Curriculum

Wyn Reading at Marathon
Lead Faculty 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.

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 Saturday, June 23,  by boat to the Nantucket Whaling Museum on Sunday,  June 24, and to Pittsfield, Massachusetts, where Melville wrote Moby-Dick on Saturday, 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

Sunday, June 17

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

Monday, June 18

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 Parkp. 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 an archival workshop on 19th-century whaling logs led by the Museum historian and librarian.

Tuesday, June 19

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 examine the Museum’s collection of scrimshaw and be introduced to the Melville Society Archive of volumes and scholars’ papers.

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

Wednesday, June 20

In Wednesday’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

Thursday, June 21

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.

Friday, June 22

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. During the first week, teachers will be introduced to art works in the collection that respond to specific chapters from the novel. After engaging chapters 55-72 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).

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 23

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 sailors’ work songs, and participate in other hands-on activities led by lead faculty member lead faculty member Mary K. Bercaw Edwards and other Mystic Seaport staff.

Sunday, June 24

Teachers will take the 8:00 am Seastreak ferry from New Bedford across Buzzard’s Bay to Nantucket, the port from which the Pequod’s fictional voyage departed to sea and the setting for chapters 14-21. We will visit the Whaling Museum of the Nantucket Historical Association, and tour Nantucket whalefishery sites before returning on the 3:15 ferry to New Bedford. Teachers will learn about Melville’s Agatha letters which account for the experience of the wives left behind by whale captains at sea.

Monday, June 25

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 73-92 of Moby-Dick during our morning investigations.  Lead faculty will begin the second week with a panel discussion relating Moby-Dick to present-day animal studies and ecological concerns: questions about human kinship with and estrangement from animals, as well as the possibility that animals exist in their own right separate from the human knowledge of them. 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.

Tuesday, June 26

Morning Discussions will explore chapters 93-105. Lead faculty member Chris Sten will guide participants through his illuminating  reading of the novel in Sounding the Whale: Moby-Dick as Epic Novel.

Wednesday, June 27

On Wednesday, participants will focus their inquiries on chapters 106-117 as well as on the letters that Melville wrote to Nathaniel Hawthorne during and immediately after penning his Whale. 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
Gregory Peck in the John Huston film “Moby Dick,” that premiered in New Bedford in 1956.

Thursday, June 28

We will complete our reading of Moby-Dick by reading chapters 118 through the Epilogue. 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 visiting faculty member John Bryant who will present his 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.

Friday, June 29

The final day of the Institute will be dedicated to presentation of the “lessons” about Moby-Dick devised by Institute participants. Participants will gather for a concluding celebration at New Bedford’s Moby Dick Brewing Company.

Saturday, June 30

The Institute will conclude with a journey to the Berkshires of Massachusetts and visits to Arrowhead, the home where Melville wrote Moby-Dick, that looks out on 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.

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