Moby-Dick: A whaling yarn, Shakespearian tragedy, or both?

Now considered one of the greatest American novels, Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick (1851) initially sold fewer than 500 copies, was widely panned by critics, and had gone out of print by the time of the author’s death in 1891. We will find new reasons to enjoy this high-seas adventure. The instructor will bring a sailor’s eye and adventurer’s passion to the rich symbols and high drama found on every page of this epic American maritime journey. The class will plumb the depths of Melville’s world, its unexpected humor, and its unforgettable characters, finding the elements that link Ishmael and Ahab to our own time- and indeed to all times.  


Instructor: Mary K. Bercaw Edwards

Date: Tuesdays, April 26, May 3, 10

Time: 6:30–8:30 pm

Location: Wasch Center Butterfield Room 

  • Required Reading
    Instructor's preferred edition:
    Moby-Dick, Longman Critical Edition edited by John Bryant and Haskell Springer
    ISBN-13: 978-0-205-51408-3
    ISBN-10: 0-205-51408-1
    If it is out of print, used copies can be found by going to <> and entering the following:
    Author: Melville, Herman
    Title: Moby-Dick
    Keyword: Longman Critical Edition.
    If the Longman Critical Edition cannot be found, the Norton Critical Edition, third edition, is a good text with a nice set of footnotes and wonderful materials at the back.
    Whichever edition you use, please ensure that your edition has 135 chapters plus Extracts in the front and an Epilogue at the end. Many cheap popular editions are missing some of the chapters. Another way to tell a good text from a bad one is to see if the title has a hyphen: Moby-Dick. If it has a hyphen, it's probably a good text--if the hyphen is missing, it's probably a poor text.