- Report:Melville Society—Bezanson Archive Fellowship 2014
Click for larger view
View full resolution
More than the $500 stipend and a two-week stay with free accommodations at the Melville Society Archive in New Bedford, receiving the 2014 Walter E. Bezanson Fellowship was proof that the research I was conducting resonated beyond the limits of my desk in Argentina. My short two-week journey into the archives became an expansive and unexpected experience, centering on the homecoming to New Bedford, Massachusetts, of the Charles W. Morgan during her 38th Voyage.
My current research project centers on the combined use of French Genetic Criticism and Fluid Text Theory in the study of John Huston’s 1956 [End Page 113] adaptation of Moby-Dick, most specifically, the use and transformation of metaphors as they are worked into film. As a consequence, going to New Bedford meant gaining access to the Melville Society’s wonderful archive, where I would find volumes that I had only read about in books or online. But it also gave me the chance to expand my two-week itinerary into a four-week journey in search of other resources that would prove beneficial in the short term and key in the long run.
The first leg of my journey, before New Bedford, was the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI), where I met Jonathan Eller and Robin Condon. They kindly gave me a tour of the Center’s collection of Bradbury’s first editions and limited editions, as well as the typewriter on which he usually wrote his stories; they also showed me an advance copy of a few chapters from Prof. Eller’s soon-to-be-published biography Bradbury Unbound, among other pieces of great interest. But the rarest gem came from the Center’s archives. I was able to look at—and make digital copies of—facsimiles of the screenplay, organized in twelve folders, which spanned from the first draft pages—begun in September 1953, on a train from Los Angeles to New York—to the release script, dated February 1956.
Before incorporating these sources into my dossier, I had mainly worked with two published versions of the script: one published by Bradbury himself in 2008 through Subterranean Press and a screenplay marked “Final,” published electronically by the Alexander Street Press in 2007, which belongs to Warner Bros. Studios. There was already evidence of a sequential relationship between the versions, but the collation with the versions found at the Center’s archives opened up new possibilities for interpretation and analysis. Even though these new sources cannot be immediately included in my present research, they widen the spectrum for future work.
The next leg of my journey led to New Bedford. At Robert K. Wallace’s suggestion, I arrived there on June 26, just in time for the arrival of the Charles W. Morgan. I couldn’t help but wonder what the celebration would be like. Shortly enough, I found out that whatever my expectations had been about the Morgan’s homecoming, they could not come close to what the town had prepared. The moment Professor Wallace and I walked on to the State Pier, during that clear, crisp New England morning, my mind was entirely moved by the view.
The ship itself was an enigma. Smaller than I had imagined, it had a just-out-of-the-oven look because of its restoration that made me question the diagrams of the Pequod so heavily carved in my mind. Later that day, as I walked on and below deck, amid the multitudinous artifacts that make the [End Page 114] nineteenth-century Yankee whaler, I couldn’t help but touch every item or peer down every crevice. The undiscovered anatomist in me had breached, and it spouted curiosity through every pore. Once below deck, the stifling atmosphere made me wonder at Ahab’s seemingly quiet moments in his locked cabin and at the thick odors from the distillation of blubber that would have inundated the whole ship, only to ooze into the welcoming timber...