In the weeks leading up to the 2017 Flexner Lectures, we're highlighting the many engaging courses being offered in conjunction with Brown University Professor Bonnie Honig's residency and lectures. "Moby Dick" is taught by Associate Professor of English Bethany Schneider.
“It was the whiteness of the whale that above all things appalled me,” Ishmael muses as he tries to understand the monomaniacal hunt that drives Captain Ahab and his crew of whalers of every race and creed to their watery doom. Herman Melville’s 1851 Moby Dick and historical and critical materials surrounding it, will be the entire subject of this course. An allegory of a nation charging toward Civil War, a nation founded on ideals of freedom and equality, but built on capitalist expansion, white supremacy, slavery and genocide, Moby Dick is hailed by many (and many who have never read it) as “The Great American Novel.” But which America, whose America? Written for the generation that would fight the Civil War, how does this novel continue to describe America, today? By turns comic, tragic, epic, mundane, thuddingly literal and gorgeously spiritual and metaphysical, the novel rewards both intricate close reading and intense historical and critical analysis. We will take up questions of race, gender and sexuality, colonialism, the animal and the human, the oceanic, freedom, individuality, totalitarianism, capitalism, nation and belonging. Students will write a midterm and a final research paper.
Established in honor of Mary Flexner, a Bryn Mawr graduate of the class of 1895, the Flexner Lectureship has brought some of the world’s best-known humanists to campus for a brief residency. In addition to their public lectures, holders of the Mary Flexner Lectureship often lead seminars or discussions with undergraduate and graduate students. By agreement with Bryn Mawr, the Flexner Lectures are subsequently published by Harvard University Press.