Monday, August 27, 2012

Three weeks of Moby-Dick

Friends and Melville fans, I am teaching Moby-Dick this semester as part of a Readings in American Lit course.

My specialization centering some fifty years later, I am not one of those people who teaches this hoary beast (so to speak) every semester, so far from being bored by the prospect, I am thrilled.

I've mentioned this to a number of people, and many have replied that they've never read Moby-Dick. They've thought about it, but they've never had the occasion, or the time, or they've felt it was really the sort of thing you needed a course context within which to read it.

So I invite any interested parties to read Moby-Dick alongside me and my students, August 31 through September 19.

What would this entail?

1. The most important thing—really the only important thing—is reading the novel. A schedule is posted below.
2. My course blogs are sadly closed to the world, but I will post briefly here over the course of the three weeks; you're invited to read and comment. [UPDATE: it's possible my course blogs can become public. More soon.]
3. If you like, blog your own responses to the novel.
4. My course Twitter hashtag this semester is #f12ral (which stands for Fall 2012 Readings in American Lit). You are welcome to join in on any Twitter discussion, and if you blog about your reading, please tweet a link with the hashtag.

If you decide to read Moby-Dick with us, I'd very much like to hear from you about it. Drop me a line, leave a comment on this post, or tweet using the hashtag. If anyone decides to join us, I'll let my students know; I think they'll be tickled.

Most of the people who will encounter this post are not full-time students and will find the schedule a little onerous; it's 135 (short) chapters in just three weeks. You might fall behind in the reading, and that's no moral failing. All I can say is that it can be done (I think I had even less time to read it in college—maybe a week), and it will be done by my students, and maybe also by you.

The edition we are using is the Norton Critical. I will confess that I am not enormously a fan of this edition: neither the thin Bible-paper that makes the text bleed through from page to page, nor the distracting footnotes that turn out to be no more than dictionary definitions for relatively common words for, I suppose, potential readers with exceedingly narrow vocabularies. Nonetheless, this is the standard edition in my department and I did not have the choosing of it. Moreover, if you wish to read some contemporaries accusing Melville of lunacy, the Norton's got you covered. I see no reason to disdain the Penguin, however.


F 8/31Herman Melville, Moby-Dick, “Etymology,” “Extracts,” and chapters 1-15
M 9/03Labor Day; class will not meet.
W 9/05Moby-Dick, chapters 16-42
M 9/10Moby-Dick, chapters 43-78
W 9/12Moby-Dick, chapters 79-87
M 9/17Moby-Dick, chapters 88-126 [Rosh Hashanah]
W 9/19Moby-Dick, chapters 127-135 and epilogue

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