Teaching Moby-Dick

I’m likely going to be teaching a course on Moby-Dick to high school students this summer.  I was told I needed to get my potential students pumped.  Here’s what I got:

Title: Moby-Dick and Modern America

 Abstract: A multidisciplinary reading of Moby-Dick with particular consideration of its relevance to modern day America and to each of us as readers.


“I have written a wicked book, and feel as spotless as a lamb.”
–Melville in a Letter to Hawthorne, July 1851

This class is an introduction to Herman Melville’s famous epic, Moby-Dick; we will read the book in its entirety. This course explores a wide range of subjects, such as: philosophy, metaphysics, ontology, World/American/Scientific/Maritime history, art, mythology (Greek and otherwise), cetology, geography, popular art/culture, justice, poetry, environmentalism, etymology, civilization, savagery, Shakespeare, heroism, war, nothingness, evil, darkness, hell, the abyss, god, death, race, religion, nihilism, monstrousness, genius, madness, wisdom, ethics, eschatology and some slice of the complexity of existence within the human condition.

We will embark on this literary ship of the past as it winds its way from the world’s beginning to the present day, beginning at page one with Ishmael, a young man who, contemplating suicide, instead decides to commit himself to sea. You can expect to finish this class with no answers, but rather, a firm grasp of the magnitude of the questions. You can expect to improve enormously as a reader, to be mind-blown, blubber-brained, and equipped with a whole new set of philosophical and analytical tools to approach any daunting work of great literature you may read in the future. Have no fear: we will work together as a crew to harpoon this evil book. Join me on a whaling voyage around the world!

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