Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Committee Member

John C. Unrue

Number of Pages



The present study discusses Herman Melville's late career narrative poem Clarel as the title character's process of self-discovery and self-construction. During his experiences in and around the environs of Jerusalem, Clarel transforms himself through a new appreciation for subjective standards of truth. The internal transformation occurs as Clarel learns to recognize the validity of opinions different from those he previously holds. Most succinctly considered, Clarel learns the value of a constructed self independent of the previously influential notions of spiritual and physical Love A young theology student whose faith is waning, Clarel travels to Jerusalem because he imagines that the physical setting of his pilgrimage will provide the means to renew his faith. However, Clarel learns to recognize the integrity of his individual subjectivity only through experiences that disintegrate his previous beliefs and belief systems. Instead of renewing his faith, the pilgrimage becomes an arena for the systematic breakdown of Clarel's various levels of commitment to spiritual, emotional, and intellectual processes. He discovers that he cannot learn from the example of another because this process serves only an introductory purpose. Clarel's hope to find an appropriate guide in the Holy Land who may show him how to live does not work effectively because he discovers no guide can teach another individual about his own subjective responses, interpretations, or evaluations; nor can the guide's contributions supercede the experiences accrued by the individual on his own. At this recognition, Clarel accepts that the pilgrimage becomes the means by which he reconstructs his subjective interpretation and evaluation of the world. Once Clarel "unlearns" all of his previously held beliefs; once he establishes his own criteria for evaluation; once he accepts his own construction of truth; he possesses the capacity for questing that ultimately may yield a self more wholly realized and constructed.


Clarel; Construction; Herman; Melville; Herman Melville; Reverent Self; Self-construction

Controlled Subject

American literature

File Format


File Size

7178.24 KB

Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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