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The Exceptional Eighth International Melville Conference ELIZABETH SCHULTZ University of Kansas I n his keynote lecture for the Eighth International Melville Conference, “Exceptional Rome,” Dennis Berthold suggested that the founders of many small American towns expressed their yearning to identify with Rome’s grandeur and glory in naming themselves after the imperial city. As his lecture developed, Dennis noted, however, exceptionalism’s limitations because of its association with ideas of exclusivity and argued that, throughout his writings, Melville himself connected the exceptional with the possibilities for realizing diverse relationships. In terms of discovering and expanding relationships, the Eighth International Melville Conference reflected Melville’s vision. c  2012 The Melville Society and Wiley Periodicals, Inc. L E V I 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 101 E L I Z A B E T H S C H U L T Z Our eighth Melville conference was in the making since 2003 when John Bryant, attending a conference in Rome on Emerson, proposed a Roman conference on Melville to Giorgio Mariani. The success of this conference is due to the dedicated work of the triumvirate of John, representing the Melville Society Executive Board; Giorgio, organizing on the ground, day in and day out, from his position at the Università di Roma–Sapienza; and Gordon Poole, maestro of all matters Melvillean in Italy. In the course of the conference, Giorgio and the participants also repeatedly gave thanks for the assistance of the hard-working, patient, ingenious, and cheerful group of Sapienza students who helped us by dealing with accommodation and technological logistics, directing us to various events, organizing a grand walking tour of Melville’s Rome, and serving delicious snacks and drinks, including fresh cherries and prosecco to conclude the conference. Perhaps the largest of the Melville Society’s international conferences, the Rome meeting brought together Europeans, North Americans, Middle Easterners, and Asians. We were a global gathering, an Anacharsis Clootz deputation. Many of us were old-time Melvilleans who had attended several of the previous international conferences, while others were on hand for their first Melville conference. Large numbers of young scholars delivered provocative papers and gathered between sessions and long into the night at Rome’s countless outdoor cafes. Perhaps the youngest Melvillean was seventeen-year old Luisa Barbano from Rochester, New York, a Moby-Dick enthusiast since she first read the novel when she was eight years old. Participants flowed convivially together, from the conference’s first day, held in the Centro Studi Americani located in the elegant, seventeenth-century Palazzo Mattei di Giove Antici with its arched courtyards, imposing statues and busts, book-lined rooms, and frescoed ceilings, through the following days at a contemporary, technologically sophisticated building at the Università di Roma–Sapienza. Between sessions, new and old Melville friends gathered for ongoing conversation and coffee, and during the lunch break and in the evenings, we continued talking over pizza or pasta in the restaurants available in the university district where most of us were staying. The beating heart of the conference was Melville and his relationship to Rome, in particular, and Italy, in general. Participants approached Melville’s Italian relationship through his correspondence, his travel journals, his lectures (“Statues in Rome” received repeated attention), his collection of prints, as well as through his fiction. Thus, papers not only referenced Greek and Roman classical arts and writers but also focused on Melville in Rome in his own time. They considered, for example, other Americans visiting Italy during the nineteenth century, among them James Fenimore Cooper, Margaret 102 L E V I A T H A N T H E E X C E P T I O N A L E I G H T H Fuller, and Harriet Hosmer. The conference’s capacious subtitle—“Empire, Democracy, Belief, Art”—provided catalysts for numerous presentations on Melville’s concern for politics and religion, with art interpreted broadly to include the visual arts, prosody, music, and aesthetics, often as these subjects related especially to Italian creators and thinkers. In discussing their own Moby-Dick-inspired...


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