W.J.T Mitchell and Representation

Topics: Moby-Dick, Novel, Herman Melville Pages: 2 (636 words) Published: March 14, 2007
W.J.T. Mitchell examines literature and representation as a whole. We must examine the term homo symbolicum, which gave us (humans) the ability to stand apart from any other creature. "From childhood men have an instinct ability for representation, and in this respect, man differs from other animals that he is far more imitative and learns his first lesson by representing things" (11). Humans have created a system of reading, writing, expression of memories, thoughts, or ideas on paper, which also gave us the idea that without life there would be no literature. Indefinitely, many come to believe that literature is life. Representation falls into this area as well which creates two more sub-categories; semiotics, meaning a general theory of signs, and aesthetics, a general theory of arts. If you think about liturgical works and pieces, you can recognize that they consist of many forms of art, also consisting of signs and symbols, depending on the form of writing (i.e. poetry, prose, novellas, etc.) Representation helps us to create and increase means of communication, which provides another huge gateway for literature without using our voices. This leads to a further breakdown of representation provided by Aristotle who claims that, "representations differ from one another in three ways: in object, manner and means. The ‘object' is that which is represented; the ‘manner' is the way in which it is represented; the ‘means' is the material that is used" (13). In other words, without these three items together, representation presents difficulties examining particular ideas and their roots. For example, Moby Dick by Herman Melville explores the limits of knowledge, deceptiveness of fate, surface and depths, the Pequod and Moby Dick itself. These symbols, also known as objects, provide themes represented throughout the novel to gain understanding of the author's outlook on life and more specifically, the life of Ishmael, the main character. Melville uses...
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