Susan Howe appends a note to Where Should The Commander Be* and the note reads *A preliminary exploration of the hidden feminine in Melville and Olson. And the patient reader is treated to a finale drawing not only on skill in etymological exposition but also an astonishing assurance in navigating the canon. A small taste of the bravura. She sets the stage for a quotation from Moby Dick juxtaposed with a quotation from Hamlet thus:
In the dream of murderous union between fathers and sons, pieces of a Past are broken and eaten. Pushed backward through time, Man’s hierarchical position is a recent invention. What lies under? Is the human universe definable if you have left women out of the definition? Where is the mother then?
And surprise — there follows this crossed-pronoun bit from Melville: “There she breaches! There she breaches!” was the cry, as in immeasurable bravadoes the White Whale tossed himself salmon-like to Heaven. (Moby Dick, Chapter 134). And then some dialogue from Hamlet between the Prince and the players (of the play within a play) where there is the question of who has seen “the mobled Queen”. And then this which I label as a triumph:
Mobled, that is, veiled, with face muffled; past participle of the verb to mob(b)le.
These extracts are from an essay published in Writing 19 November 1987. In case you missed it: a queen played by a boy actor in a play within a play and a whale referenced once in reported speech as of feminine gender and referenced by the narrator as masculine. And we are not sure to have found what lies under or where the mother might be.
And so for day 992