Wednesday, February 15, 2006

An incorporative imagination

Melville's Marginalia Online went live last month.

To understand why Melville's marginal scribbles matter so deeply to a scholar that he would spend years of his life squinting at them, one has to understand the kind of relationship the writer enjoyed with his library. "Melville was extraordinarily dependent on the writings of other men," says Mr. Otter. "He has an incorporative imagination."

So, when writing, he might evoke another writer's image or argument or incorporate passages from another's work, responding to it "in detail and intimately," Mr. Otter says. "That's a significant part of the way his mind worked. ... Melville responds on the level of diction, syntax, image. That's why source study is so important in Melville studies."

--Jennifer Howard, "Call Me Digital" in The Chronicle of Higher Education

Also, the transcript of a live discussion with Margaret Atwood and Atwood's article on "The Writing Life."

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