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date: 16 June 2019

Abstract and Keywords

I discuss the philosophical significance of the generic confusions in Jack London’s novel The Sea-Wolf (1904). Drawing on a generous array of genres and scenarios, London asks his prospective reader to try and make sense of this complexity, either as “the superficial reader” of the sea romance or as “the deeper reader,” who is promised “the bigger thing lying underneath.” But what exactly is that bigger thing, the philosophical message, hidden by the generic complexity of the narrative, which will eventually necessitate a kind of deus-ex-machina authorial intervention when the sea romance is jeopardized by the demonic superman (and rapist) Wolf Larsen. By way of conclusion, I discuss the existential dilemma that London faced in The Sea-Wolf and in most of his work its philosophical formula articulated in Jules de Gaultier’s bovarysme and the war against reality, the Medusa-Truth.

Keywords: Nietzsche, naturalism, genre, bovarysme, Wolf Larsen

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