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Samuel Otter

Professor of English; Clyde and Evelyn Slusser Chair in English Literature
Dept of English
Research Expertise and Interest
English, 19th century American literature, 17th and 18th century American literature, African American literature, Herman Melville, race in American culture, literature and history, discourse and ideology, word and image studies, close reading
Research Description

In my current book-in-progress, "Melville's Forms," I analyze what “form” meant to Melville, in concept and in literary practice, with the hope that such an inquiry not only will illuminate the complexities of his career, which in its variety, scope, and duration continues to elude most readers and critics, but also will advance our understanding of this key term in literary studies. Across the chapters, I examine verbal form in terms of the relationships that give it definition: between parts and wholes, structure and duration, inside and outside, word and image, and prose and poetry. Melville understood literary "form" in such an array: not as a structure, a given, but as the uneasy intersection of systems in which information is shaped and conveyed and in which expectation and transgression are continually modifying one another. 

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