Brief Biographies of Lead Faculty

Jennifer J. Baker 

Jennifer J. Baker is Associate Professor of English at New York University, where she specializes in 18th- and 19th-century American literature, culture, and intellectual history. She is the author of Securing the Commonwealth: Debt, Speculation, and Writing in the Making of Early America (2005) and is currently writing a book on mid-19th-century American literature and the life sciences (a chapter of which will be devoted to Moby-Dick and natural history).

Baker teaches undergraduate and graduate seminars on Melville and regularly teaches Moby- Dick in her American literature surveys. In 2006, she joined the Melville Society Cultural Project through which she has been involved in Melville-related programming at the New Bedford Whaling Museum. She wrote and recorded the Museum’s Melville audio tour for its “Pursuit to Preservation exhibition in its sperm whale gallery and last summer, participated as a lecturer and tour-guide in the Museum’s training for high-school teachers of Moby-Dick. In 2007, Baker designed and taught a five-part continuing education series on Moby-Dick at the 92nd Street Y in New York City. She is currently co-organizing the 2019 International Melville Conference in New York City to commemorate the bicentennial of Melville’s birth.

Mary K. Bercaw Edwards

Mary K. Bercaw Edwards is Associate Professor of English and Maritime Studies Faculty at the University of Connecticut. Former President of the international Melville Society, she now serves as an Editor for Leviathan: A Journal of Melville Studies. She is the author of Melville’s Sources (1987) and Cannibal Old Me: Spoken Sources in Melville’s Early Works (2009) and the co-editor of Wilson Heflin, Herman Melville’s Whaling Years (2004). As a member of the Melville Society Cultural Project, Dr. Bercaw Edwards has collaborated since 2001 with the New Bedford Whaling Museum, participating in three previous NEH-funded Summer Institutes (2001, 2005, and 2006). Dr. Bercaw Edwards also works at Mystic Seaport Museum, where, in addition to interpreting Maritime History to visitors, she works with K-12 teachers and students, doing both teacher training and leading workshops and Moby-Dick tours for K-12 students, especially high-school students. A Coast Guard-licensed captain, she has 58,000 miles at sea, all under sail. In the Summer of 2014, she sailed aboard the 1841 whaleship Charles W. Morgan on its historic 38th Voyage; the Morgan was built just seven miles away from and seven months after Melville’s own whaleship Acushnet.

Wyn Kelley

 Wyn Kelley, Senior Lecturer in Literature at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is author of Melville’s City: Literary and Urban Form in Nineteenth-Century New York (1996) and Herman Melville: An Introduction (2008); and co-author, with Henry Jenkins et.al., of Reading in a Participatory Culture: Re-Mixing Moby-Dick in the English Classroom (2013).

Former Associate Editor of the Melville Society journal Leviathan, and currently Associate Director of MEL (Melville Electronic Library), she also works with the HyperStudio, MIT’s digital humanities lab, to develop digital pedagogy based on Annotation Studio. As a member of the Melville Society Cultural Project, she has collaborated since 2001 with the New Bedford Whaling Museum, participating in three previous NEH-funded Summer Institutes (2001, 2005, and 2006). Other teaching workshops include the Teachers As Scholars project at the Harvard School of Education (2000, 2001, 2003) and Primary Source (2007).

Timothy Marr

 Timothy Marr taught high school social studies and English in California, Connecticut, Australia, and Pakistan—where he became interested in the history of how Americans viewed the difference of Islam while teaching Moby-Dick during the Russian phase of the war in Afghanistan. His book The Cultural Roots of American Islamicism (2006) was born as a Melville project during a 1989 NEH Summer Seminar for Teachers on Moby-Dick in Santa Barbara. He is a co-editor (with two other Institute Faculty) of Ungraspable Phantom: Essays on Moby-Dick (2006) and has published on Melville in The Historical Guide to Herman Melville, Melville and Women, Melville “Among the Nations,” The New Cambridge Companion to Herman Melville, the third Norton Critical edition of Moby-Dick, and in the journal Leviathan. He co-organized the Seventh International Melville conference in East Jerusalem in 2009. Besides serving as an executive member of the Melville Society Cultural Project he is also a co-editor of the History Research Group for the Melville Electronic Library. He is the Bowman and Gordon Gray Distinguished Term Associate Professor of American Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he has taught since 2000, and will be serving as Director of the Institute.

Christopher Sten

 Christopher Sten’s interest in Melville goes back five decades to an American literature course in college, followed by a dissertation on Melville’s modernism in graduate school. The editor of Savage Eye: Melville and the Visual Arts (1992) and author of many articles and two book- length studies of Melville’s fiction, including The Weaver God, He Weaves: Melville and the Poetics of the Novel (1996) and Sounding the Whale: Moby-Dick as Epic Novel (1996), he has recently completed a book manuscript, The Body in Pain, on issues of embodiment in Melville’s Piazza Tales, and an edited collection of essays (with Tyler Hoffman), titled ‘This Mighty Convulsion’: Melville and Whitman Write the Civil War. Like his colleagues in the Melville Society Cultural Project, he has broad interests in Melville’s transnationalism, multiculturalism, and treatment of gender issues, age, and class in Moby-Dick and has done work as well on more specialized topics such as Melville’s use of the occult sciences in relation to Ahab and Ishmael and the question of animal intelligence in relation to the Whale. In teaching Moby-Dick to hundreds of students over the years at George Washington University, he has developed a method of close reading, daily writing, and regular feedback to help students gain confidence in their critical powers and demonstrate their growing command of this formidable book.

Robert K. Wallace

Robert K. Wallace is Regents Professor of English at Northern Kentucky University. His books on Melville include Melville and Turner (1992), Frank Stella’s Moby-Dick (2007), Douglass and Melville (2005), Heggie and Scheer’s Moby-Dick: A Grand Opera for the Twenty-First Century (2013), and Fast Fish and Loose Fish: NKU Students Make Moby-Dick Art (2015). Wallace is a founding member of the Melville Society Cultural Project at the New Bedford Whaling Museum (2001) and has supervised its art acquisition program. He has taught courses in Melville and the Arts at NKU since 1994 and artwork created by his undergraduate students has been widely exhibited. Wallace is the leading authority on the 400 prints and engravings he has discovered from Melville’s personal collection. He is also a leading authority on contemporary responses to Moby-Dick in the visual and performing arts. He has curated exhibitions on Melville and Turner, The Art of Seeing Whales, and Moby-Dick-art by contemporary artists from Frank Stella to Matt Kish. Wallace was a faculty leader of the NEH Seminar for School Teachers in New Bedford in 2001 and has published several essays on teaching Moby-Dick. His recent blogs on Dickinson and Moby-Dick in 2015 and Moby-Dick in Cincinnati in 2016 (see “Using MEL” in the Melville Electronic Library) include Moby-Dick-art created and exhibited by his students. Wallace’s essay on “Moby-Dick and the Arts in the Early Twenty-First Century” is forthcoming in the third edition of the Norton Critical Edition of Moby-Dick (2017).