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In Inscrutable Malice, Jonathan A. Cook expertly illuminates Melville’s abiding preoccupation with the problem of evil and the dominant role of the Bible in shaping his best-known novel. Drawing on recent research in the fields of biblical studies, the history of religion, and comparative mythology, Cook provides a new interpretation of Moby-Dick that places Melville’s creative adaptation of the Bible at the center of the work. Cook identifies two ongoing concerns in the narrative in relation to their key biblical sources: the attempt to reconcile the goodness of God with the existence of evil, as dramatized in the book of Job; and the discourse of the Christian end-times involving the final destruction of evil, as found in the apocalyptic books and eschatological passages of the Old and New Testaments. With his detailed reading of Moby-Dick in relation to its most important source text, Cook greatly expands the reader’s understanding of the moral, religious, and mythical dimensions of the novel. Both accessible and erudite, Inscrutable Malice will appeal to scholars, students, and enthusiasts of Melville’s classic whaling narrative.
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Jonathan A. Cook is the author of Satirical Apocalypse: An Anatomy of Melville’s “The Confidence-Man” and has published numerous articles and reviews on the writings of Melville, Hawthorne, Poe, Irving, and other nineteenth-century American authors. He is chair of the English Department at Middleburg Academy and an adjunct professor at Lord Fairfax Community College, Virginia.Review:
“Cook has accomplished the most precise, searching, and in-depth investigation of a subject whose importance cannot be overestimated for this particular author. Melville’s ‘saturation’ by the Bible has never before been explored with the exhaustive approach it warrants. This study’s extensive documentation alone will serve readers as a valuable resource, and Cook’s analysis of scripturally influenced subject matter in Melville’s narrative is unprecedented in scope and detail.” -- Steven Olsen-Smith, Associate Professor of English at Boise State University and General Editor of Melville’s Marginalia Online. “Moby-Dick has long been recognized as a landmark in American literary and religious history, but the goal of showing how these aspects of Melville’s novel are related has proved elusive. Through an inspired combination of biblical scholarship, comparative religion, intellectual history, and aesthetics with Melville’s own patterns of reading and intellectual inquiry, Jonathan Cook’s study illuminates brilliantly Moby-Dick’s status as both an exceptionally important artifact in religious history and a superb piece of literary art. Cook’s wide-ranging review of the scholarship on Moby-Dick and his clear prose style contribute to making this essential reading for anyone seeking to understand America’s most important novel, the religious context from which it emerged, and the history of intellectual engagement it has inspired.” --Brian Yothers, Associate Professor of English at the University of Texas at El Paso and author of Melville’s Mirrors: Literary Criticism and America’s Most Elusive Author
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