50 Years Ago
Recent Capture of White Whale Fails to Mar Melville’s Meaning
The interpretation of Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick,” with all its symbolic levels, remains unchanged despite the fact that a white whale has been captured off the coast of Peru, two university professors stated yesterday.
Vladimir Nabokov, visiting lecturer on Slavic Languages and Literature, and Theodore Morrison, professor of English, both agreed that critics would not revert to a literal interpretation of the novel now that a French vessel has reported the capture of a real albino sperm whale.
“All this is just a reporter’s story,” Nabokov said. “It just came to the paper after passing through several sources, none of whom was a naturalist.”
Nabokov, who will teach Humanities 2 this term, continued, “The news article itself is also fiction, not fact. One type of fiction has been created by a reporter, and the other type has been created by Melville.”
—Feb. 5, 1952