Document Type

Student Presentation

Presentation Date



College of Arts and Sciences



Faculty Sponsor

Steven Olsen-Smith


Herman Melville acquired Owen Chase's Narrative of the Shipwreck of the Whaleship Essex and Thomas Beale's Natural History of the Sperm Whale in the early 1850s, and he acquired Ralph Waldo Emerson's Essays in the early 1860s. His markings and annotations in the nautical books reveal his interest in raw material for poetic expression in Moby-Dick, as well as how he symbolized the conflict between good and evil in the catastrophic conclusion of his masterwork. That preoccupation with cosmic and metaphysical subjects resurfaces in his reading of Emerson's essays ten years later. In examining Melville's agreements and disagreements with Emerson's ideas, we focus on frequencies of words such as “good,” “evil.” While we examine the significance of these terms as frequencies, we also explore how they function as pairings, or "collocates," in passages Melville marked and annotated. With three separate but inter-related posters, we analyze such points of disagreement, as well as Melville's obvious appreciation for some of Emerson's ideas, and we explore Melville's continuing ideological development after his publication of Moby-Dick.