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 from the 2018 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. 

In 2021, in COVID times, we confront the “digital age” of our title with particular urgency. The first iteration of this Institute brought teachers in contact with manuscript, print, and digital texts, material and online participatory cultures, historical and imaginary worlds of whaling, to immerse participants in Melville’s thrilling “wonder-world” and to experience new inspiration, ideas, and methods to take back to their classrooms. We continue to offer a rich set of multimedia and multidisciplinary resources. Given that we meet now in virtual spaces, a central goal of our workshops will also be producing an online archive of digital tools and pedagogies for future use. Although no prior digital experience or expertise is required, we welcome curious and creative approaches to the diverse challenges instructors face in today’s classrooms.

The synchronous meetings of the Institute will generally take place in two daily sessions from 10:00am-12:00noon and from 1:30pm-3:30pm. Morning sessions will be dedicated to the study of a sequential cluster of chapters from Moby-Dick. Participants will be invited to enrich readings of selected chapters by sharing digital annotations and reflections in an online discussion forum. Resident faculty will introduce themes and patterns from these chapters. A portion of morning sessions will consist of teachers “lowering” into two to four smaller “crews,” each guided by lead faculty, to explore together specific issues from the novel.

Afternoon sessions will consist of discussions about expert workshops and panels presented 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. There will also be opportunities for engagements during which participants will encounter varied exhibitions, archives, and collections (historical, aesthetic, and Melville-focused) afforded by the Museum and New Bedford.

Our limited time gathering together on Zoom will be supplemented by a variety of asynchronous learning activities including recorded expert presentations, video resources, virtual field trips, and researching and creation of curricular approaches. Part of the collaborative endeavor of the virtual Institute will be the collection of digital resources that can assist teachers and students to dive deeper into Melville’s work. We will be involved in a collective research project to pull these treasures out of the ocean of the web to create a reference database that can benefit all who are engaged in learning from and about Moby-Dick. Our communal reading of Moby-Dick will take place between June 21 and July 1. We will convene again after a four-day break for the Independence Day weekend from July 5-9 to focus on pedagogical approaches and to share the lessons we have gathered and learned.

(Note: Live links to many articles will work when you are logged in to our Sakai site.)

Monday,  June 21      Loomings: New Bedford and the Land Chapters

9:45am EST: Mustering of Crew for Departure

Readings in Moby-Dick: Chapters 1-22: Extracts, Etymology, “Loomings” to “Merry Christmas,” 1-90:

Moby-Diction word search: http://mobydiction.com

Morning (10:00-12:00)

Part 1: All Astir

  1. Welcome: from New Bedford Whaling Museum Director Amanda Mullen (10)
  2. Introductions from Program Manager, Co-Directors, and Lead Faculty (10)
  3. Monkey Rope Breakouts (10)
  4. Introduction to Annotation Studio and Digital Resources — Erica Zimmer (25)
  5. Break (5)

Part 2: Loomings

  1. The Beginning (10)
  2. Lowering into three crews: “The Spouter Inn,” “The Counterpane,” “The Sermon”  (25)
  3. Group Discussion (20) What is circulating through the opening chapters?
    1. Herman Melville’s New Bedford, New Bedford National Historical Park, National Park Service (Take this “walking tour” for an understanding of Melville’s circulations in New Bedford that form the first 13 chapters of Moby-Dick.)
    2. How is Ishmael “on tour” in the beginning? What experiences/impressions/themes is he collecting?
  4. Wrap-Up, Final Questions (10)

Lunch (12:30-1:30, optional): Join us at the Scuttle Butt for lunchtime chat. This time is yours to explore themes, ask questions, share findings, seek collaborators, meet visitors (alums, lecturers, friends), and enjoy special video or digital resources.

Failed Readings: The Challenge of Reading Moby-Dick

Stories of how we were eaten by Moby-Dick

1:15:  Mary K  Bercaw Edwards on Harrison Hayford theory of “Unnecessary Duplicates”

Afternoon (1:30-3:30):  Faculty Panel: Melville’s Life and Work before Moby-Dick

Institute Faculty will present important events and elements of Melville’s family background and life that led up to and help to explain his composition of Moby-Dick and the effect of that book on his career.

  • Part 1: Panel on Contexts for Reading Moby-Dick 1:30-2:30 (6 minutes each; 15 minutes discussion)
    1. Trauma in Melville’s Family and Early Life (Chris Sten)
    2. Melville in New Bedford (Bob Wallace)
    3. Melville at Sea (Mary K. Bercaw Edwards)
    4. Melville’s First Five Novels (Jennifer Baker)
    5. Melville’s Reading and Sources (Wyn Kelley)
    6. Reviews of Moby-Dick and Effect on Melville’s Career (Tim Marr)

Participant questions via chat.

  • Workshop 2:30-3:30: Mark Procknik, Librarian of the New Bedford Whaling Museum, Whaling Logs, Maps, Nautical Archives, and the Material Culture of Whaling


  1. Wyn Kelley, “Melville’s Life,” from Herman Melville: An Introduction (Blackwell, 2008), 3-11,
  2. Andrew Delbanco, “Extracts, Preface, and Introduction,” Melville: His  World and His Work (Knopf 2005), xiii-16.
  3. Robert K. Wallace, “In the Whaling City” from Melville and Douglass: Anchored Together in a Neighborly Style (Spinner Publications, 2005), 15-22, which traces the circulations of Herman Melville and Frederick Douglass as they were in New Bedford at the same time.

Other Supplemental Resources

  1. Explanatory Notes from the 1952 Hendricks House Edition by Luther S. Mansfield and Howard P. Vincent
  2.  Robert Milder, “Herman Melville, 1819-1891: A Brief Biography,” in A Historical Guide to Herman Melville. Ed. Giles Gunn (Oxford, 2005), 17-58;
  3. Seaman’s Bethel, New Bedford Whaling, National Park Service
  4. New Bedford Port Society Historical District Tour by Bruce Barnes: Where the Whaling City Began (48 minutes)

Tuesday, June 22   Departures: “Blindly Plunging Like Fate into the Lone Atlantic”


Chapters 23-32, “The Lee Shore” to “Cetology,” pp. 91-118; Melville’s Letters to  Hawthorne and others while writing Moby-Dick (also in NCE 559-76); “Hawthorne and His Mosses” (also in NCE 544-558)

Annotations: Chapter 23, “The Lee Shore” an Chapter 32, “Cetology”

  • All Astir Announcements, Overview  (10)
  • Part 1 A Squeeze of the Hand: Social Annotation and Discussion (45)
      1. “The Lee Shore”
      2. “Cetology”
  • Break (5)
  • Part 2 Knights and Squires: Shipboard Dramas of Gender and Power
    1. Crew Explorations: Knights and Squires: Ahab; Mates; Harpooneers (25)
    2. Group Discussion (25)
    3. Wrap-Up (10)

Crew Explorations: Knights and Squires: Ahab; Mates; Harpooneers

Lunch        Melville Scholarship on Gender

1:15: Melville’s Mother and Sisters

Afternoon       Life at Sea

  • Part 1: Talk: Jennifer Baker on Gender and the Man’s World of Moby-Dick (Talk 30, Q&A 25, Break 5)
  • Part 2: Discussion (40)
    1. Bob Wallace on Melville and Douglass (10)
    2. Wyn Kelley on Melville and Hawthorne (10)
    3. Group Discussion (20)
  1. Wrap Up and Prep (10)

Supplemental Readings:

  1. Rita Bode, “Suckled by the Sea,” Melville and Women, Eds. Elizabeth Schultz and Haskell Springer (Kent State Press, 2006), 181-198.
  2. Ellen Weinauer, “Melville and Masculinity,” DRAFT CHAPTER. In A New Companion to Herman Melville. Ed. Wyn Kelley and Christopher Ohge. Wiley, 2021 (forthcoming).

Wednesday, June 23  The Sperm Whale and its Whiteness

Morning          Chapters 33-42, “The Specksynder” to “The Whiteness of the Whale,” pp. 118-158; “Hawthorne and His Mosses” and Letters to Hawthorne and others while writing Moby-Dick

Annotation    Chapter 35, “The Mast-Head” and Chapter 36. “The Quarter-Deck”

Lunch     12:30 “Grand Panorama of a Whaling Voyage ‘Round the World,” Spectacle in Motion, New Bedford Whaling Museum, a 34-minute documentary moves through the 1848 panorama of a whaling voyage by Benjamin Russell and Caleb Purrington — the longest painting in the world.

1:05 Presentation on Mystic Seaport’s 38th Voyage, epic journey of their whaling ship, the Charles W. Morgan in 2014

Afternoon         Part 1 Talk: Mary K Bercaw Edwards on Melville, Whaling, and the Hunt

Part 2 Workshop Participants meet in groups and with lead faculty to discuss  themes, pedagogy, and final presentations.

Supplemental Readings:

  1. Ben Schmidt, “American Whaling Mapped” (three minute visualization of 19-century whaling voyages from logbooks collected in the 19th century by Lt. Matthew Maury);
  2. Walter E. Bezanson, “Uncommon Common Sailor,” in Melville’s Evermoving Dawn: Centennial Essays. Eds. John Bryant and Robert Milder (Kent University Press, 1997): 31-57.
  3. Mary K. Bercaw Edwards, “Ships, Whaling, and the Sea,” in A Companion to Herman Melville. Ed. Wyn Kelley (Blackwell Publishing, 2006), 83-97.
  4. Mystic Seaport’s 38th Voyage, epic journey of their whaling ship, the Charles W. Morgan, in 2014.
  5. A Moby-Dick Tour Through the New Bedford Whaling Museum, guided by Institute Faculty members (7 minutes)

3:30pm EST (following short break): Family Gathering: Sea Chanteys by Craig Edwards

Thursday,  June 21     Art and Moby-Dick

Morning          Chapters 43-57, “Hark!” to “Of Whales in Paint; In Teeth’ In Wood; In Sheet-Iron; In Stone; In Mountains; In Stars,” pp. 157-213’

Annotation:     Chapter 50: “Ahab’s Boat and Crew–Fedallah,” and Chapter 54: “The Town-Ho’s Story”

Lunch    12:30-1:15: Professional involvement and academic engagement in Melville Studies: Introduction to the Melville Society, the journal Leviathan, and the upcoming conference in France

1:15: Jeff Markham on experiential pedagogy in teaching Moby-Dick 


Part 1 Talk:  Bob Wallace on Visual Art and Moby-Dick: Sources, Appropriations, and Creativity

Part 2: Workshop:  Jeff Markham on Visual Journals

Supplemental Readings:

  1. Elizabeth Schultz, Unpainted to the Last: Moby-Dick and Twentieth-Century Art. Kansas, 1995, pp. 123-160, 358-361, color plates of Moby-Dick art, part 1, part 2
  2. Robert K. Wallace, “Words and Shapes on Paper: Art in the Melville Society Archive,” Leviathan (2020)
  3. Wallace, “Moby-Dick and the Arts in the Early Twenty-First Century,” in Moby-Dick. Norton Critical, 3rd edition, 2018, 692-701.
  4. Jeffrey Markham, “‘Of Whales in Paint’: Melville in the High School Classroom.”  DRAFT CHAPTER. In A New Companion to Herman Melville. Ed. Wyn Kelley and Christopher Ohge. Wiley, 2021 (forthcoming).
  5. Michael P. Dyer (Maritime Curator, New Bedford Whaling Museum), “Visualizing Melville: An Exhibition of Words, Ideas, Images, and Objects,” from 2021 Marathon (54 minutes); and Dyer, “Visualizing Melville: A Museum Exhibition Perspective,” DRAFT CHAPTER. In A New Companion to Herman Melville. Ed. Wyn Kelley and Christopher Ohge. Wiley, 2021 (forthcoming).

Friday, June 25    The Common Continent of Men: Race in Moby-Dick    

Morning          Chapters 58-71, “Brit” to ” “The Jeroboam’s Story”,” pp. 213-243.

Annotation    Chapter 58, “Brit” and Chapter 60, “The Line”

Afternoon        Faculty Panel, Discussions, and Workshop on Race in Moby-Dick 

Supplemental Readings:

  1. Robert K. Wallace. Melville and Douglass Anchored Together in Neighborly Style, Spinner, 2005.
  2. Christopher Freeburg, “Knowing the Bottomless Deep,” from Melville and the Idea of Blackness. Cambridge, 2012, pp. 20-60.
  3. James Noel, “Diversity, Reading Publics, and the Community College,” DRAFT CHAPTER. In A New Companion to Herman Melville. Ed. Wyn Kelley and Christopher Ohge. Wiley, 2021 (forthcoming).

Michael Sawyer, “The Pequod as Middle Passage: Melville’s Meditation on the ‘Long’ Shipwreck,” DRAFT CHAPTER. In A New Companion to Herman Melville. Ed. Wyn Kelley and Christopher Ohge. Wiley, 2021 (forthcoming)

Monday, June 28        Head and Tails and What’s Between

Morning          Chapters 72-86, “The Monkey-Rope” to “The Tail,” pp. 243-283;

Afternoon      Talk: Michael Moore, Director of Marine Mammal Center and Senior Scientist, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, and author of We Are All Whalers: The Plight of Whales and Our Responsibility (Chicago: October 2021)

Supplemental Reading:

  1. Philip Armstrong. “What Animals Mean, in Moby-Dick, For Example,” Textual Practice, vol.19, no.1, 2005, pp. 93-111.
  2. Jennifer Baker, “Anatomy,”  DRAFT CHAPTER. In A New Companion to Herman Melville. Ed. Wyn Kelley and Christopher Ohge. Wiley, 2021 (forthcoming).

Tuesday, June 29      The Body and its Work(s)

Morning          Chapters 87-96, “The Grand Armada” to “The Try-Works,” pp. 284-314.

Afternoon       Talk: Christopher Sten on Trauma and Recovery in Moby-Dick

Supplemental Readings

  1. Judith Herman. Selection fromTrauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence, Basic, 2015.
  2. Chris Sten. Sounding the Whale: Moby-Dick as Epic Novel, Chicago, 1996.
  3. Cindy Weinstein. “Melville’s Operatives,” The Literature of Labor and the Labors of Literature: Allegory in Nineteenth-Century American Fiction, Cambridge, 1995, pp. 87-128.

Wednesday,  June 30 Breachings and Afterlives

Morning          Chapters 97-117, “The Lamp” to “The Try-Works,” pp. 314-362.

Lunch        View David Schaerf, Call Us Ishmael (2019; 78 minutes)

Afternoon    Talk: Tim Marr on Breachings in Popular Culture

Supplemental Readings

  1. Timothy Marr. “Kraken: Moby-Dick in Popular Culture,” Moby-Dick, Norton Critical, 3rd edition, 2018, pp. 681-686.
  2. Mary K. Bercaw Edwards and Wyn Kelley. “Melville and the Spoken Word,” Moby-Dick, Norton Critical, 3rd edition, 2018, pp. 686-692.

Thursday, July 1     The Chase, the End, and the Orphan

Morning          Chapter 118-Epilogue: “The Quadrant” to Epilogue,  362-410.

Afternoon    Talk: Matt Kish on Visual Transformations of Moby-Dick

Supplemental Readings

  1. Matt Kish. Moby-Dick in Pictures: One Drawing for Every Page, Tin House Books, 2011.
  2. Matt Kish. “Art and Illustration,” DRAFT CHAPTER. In A New Companion to Herman Melville, edited by Wyn Kelley and Christopher Ohge, Wiley, 2021 (forthcoming).

Monday, July 5

Evening           7:00pm Family Film Showing of Moby Dick, Dir. John Huston (1956);

Ray Bradbury’s shooting screenplay

Supplemental Readings:

  1. John Bryant, “Rewriting Moby-Dick: Politics, Textual Identity, and the Revision Narrative,” PMLA, vol. 125, no. 4, October, 2010, pp. 1043-1060;
  2. Jaime Campomar, “Melville and Film Adaptation: The Lives and Deaths of Pip,” DRAFT CHAPTER. In A New Companion to Herman Melville. Ed. Wyn Kelley and Christopher Ohge. Wiley, 2021 (forthcoming).
  3. Martina Pfeifer. “Hunting Moby Dick: Melville in the Global Context of the American Studies Classroom,” Leviathan: A Journal of Melville Studies, vol 15, no. 3, 2013, pp. 81-89.

Tuesday, July 6 

Discussion of Huston/ Bradbury film

Presentations on Digital Resources

Wyn Kelley and Erica Zimmer on participatory and digital engagements

Wednesday, July 7

Virtual Tour of Melville’s Arrowhead, Berkshire Historical Society

Teacher Presentations

Thursday, July 8

Teacher Presentations

Friday July 9        Teaching, After All

Teacher Presentations

2018 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