2021 Institute Curriculum

Wyn Reading at Marathon
Institute Co-Director Wyn Kelley (MIT) reads during the 2017 Moby-Dick Marathon (photo courtesy of the New Bedford Whaling Museum)

Here is a list of the books for the Institute.

Please note that, as a result of the coronavirus, this Institute has been changed to a virtual platform for the summer of 2021. The curriculum listed below will be revised to match this new pedagogical platform. Though many of the experiential aspects of the Institute will no longer be offered, the Institute faculty aim to provide a dynamic learning experience that manifests its commitment the “the Digital Age” that is emblazoned in its title. 

Mornings will be dedicated to the study of a sequential cluster of chapters from Moby-Dick. Resident faculty will engage themes and patterns from these chapters through panel discussions, close readings, and interactive dialogues. A portion of some morning sessions will consist of lowering into two or three “crews,” each guided by lead faculty, to enable selective exploration of specific issues from the novel.

Afternoon sessions will consist of expert workshops taught by institute faculty that provide important critical, historical, and pedagogical contexts that illuminate the book’s literary art. These seminars will also situate the book’s questions, themes, and issues in the lives of twenty-first-century readers. On many days, there will also be experiential encounters during which participants will explore the geography, architecture, exhibitions, nautical displays and varied archives and collections (historical, aesthetic, and Melville-focused) afforded by the Museum and its location in the heart of New Bedford.

A special feature of the Institute will be the enhancement of our study of Moby-Dick on three active explorations during weekend days. We will travel to Mystic Seaport on Sunday, June 20, by boat from Plymouth to Stellwegen Bank to encounter whales on Saturday, June 24, and to Pittsfield, Massachusetts, where Melville wrote Moby-Dick on Tuesday, June 30.

Lead faculty will remain in regular consultation with participants to plan and develop a “lesson” that would stand as a final fruit of reflection from their involvement in the Institute. This production could be generated individually or in groups and might take many different forms, such as a traditional lesson plan, a short research inquiry, an annotated bibliography or an assemblage of resources, or an artistic response. Participants will share their results at the end of Institute.

Outline of Daily Engagement and Activities

Friday, June 18

The New Bedford Whaling Museum officers and Melville scholars will welcome the participants at a seafood dinner.

Saturday, June 19

After discussing the early “land” chapters (1-21) of Moby-Dick, the bulk of which are set in New Bedford, faculty will guide participants on the “Melville Trail” tour through the New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park. Participants will visit sites connected with the novel’s chapters “The Carpet-Bag,” “The Chapel,” and “The Sermon,” including the Seamen’s Bethel. An afternoon panel of lead faculty will present facets of Melville biography leading up to Moby-Dick followed by a tour of the Melville Society Archive.

Sunday, June 20

The first field trip is a visit to Mystic Seaport on the Connecticut coast where teachers will be able to tour the 1841 whaleship Charles W. Morgan, row whaleboats, pull on the halyards with that aid of lead faculty member Mary K. Bercaw Edwards and other Mystic Seaport staff.IMG_0954 (2)

Monday, June 21

The Institute sessions on Tuesday will explore chapters 22-32 and focus on the nature of shipboard life and Melville’s creation of his character Ahab. Lead faculty will analyze Melville’s complex figuration of gender on board the Pequod, and participants will engaged in archival workshop on 19th-century whaling logs led by the Museum librarian.

Scrimshaw NBWM
Scrimshaw from the galleries at the New Bedford Whaling Museum (photo by Timothy Marr)

Tuesday, June 22

In Tuesday’s sessions, participants will focus on chapters 32-42 of Moby-Dick and examine Ishmael’s meditative style and the conflict between Ahab and Starbuck. Lead faculty will facilitate a seminar that explores how Melville’s shipboard regime serves as a commentary on American political life. Teachers will explore the ways in which the captain’s monomaniacal pursuit of a whale has provided material for contemporary political allegory and editorial cartoons. During the afternoon, participants will examine illustrations and cartoons from the Elizabeth Schulz visual art collection held by the Museum

Wednesday, June 23

Teachers will read chapters 43-53 of Moby-Dick and learn about about the technology of whale hunting by encountering a whale boat demonstration in the museum’s galleries and be guided through the “Pursuit to Preservation” exhibit. The New Bedford Fishing Heritage Center will arrange a visit to the unloading and process of the catch in one of the port’s commercial fisheries.

Thursday, June 24

The Institute is committed to emphasizing how teachers can relate Moby-Dick to 21st- century concerns. The Pequod’s motley crew representing an assortment of nationalities can be a starting point for thinking about the globalization of American industries, and the book also depicts a pursuit of carbon-based energy sources that should ring familiar for present-day readers. (The development of petroleum extraction in 1859 made whale oil obsolete as the quest for energy trapped in fossilized life-forms replaced the hunt for energy contained in living ones). We will study chapters 55-72 of Moby-Dick during our morning investigations.Aboard the Pequod, Ishmael looks forward to modern ecological consciousness when he sympathizes with the whale’s suffering and wonders whether the pursuit of profit will threaten whale populations. Senior scientist Michael Moore from the Woods Hole Oceanographical Institution will share problems and research with present-day whaling and ecological concern.

Friday, June 25

Nowhere is the continuing relevance of Moby-Dick more evident than in the rich array of visual, musical, and performance art inspired by the book. The Institute will introduce these resources to teachers and explore how the book has served as a muse for artists. Teachers are introduced to art works in the collection that respond to specific chapters from the novel.

Prof. Bob Wallace sharing some of the artistic treasures in the Whaling Museum’s Elizabeth Schultz Collection of Moby-Dick Art

After engaging chapters 73-92 of the novel in the morning, participants will explore a number of artists that influenced Melville’s writing (including artwork he owned), and how Moby-Dick has inspired many artists to respond to it with their own creations, including students. Artist Matt Kish will be a visiting faculty member and share his adventure creating a piece of art for every page of Moby-Dick — for 552 consecutive days—which resulted in Moby-Dick in Pictures: One Drawing for Every Page (2011). Participants will gather at the end of the day to celebrate at New Bedford’s Moby Dick Brewing Company.

image of Matt Kish and book cover of his book
Matt Kish presenting his illustrations of Moby-Dick at the New Bedford Whaling Museum (photo Timothy Marr)

Saturday, June 26

Teachers will travel to Plymouth and travel with Captain John Boats across Massachusetts Bay to Stellwagen Bank, a marine sanctuary and one of the primary feeding grounds for Humpback Whales, Finback Whales, Pilot Whales, Minke Whales and the endangered Right Whales.

Sunday, June 27

Unstructured morning to explore the coast and/or engage in research. The afternoon workshop will focus on the popular cultural resonances in the novel and how both Moby-Dick the text and Moby Dick the White Whale have circulated through such genres as film, comics, commercial culture, science fiction, music, and body art. There will be an evening screening of the John Huston film “Moby Dick,” starring Gregory Peck, with an account of its world premiere in New Bedford in 1956

Gregory Peck in Moby Dick

Monday, June 28

Morning Discussions will explore chapters 93 to the Epilogue as well as on the letters that Melville wrote to Nathaniel Hawthorne during and immediately after penning his Whale. Lead faculty member Chris Sten will guide participants through his illuminating  reading of the novel in Sounding the Whale: Moby-Dick as Epic Novel.

Tuesday, June 29

We will  journey by bus to the Berkshires of Massachusetts and visit Arrowhead, the home where Melville wrote Moby-Dick, that faces Mt. Greylock,  described by Melville as a white whale on the landscape as he looked out the window from his writing desk in winter. We will visit the Melville Room at the Berkshire Athenaeum, and participants will have the chance to hike Monument Mountain, site of a famous picnic gathering where Melville met Nathaniel Hawthorne on August 5, 1850, during the time Melville was composing Moby-Dick.

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Wednesday, June 30

Participating teachers will encounter an assortment of other innovative teaching tools during the second week, including the connections between digital resources and reading practices. Participants will learn about strategies from media studies, community theater, traditional literacies, and public humanities (museum and civic spaces) designed to make Melville’s whaling novel accessible to all readers in diverse cultures outside the classroom. The afternoon session will feature lead faculty member Wyn Kelley presenting the digital edition of Moby-Dick, part of the Melville Electronic Library. This critical archive offers extensive notes, maps, art images, and pedagogical materials for exploring and editing the text in interactive ways. Through exploration of this and other databases, lead faculty will make digital resources a source of pleasure and inspiration, a vivid aid to learning, and a springboard for critical reading, thinking, and writing.

There will be a Institute banquet in the evening the celebrate our learnings together.

Thursday, July 1

Teacher Presentations  and Farewells

RKW on the Morgan 2014
Lead Faculty Member Robert K. Wallace aboard the Charles W. Morgan