English R1A

Reading and Composition: Writing with Moby-Dick

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
13 Fall 2021 Bondy, Katherine Isabel
TTh 9:30-11 Online


“And yet was there a sort of indefinite, half-attained, unimaginable sublimity about it that fairly froze you to it.” – Herman Melville, Moby-Dick

In this course, we will write and think alongside Herman Melville’s 1851 novel, Moby-Dick; or, The Whale. We will read (and re-read!) the novel slowly and immersively to become closely acquainted with its narrative innovations and memorable cast of characters: a monomaniacal, one-legged captain; tattooed cannibals; a voraciously curious narrator; and, of course, the elusive white whale whom they all relentlessly pursue. We will not simply read the novel for its plot, but also for what it teaches us along the way—about our relationship to the environment, to others, and to meaning-making itself. Our goal will be to chart individual and collective paths through the novel: to each find “a sort of indefinite, half-attained, unimaginable sublimity” in Melville’s text that “fairly freezes us to it.” In other words, we will think deeply about what compels us most in this multi-faceted text and, in turn, about how to respond critically, creatively, and compassionately.

This is, first and foremost, a writing-intensive course. By making a single text the object of our study, we will explore how writing can change and evolve our thinking about a piece of literature over time. Through a series of composition projects of varying lengths, we will experiment with questions of argument, analysis, style, and audience. Since writing is an ongoing and collaborative process, we will also devote ample time to revision and peer workshopping.  

Required text: Herman Melville, Moby-Dick (Norton Critical Edition, Second Edition, ed. Hershel Parker and Harrison Hayford); additional texts and media TBA 

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