- All Astir
The "overwhelming idea of the great whale himself" drew scholars from every continent except Antarctica to New York City in June to celebrate Melville's bicentennial. "Such a portentous and mysterious monster roused all [our] curiosity." Scholars came, crowds of them, "pacing straight for the water, and seemingly bound for a dive." But it was not only in New York that people congregated in tribute to Melville's birth. Melville and his works were honored throughout the world.
The Twelfth International Melville Conference, "Melville's Origins," which took place in New York City June 17–20, with a trip to Mystic Seaport Museum in Connecticut on June 21, was a tremendous success. There were 220 people registered, one of the largest numbers ever assembled for a Melville conference, with 130 papers in 40 sessions. Thank you to co-directors Jennifer Baker (New York University) and Tony McGowan (United States Military Academy at West Point) for a conference that appeared flawless. The program, rich in activities and variety, was put together by the co-directors with the help of Dawn Coleman (University of Tennessee—Knoxville) and Martha Elena Rojas (University of Rhode Island). New York University was a gracious host. Many scholars were especially appreciative of the NYU dormitories, which made staying in the center of New York City financially possible. Full conference coverage will appear in the next issue of Leviathan (March 2020), including the two keynote talks, conference reports, and a photo gallery.
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As part of the New York conference, Strand Books hosted "Swimming Through Libraries" on the evening of June 19. John Bryant read from his forthcoming biography Herman Melville: A Half Known Life. Editor Robert K. Elder previewed a new edition of Moby-Dick containing 300-plus illustrations based on a series of paintings and drawings that Gilbert Wilson created between 1949 and 1960. There were readings by several of the poets whose work appears in After Moby-Dick: An Anthology of New Poetry, edited by Elizabeth Schultz and Kylan Rice. Two days later, the New Bedford Whaling Museum in New Bedford, Massachusetts, hosted a book launch and signing for the collection. Poets Everett Hoagland, Kylan Rice, Laurie Robertson-Lorant, Elizabeth Schultz, and Onyinye Uwolloh read their poems at the event.
Less than two weeks after "Melville's Origins," another international conference, "Over_Seas: Melville, Whitman, and All the Intrepid Sailors," was held in Lisbon, Portugal, July 3–5. Hosted by the University of Lisbon Centre for English Studies' Research Group in American Studies, the conference centered on Melville, Whitman, and other maritime writers. The University of Lisbon's Edgardo Medeiros Silva, Margarida Vale de Gato, and Teresa Cid served as co-directors. The conference was impeccably organized and included talks, a book display at the National Library of Portugal, theatrical productions, a film series, including a well-attended viewing of the 1956 John Huston Moby Dick, and a concert titled Walt'z Intrepid Sailors, created by students specifically for the conference. Mário Avelar (Universidade Aberta), Mary K. Bercaw Edwards (University of Connecticut), Jamie Jones (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign), and Maria Irene Ramalho de Sousa Santos (University of Coimbra and University of Wisconsin-Madison) were the keynote speakers. There were scholars from four continents. Maki Sadahiro (Meijigakuin University), who attended the New York conference, flew home to Japan and then flew 17 hours to Portugal, all in less than two weeks, came the farthest. A great sense of camaraderie developed amongst the participants, especially during the bus trip along the coast to Cascais, where the conference banquet was held in the magnificent Portuguese Navy Officers' Mess, constructed on the site of the Fort of Santa Cata (Fort of Saint Catherine).
As a special treat, Margarida Vale de Gato had secured a case of Moby-Dick wine from the Lima & Quental Winery on the island of São...