The World in a Footnote: Examining Ahab’s Chart in Chapter 44 of Moby-Dick - Archive ouverte HAL Access content directly
Journal Articles Miranda : Revue pluridisciplinaire sur le monde anglophone. Multidisciplinary peer-reviewed journal on the English-speaking world Year : 2022

The World in a Footnote: Examining Ahab’s Chart in Chapter 44 of Moby-Dick

Abstract

Chapter 44 of Moby-Dick (“The Chart”) includes a footnote comparing Ahab’s plan to track Moby Dick across the globe with Matthew F. Maury’s efforts to chart the winds and currents of the oceans and produce an accurate “whale chart.” This article unpacks the effects produced by the addition of the footnote in the chapter and uses it as a starting point for examining Ahab’s charts and discussing the interactions between map and text. At first sight, Maury’s chart is used as a stable reference point that reinforces the verisimilitude of Ahab’s plan. A comparison of Ahab’s use of nautical charts with actual documents used by whaling captains, though, reveals a disjunction between his cartographic ratiocinations and Maury’s work. Yet the most significant detail in the footnote might be the fact that Maury’s chart is “in course of completion”: far from being a definite document that the text can rely on to bolster the plausibility of Ahab’s method, the chart remains unseen—and even unseeable, since the version described in the footnote was never produced in reality. The “deictic” gesture performed by the footnote duplicates Ahab’s yearning for an object that constantly eludes him.

Dates and versions

hal-03901217 , version 1 (15-12-2022)

Identifiers

Cite

Julien Nègre. The World in a Footnote: Examining Ahab’s Chart in Chapter 44 of Moby-Dick. Miranda : Revue pluridisciplinaire sur le monde anglophone. Multidisciplinary peer-reviewed journal on the English-speaking world , 2022, Melville’s Measures, 26, ⟨10.4000/miranda.47428⟩. ⟨hal-03901217⟩
26 View
0 Download

Altmetric

Share

Gmail Facebook X LinkedIn More