February 7, 2005
Ahab’s Failed Rhetoric
“…but Ahab never thinks; he only feels, feels, feels; that’s tingling enough for mortal
To think’s audacity.
God only has the right and privilege.
Thinking is, or ought to
be, a coolness and a calmness; and our poor hearts throb, and our poor brains beat too
much for that”
– Captain Ahab on 419.
Paul de Man’s “Resistance to Theory” Explained
Classical notion of the Liberal Arts:
Trivium – language arts
(grammar, logic, and rhetoric)
Quadrivium – non-verbal sciences, ways of representing the
(arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and music)
Within the trivium,
can be thought of as the linguistic extension of
Both transfer denotative or literal meaning
is the text-driven function that garners verbal energy from the interplay
Tropes – OED defn: “a figure of speech using words in non-literal ways”
these lingual devices convey language’s movement and
persuade a reader.
etymology: in 15
Century, tropes referred to the sexual part of a
examples: metaphor, metonymy, chiasmus, etc.
“In the great Sperm Whale, this high and mighty god-like dignity inherent in the
brow is so immensely amplified, that, gazing on it, in that full front view, you feel
the Deity and the dread powers more forcibly than in beholding any other object
in living nature” (274).
Rhetoric of hyper-religious
“All visible objects, man, are but as pasteboard masks.
But in each event—in the
living act, the undoubted deed—there some unknown but still reasoning thing
puts forth the mouldings of its features from behind the unreasoning mask.
man will strike, strike through the mask!
…Who’s over me?
Truth has no
The psycho-dialectic breaks down.
Rhetoric used to stand in for the