The Melville Principle

In recent years, I’ve been arguing that Melville’s Moby-Dick dramatizes the benefits of cosmopolitanism — as well as some of the obstacles to its realization. So I was pleased to discover that the political scientist Aristide Zolberg wraps up his...

Is Ahab, Ahab?

One of the questions that arises in the course of Melville’s Moby-Dick is whether Ahab’s name is significant. It’s not just a matter of literary symbolism, in which the author is sending a signal to the knowing reader that the the reader might glean...

Evil, Choice and Rationalism

The subjects of my second Con West class on Zoroastrianism are going to be Zoroastrianism’s approach to the problem of evil and its stress on the importance of free choice. I’ll most likely be using excerpts from the Gathas (included in the Zoroastrian...

The Playlist So Far

Some years ago I began to play songs before each of my American Literature I lectures. I was teaching on the eighth floor of NYU’s Main Building (now the Silver Center), a building that wasn’t really designed for the number of students that flooded into...

Moby-Dick Looming

Before Monday’s lecture, the instructor who teaches in my room during the previous time slot asked me what songs I’d be playing. “Songs with ‘cosmopolitanism’ in the title,” I replied. “Oooh, we don’t like...