Spring 2010

HUMS 621
Melville's Major Works: Fact, Fiction, and Metafiction


02/20/2010 - 05/01/2010
Saturday 10:00 AM - 01:30 PM

Special Schedule: Saturdays, February 20 - May 1 (excluding March 27 & April 3)

From his first book, Typee, a travelogue based on his own captivity by Polynesian cannibals, to his major works, Moby-Dick and Benito Cereno, Herman Melville drew inspiration for his writings from both his own experiences and reading historical narratives, from which he pilfered at will. For Melville, the boundaries between personal experiences, reading, and writing are as fluid as the formal distinctions between fiction and non-fiction, autobiography and novel, or plot and exposition. In Moby-Dick and elsewhere, Melville represents writing as a mode of reading, and both become explicit subjects of the story, inseparable from Ahab's quest for the White Whale. What, then, can Melville teach us about reading itself? Can we become better readers under his guidance and instruction?

This course examines Melville's major works, his source materials, and two 20th-century adaptations of Billy Budd (the opera by Benjamin Britten and the film by Peter Ustinov) to understand how the relation of reading, writing, and experience informs Melville's philosophical explorations and his critique of 19th-century culture.

Reading includes adventure tales: Typee and Omoo, Moby-Dick, and The Confidence Man; shorter novels: Benito Cereno, The Encantadas, and Billy Budd. Source materials include The Narrative of Amasa Delano, Mocha Dick, The Essex Wrecked by a Whale, and Indian Hating, an Account of Col. Moredock. We will view films Billy Budd by Benjamin Britten (opera) and Peter Ustinov (motion picture).

In addition to writing one short (4-5 page) and one longer (10-15 page) critical paper, we will follow Melville's lead and try our hand at a creative reading or re-writing of one or more historical narratives.

We may take a field trip to Mystic Seaport for a "Melville" tour for which students will be expected to pay out of pocket.

Course tuition: $2022.

Students should read Moby-Dick prior to the start of the course. In addition, we will begin discussion of Typee during the first class session.

Enrollment is limited to 18 students. This course is open to auditors.

Charles Baraw (BA University of Vermont; MA Middlebury College; PHD Yale University) is a visiting assistant professor of English. His current book project is Hawthorne and the Travelling Eye: Tourism and Nineteenth-century American Literary Culture, which examines the role of aesthetics in travel, apprehension, narrative structure, and the development of professional authorship in the United States. Click here for more information about Charles Baraw.


Consent of Instructor Required: No

Format: Seminar

Level: GLSP Credits: 3 Enrollment Limit: 18

Texts to purchase for this course:
Herman Melville, MOBY-DICK, 2nd edition 2001 (Norton Critical), Paperback

Herman Melville, TYPEE: A PEEP AT POLYNESIAN LIFE (Penguin Classics), Paperback

Herman Melville, THE CONFIDENCE-MAN (Oxford World's Classics), Paperback

Dan McCall, MELVILLE'S SHORT NOVELS (Norton Critical Editions), Paperback

Recommended Texts

Michael Davy, HERMAN MELVILLE'S MOBY-DICK: A SOURCEBOOK (Routledge Literary Sourcebooks), Paperback

Herman Melville, THE POEMS OF HERMAN MELVILLE (Kent State University Press), Paperback


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