Melville and the Visual Arts
Christopher Sten, Ed.
The Kent State University Press
Mellville’s interest in the visual arts and the translation of that interest into his writings is at the center of this new interdisciplinary study of one of America’s most celebrated writers. Melville’s lifelong engagement with the visual arts has been noted in other works, but only Savage Eye suggest the extraordinary depth and range of the author’s multifaceted interest in the subject. Editor Christopher Sten has collected 13 essays from 12 specialists in the field to produce this groundbreaking study which connects Melville’s writings with topics relating to the arts of painting, printmaking, sculpture, architecture and landscape design, as well as art history. Sten’s comprehensive introduction provides readers with a historical overview of the subject, detailing the many works of art Melville knew and commented upon at each stage of his career. He explains when and where in Melville’s wanderings throughout America, Europe, and the Near East he saw these works, then describes how Melville made use of the life and work of these artists in his own fiction and poetry. Savage Eye argues persuasively that the visual arts sources are comparable in importance to the literary arts in the formation of Melville’s work and vision. The contributors thus lead the reader to an appreciation of the rich array of artistic images that were available to Americans of the previous century, and thereby extend not only our understanding of Melville, but of ourselves and our collective history.