Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Mark D. Noble

Second Advisor

Gina Caison

Third Advisor

Tanya Caldwell


This project relies on two main bodies of work: the text and reception history of Moby-Dick. I argue that the novel’s prophetic insights unfold in its failure and resurrection. The reception history consists of early reviewers, biographers, and critics both hailing and discounting Moby-Dick’s literary value. The first section, “Proto-Modernist Melville: Specific Difficulty in Moby-Dick,” explores the peculiar difficulty inherent in the text of Moby-Dick, namely its divergent, evasive, and hieroglyphic properties. Chapter 2, “Reception: Nineteenth-Century Failure and Modernist Success,” chronicles the novel’s reception history, focusing largely on the critics of twentieth-century modernism. In “Moby-Dick as Prophetic Anticipation and Fulfillment,” I examine the link between the inherent difficulty found within Moby-Dick and its reception history. I propose that Melville’s novel theorizes its prophetic anticipation of literary modernism as well as Melville’s own authorial failure and redemption narrative.