Seeing stars after sperm squeezing

Hydria Chananaea
Detail, plate 23 of the Harmonia Macrocosmica of Andreas Cellarius

In my essay “Melville’s Secrets,” I offer an interpretation of a famous passage in Moby-Dick about sperm-squeezing, which concludes with a vision of “long rows of angels in paradise, each with his hands in a jar of spermaceti.” Melville scholar Scott Norsworthy has made a couple of discoveries that he generously describes as a “footnote” to my essay: It transpires that there’s another angel with a jar in Melville’s late prose-poem combination “Under the Rose,” and that, what’s more, both jar-carrying angels may be allusions to a Christianized star-map first published in 1660 by Andreas Cellarius. Norsworthy further wonders whether the row of asterisks that follow the sperm-squeezing passage are meant to suggest a constellation.

2 thoughts on “Seeing stars after sperm squeezing”

  1. Caleb–but it is a gorgeous new site! The poor pink elephant below survives, I hope. & I’m glad that only four days after sounding a sort of tentative-maybe-soon death knell for “Steamboats,” you’re posting about sperm and star charts. When your book comes out you’ll want a space to log all the champagne magnums downed; may they buoy the blog aloft. Best, Evan

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