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Northwestern University Press
Melville Biography: An Inside Narrative is Hershel Parker's history of the writing of Melville biographies, enriched by his intimate working relationships with great Melvilleans, dead and living. The first part is a mesmerizing autobiographical account of what went into creating his award-winning two-volume life of Herman Melville. Next, Parker traces six decades the persistent war New Critics have waged against biographical scholarship on Melville. American literary critics, he finds, impose New Critical theories of organic unity on Melville's disrupted career even while truncating his body of work and minimizing his aesthetic interests. Parker celebrates the "divine amateurs" who use new technology to discover dazzling Melville stories and also lauds the writers of literature blogs as potential redeemers of academic and mainstream media reviewing. In the third part, Parker invites readers into his biographical workshop and challenges them with ambitious research assignments. Throughout this bold book, Parker seeks to reinvigorate the all-but-lost art of scholarly literary criticism and biography.<br><br>Melville Biography: An Inside Narrative is amazing, and deliciously different from Hershel Parker s string of non-retirement works intricately rooted in verifiable facts, precise and reliable as ever, but juicier, braver, and better than anything he has done before now. This Inside Narrative masterfully and entertainingly blends intellectual autobiography, the untold and unexamined history of Melville scholarship, and instructive case studies in the praxis of biography. Research hounds like me, thrilled by Parker s tales of the hunt, will delightedly follow him on the trail of evidence and savor the joy of discovery. Academics across the disciplines will be challenged by Parker s insistent and cogently argued distinction between scholarship and criticism. All readers who cherish truth-seeking and truth-saying will be shocked then heartened by Parker s exposés of bad scholarship, fake scholarship, and the mutual admiration society of celebrity critics. As intellectual autobiography Parker s Inside Narrative is compelling and revealing. In essence Parker demonstrates why his two-volume Melville biography is matchless in scope, depth, accuracy, integrity, and humanity. As the wonderfully intimate autobiography of the biographer and history of the biography, Melville Biography: An Inside Narrative powerfully reveals what you need to acquire, and what you have to give up, to be maestro.<br><br>--Scott Norsworthy-- Bibliographical Associate on The Writings of Herman Melville and author of Melville s Notes from Thomas Roscoe s The German Novelists.