Big Books

(BEGINS OCTOBER 21st) We take as our starting point a singular paradox: without popular culture (movies, radio, television, comic books, music) Moby-Dick would not be a literary classic, considered today one of the greatest literary texts written in the U.S., if not the greatest. But Moby-Dick was not always the greatest American novel.  The dissemination of Moby-Dick through twentieth-century mass media brought it to wide attention for the first time and resurrected a work that had never been popular in Melville’s day.  This class examines Moby-Dick, as both literary text and cultural phenomenon. Giving close attention to the novel as a rich experience in itself, we will also explore the emergence of Moby-Dick in twentieth-century media: early silent film, cinematic and theatrical adaptations, video, anime, music. Topics for discussion will include Melville’s sources and influences, changing definitions of the classic, race, gender, sexuality, and religion as questions for interpretations of the novel, and as issues in contemporary media translations of older forms and stories.