Melville, Shame, and the Evil Eye

A Psychoanalytic Reading

By Joseph Adamson

Subjects: Psychological Approaches To Literature
Series: SUNY series in Psychoanalysis and Culture
Paperback : 9780791432808, 348 pages, November 1996
Hardcover : 9780791432792, 348 pages, November 1996

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Table of contents


A Note on Abbreviations

Melville and shame

Part One. Shame and Attachment

Chapter One
How to Make a Misanthrope

Chapter Two
Mortifying Inter-Indebtedness

Chapter Three
The Inexorable Self

Part Two. Shame, Resentment, and Envy

Chapter Four
Motiveless Malignity

Chapter Five
Turning the Tables

Part Three. The Evil Eye

Chapter Six
Dangerous Mergers

Chapter Seven
The Evil Eye

"That Truth Should Be Silent I Had Almost Forgot"


Works Cited


Offers a complex analysis of the psychodynamic role of shame in Melville's work, with detailed readings of Moby-Dick, Pierre, and "Billy Budd. "


This study offers a complex analysis of the psychodynamic role of shame in Melville's work, with detailed readings of Moby-Dick, Pierre, and "Billy Budd. " Its concrete application of the rich analytic framework supplied by the work of such theorists as Heinz Kohut, Léon Wurmser, Silvan Tomkins, and Donald Nathanson implicitly challenges the contemporary reliance on an often abstract poststructuralist model of psychoanalysis. As a paradigmatic, coherent reading of the work of a single author, the book will appeal both to the many scholars interested in Melville's work and to anyone interested in psychoanalytic or psychological approaches to literature.

Joseph Adamson is Associate Professor of English and Comparative Literature at McMaster University. He has also written Northrop Frye: A Visionary Life and Wounded Fiction: Modern Poetry and Deconstruction.


"It is a very erudite book, bringing together sound scholarship in several areas: comparative literature, psychoanalysis, history, and philosophy. Yet, it is very well written and easy to follow. I found it fascinating, very clear to read, excellent. " — Léon Wurmser, author of The Hidden Dimension and The Mask of Shame

"There is no better literary study of any corpus using psychodynamic notions, and none which wields the contemporary literature on shame with anything like the skill and coherence demonstrated by Adamson. " — Benjamin Kilborne, Los Angeles Institute & Society for Psychoanalytic Studies

Joseph Adamson's Melville, Shame, and the Evil Eye makes an important contribution to the study of psychoanalysis and literature. Adamson is the first literary critic I know of to make an extended use of psychoanalytic studies of shame. His book is also a valuable addition to recent narcissistic—including Kohutian—investigations of literature. He proves to be a careful and trustworthy guide through the fascinating complexities of the various shame theorists he investigates. " — J. Brooks Bouson, Loyola University of Chicago