Cover image for Melville's folk roots
Melville's folk roots
Hayes, Kevin J.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Kent, Ohio : Kent State University Press, [1999]

Physical Description:
xvi, 134 pages ; 23 cm
Reading Level:
1320 Lexile.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PS2388.F64 H39 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



Herman Melville's reputation as a great writer has gradually evolved throughout the past century. Tempered by studies that emphasize the Western literary tradition, literary appreciation for Melville's use of folklore has been slow in developing. This ground-breaking study brings to the forefront the depth of Melville's immersion with and borrowing from oral traditions.Though intended as a survey of Melville's use of folklore, this book serves also as a general introduction to his work. Unencumbered by critical jargon and narrated in an engaging manner, this book will appeal to general readers as well as seasoned scholars of Melville.

Author Notes

Kevin J. Hayes began his study of Herman Melville while a graduate student at the University of Delaware. He now teaches English and folklore at the University of Central Oklahoma.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Hayes (Univ. of Central Oklahoma) studies superstitions, folk beliefs, omens, sea shanties, folk songs, ballads, proverbs, ghost stories, tall tales, chapbooks, and legends in Melville's work. Other studies have examined Melville's borrowing from folk literature to explicate his symbols--e.g., Richard Chase's Herman Melville: A Critical Study (1949), Daniel Hoffman's Form and Fable in American Fiction (1961), and Janez Stanonik's Moby Dick: The Myth and the Symbol: A Study in Folklore and Literature (1962)--but Hayes is interested in what Melville "heard from his friends, family members, shipmates, and fellow patrons of the barbershop and the tavern" to reveal his debt to folk culture. Though the study focuses on the use of folklore in the novels, stories, and poetry, Hayes also connects it with Melville's life, especially his life as a sailor, a period of intense contact with superstitions, tall tales, and whaling. The briefly told stories, descriptions of customs, and quoted proverbs and lyrics make this book more interesting than the usual literary study; and Hayes's knowledge of 19th-century popular US culture, of Melville's writing, and of present-day criticism impressed this reviewer. In addition, the clear prose makes this work accessible to undergraduates at all levels as well as graduate students, researchers, and faculty. M. S. Stephenson; University of Texas at Brownsville

Table of Contents

Prefacep. ix
Abbreviationsp. xv
1 Superstition And The Seap. 1
2 Fiction And Folksongp. 13
3 Proverb And Ironyp. 25
4 Phantom Sailorsp. 38
5 Tall Talk And Tall Talesp. 51
6 Redburn and The Chapbookp. 62
7 Moby-Dick, Legend In the Makingp. 74
8 Legend, Belief, Tradition And Clarelp. 92
Conclusionp. 103
Notesp. 107
Sourcesp. 117
Indexp. 127