed with emotions or implications by the poet. Readers organize the juxtaposed images based on the modification of the images, construct scenery and perceive the esoteric meaning of the poems.

Arising from the past studies on Melville’s war poems, the paper is to do researches on the visual images in theBattle-Pieces and explore the features of the war poems by close reading and comparative analysis. The first part of this paper is introduction. In this part, a literature review and the meaning of this paper are illustrated. Then, the body of this paper mainly includes two parts. The first part is about the visual image, analyzing the visual images which have deep meaning. The images and symbols serve to realize the poet’s ideal of poetry. The images of stone, wilderness and shark are specifically discussed. Besides, the functions of those images are analyzed and illustrated through the ways of textual analysis and comparative analysis. The second part is the analysis about Melville’s poems in theBattle-Pieces. In this part, the paper is to focus on the features of the poems. Through the analysis of his poem, the feature is generalized as unity.

 

II. Visual Images in theBattle-Pieces and Aspects       of the War

Melville is an adept at playing with images. His skills on the visual arts have long been noticed by critics. According to Elizabeth Renker, Melville strongly considered battle pieces, the title of his collection, as a genre of painting (101). Melville formed various scenes or paintings to take record of his experience during the Civil War via kinds of images.

2.1 The Visual Image of Stone

Architecture is one kind of art forms that Melville is interested in and stone can be considered as an important visual image in theBattle-Pieces. Throughout the whole works, it can be found that there are more than 10 poems related to stone images indirectly or directly. Besides, Melville used the image of marble in “Stonewall Jackson”, “Chattanooga” and “Lee in the Capitol”. In those poems, the stone images play an important role in presenting Melville’s literary craftsmanship. In his many poems, the image of stone is used as the central image, with which the poems would present different emotions and even the standpoint of Melville.

The stones in Melville’s poems are humble and solid. In theBattle-Pieces, some of “stones” are simply as ordinary as other images which indicate common things on the battlefield or graveyard, while some of them serve to deepen or even twist the meaning. Stones, or its alternative forms “monuments” and “headstone” play an important role in the paintings that are concerned with the image of stone and that Melville forms in some poems through many images. In some poems, they are the main subject which connects the whole poem and is a carrier of Melville’s emotion.

 

2.1.1 A Statue of Stone

One form of the visual images of stone is a statue of stone. In a poem entitled “The Conflict of the Convictions” which is collected in theBattle-Pieces, Melville wrote down that:

Though comets, gone a thousand years,

Return again,

Patient she stands- she can no more—

And waits, nor heeds she waxes hoar.

(At a stony gate,  

A statue of stone,

Weed overgrown—

Long ‘twill wait!)

But God his former mind retains,

Confirms his old decree;” (14).

In this poem, “she” has waited for a long time and cannot wait any longer. “God” retains his former mind. In other words, “God” does nothing for human beings who are suffering from this war. As a result, the generation is injured to pains. The statue of stone witnesses what “she” does, the war and the changes of time. In other words, through the description of the scene around the “she”, Melville succeeded in building the image of a statue of stone which is an ironic symbol of the people who stands upright and waits for the end of the war.

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