John William Hill, Capturing a Sperm Whale

Herman Melville: Moby-Dick

Instructor: David Sugarman
620 S 9th St
Philadelphia, PA 19147

“Whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul,” Ishmael muses, “I quietly take to the ship.” In this course we will join him, traveling with the crew of the Pequod and its captain, the monomaniacal Ahab, as we read, in its entirety, Melville’s multifaceted masterpiece, Moby-Dick; or, The Whale. We will discuss the novel’s historical context, considering it in relation to slavery, American imperial expansion, and transcendental philosophy; we will analyze its deep engagements with questions of labor, social organization, and queerness; and we will consider its experiments with literary form as so many meditations upon genre, language, and the production of knowledge.

But our focus will remain always upon Ishmael’s mood—that wild compass that guides his observations and reflections. It is, after all, a “damp, drizzly” feeling that starts this story; why? In recent decades, the scholarly investigation of feelings and moods—“Affect Theory”—has become a generative way of thinking about literary form and meaning. What is the relationship between Ishmael’s moods and Moby Dick’s (and Moby-Dick’s) meanings? How does an analysis of mood illuminate the topics mentioned above of history, society, literature, and philosophy? And might our moodiness as readers impact the mood of our narrator? Readings will include not only Moby-Dick, but also texts by Eve Sedgwick, Lauren Berlant, Stanley Cavell, and Brian Massumi.

Course Schedule

Thursday, 6:30-9:30pm
November 14 — December 12, 2019
4 sessions over 5 weeks
Class will not meet Thursday, November 28th.


Registration Open

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