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Opening those Flood-Gates of the Wonder-World: Teaching and Learning Melville and the Arts ROBERT K. WALLACE Northern Kentucky University Beginningin 1992, Robert K. Wallace oflered severat courses on Melville and the Arts. In thefollowing essays, he and two of his students, Aaron Zlutkin and Ellen Bayel; reflect on their diJerent perspectivesin the classroom. efore Ishmael depicts Moby Dick in the open ocean, he sees him in his own “inmost soul.”At the end of “Loomings,”as “theflood-gates of the Bwonder-world swung open, and in the wild conceits that swayed me to my purpose, two and two there floated into my inmost soul, endless processions of the whale, and, midmost of them all, one grand hooded phantom, like a snow hill in the air.”’Ishmael’s endless vision opens a working space that will be animated, after the last day of the chase, by each reader’s inner vision of the whale. Our visions will differ, but each will have a common source in the process of reading Melville’s text. This literary dynamic, I have come to realize in writing this essay, anticipates the pedagogical dynamic that I have employed in teaching my undergraduate courses in Melville and the Arts. The syllabus that I distribute on the first day of class, conveying my own “wild conceits” for the direction of the course, plots our common itinerary for thirteen weeks of the fifteen-week semester. By designating “Student presentations” for the last two weeks, I open up the working space that each student will activate in a self-generated response to the procession of words and images that we will have all experienced as a group. 1first used the visual arts in teaching Melville out of frustration. During the 1970smy landlocked students in northern Kentucky, when reading MobyDick in my course in the American Novel, were having difficulty envisioning such passages as Ishmael’s description of the painting in the Spouter-Inn or his evocation of “The Lee Shore.” I projected slides of J. M. W Turner’s paintings of storms at sea, whaling scenes, and lee shores to suggest the kind of reality Ishmael was depicting. This seemed to help my students in the American Novel class, so I was emboldened to create a course in Literature and Painting to explore other ways in which students could benefit from experiencing these 1 Herman Melville, Moby-Dick; ol; the Whale, ed. Harrison Hayford, Hershel-Parker, and G. Thomas Tanselle (Evanston and Chicago: Northwestern University Press and the Newberry Library, 1988), p. 7. L E VI A T H A N A J O U R N A L O F M E L V I L L E S T U D I E S 3 3 R O B E R T K . W A L L A C E two arts in conjunction. As I began to investigate the Melville-Turner relationship in this new pedagogical context, I discovered opportunities for research as well as teaching. My early pedagogical experiments led to a 1985 essay on “TeachingMoby-Dick in the Light of Turner.”Z My subsequent research activity resulted in my 1992 book Melville and Turner: Spheres of Love and Fright (Georgia). Coinciding with the publication of the book was the first course I devoted exclusively to Melville and the Arts, during the Spring Semester 1992. That course (and its successors, as they have evolved) is the primary inspiration for this essay. My 1992 course in Melville and the Arts built upon much of the teaching and research I had done on Melville in relation to Turner in the previous decade. My syllabus also incorporated works from Frank Stella’sMoby-Dick series, a new research interest that I was beginning to pursue by writing essays and visiting the artist’sstudio.3 After reading-Moby-Dick,we studied the catalog for Stella’sthirteen Wave prints, published in London in 1989. Each print is named for a different chapter of the novel, yet the catalog had no commentary relating any of Stella’sart to Melville’swords. 4 Proposing that our classhad been given the task of generating the commentary for a revised edition of the catalog, I...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1750-1849
Print ISSN
1525-6995
Pages
pp. 33-41
Launched on MUSE
2013-05-29
Open Access
No
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