Honors College


Sarah K. Lingo

Document Type

Honors Thesis

Publication Date



In this project, I examine the operation of the sublime and the unconscious in Moby Dick. In the sublime, I locate the source of Ahab’s obsession with, and Ishmael’s interest in, Moby Dick. Through sublime experiences, these characters confront the limits of human understanding. Ishmael accepts this limitation, but Ahab rejects it, choosing to pursue Moby Dick in an effort to reassert order in an entropic universe. He blames his loss of control on the whale, which becomes his objet petit a: that object, according to Lacan, that distracts the obsessive from the true source of his anxiety. Employing Lacanian psychoanalytic theory, I compare Ahab’s and Ishmael’s reactions to the sublime, and how these reactions determine their fates.