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Straight from the Whale’s Mouth: A Student’s Experiences with Moby-Dick ELLEN M. BAYER Northern Kentucky University Class of 2001 S:.;‘ The ie words “Moby-Dick”and “read”in the same sentence to a student, you will observe an expression of overwhelming dread and panic. mere mention of Melville’snovel is as frightening to many students as the great whale itself was to the whalers. Moby-Dick has a reputation for being a long, boring, and extremely difficultbook. Part of this may be because many students experience the novel in a class that looks at it only as a work of literature, without the opportunity to explore the countless other facets and subjects that the novel contains. Having read the novel in three different classes , with three different approaches-as a work of literature, as compared to the arts, and as a text of cross-cultural exploration-I came to the conclusion that pairing Moby-Dick with other subjects made reading it easier, more interesting, and much more rewarding. Not only did I learn to look at the novel in a new light, but I also discovered creative ways of responding to the novel in ways of which I had not realized I was capable. As a high school student in upper-level English classes, I knew the reading of Moby-Dick was inevitable. My stomach sank when the huge book was placed before me on the desk, which sagged from the weight of the book. The teacher assigned certain chapters, and the rest were considered “skip chapters ,” which were to be read by individual students, and then presented to the class. Class discussions were held, but their main focus was to look at the novel as a work of literature, and did not delve into any non-literary subjects relating to the novel. It was a good experience in that we got this enormous book under our belts and felt like any novel thereafter would be a piece of cake. But 1wanted more than this. As a second-semester freshman at Northern Kentucky University my English professor, Dr. Robert Wallace, presented the unique opportunity to take a class about Melville and the Arts, which would have as its focus MobyDick . I had enjoyed the novel enough to want to study it again, and was intrigued by the idea of taking a fresh approach. So I dove in, head first. One requirement was to keep ajournal of our thoughts and feelingsabout our reading . I found this in itself to be a great help, as I was able to reflect on what I had read, make my own interpretations, develop questions, and relate the 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 4 7 E L L E N M . B A Y E R novel to my own life and experiences. Collecting my thoughts together in such a way helped prepare me to participate in the class discussions. We were also asked to pick a significant passage from each reading assignment to discuss with the class. This gave us freedom to lead our discussions and look at parts of the book that we felt were important. I think this personalization of the novel, relating it to our lives and interests, made it a much more enjoyable experience for us. The main focus of the class was to look at the art inspired by Melville, with an emphasis on the collection of artwork in Elizabeth Shultz’s book Unpainted To The Last. It was amazing to see how many people had created works of art inspired by Moby-Dick. A new door was opened up for me, and I learned that not only could one interpret this book, and all books for that matter , by writing about it and discussing it, but that there were other creative outlets for exploring the novel. Again, as we had done with the passages, we were asked to pick out artwork that we felt was significant for class discussion. We had free rein to interpret the art and relate it to the novel. I had had...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1750-1849
Print ISSN
1525-6995
Pages
pp. 47-54
Launched on MUSE
2013-05-29
Open Access
No
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