Classes & Workshops

Reading Moby Dick

Instructor(s): David Sanders
Location: WAB – 740 University Ave.
Beginner Beginner Beginner

Many call Herman Melville’s Moby Dick The Great American Novel. Some say it is not a novel at all.  A big book in every way, it describes the voyage of The Pequod, an American whaling vessel manned by memorable characters whose personalities and stories are skillfully interwoven. Foremost among them is its captain, Ahab, “godlike, ungodly,” leading his crew in obsessive pursuit of a great white whale known as Moby Dick. Spliced into this narrative are detailed descriptions of whaling and whales—some highly dramatic, others intriguingly technical, many of them comic, and all exploring matters psychological, historical, social and political that reflect on the book’s characters and plot.
Moby Dick is set in pre-Civil War America, reflecting that nation’s strengths, aspirations, and cultural tensions, making the book also a parable of the forces that bind, advance, and threaten a human community.  A deeply serious book, it is also shaped by a keen and subtle sense of humor.  Reading it is a challenge, but also great fun, especially when one does it along with others.
This seminar assumes no particular knowledge of Melville or American history and no particular expertise in literary analysis—just a keen interest in reading and discussing a challenging text. The book is big, but we will read it in manageable segments. If you’ve often wondered what Moby Dick is like and why it’s so famous but hesitated to take it on alone, this is your chance.

*Please note that this course has had a slight change – the starting date will be October 2nd and the course will run through November 20th.