Approaches to Teaching Melville’s Moby-Dick

  • Editor: Martin Bickman
  • Pages: x & 157 pp.
  • Published: 1985
  • ISBN: 9780873524896 (Cloth)
  • ISBN: 9780873524902 (Paperback)
Approaches to Teaching Melville's Moby-Dick Cover

“The essays are lively and informative and cheerfully promote interpretations and ‘structures for teaching’ which others can ‘adapt, modify, or completely reverse.’ The collection will be helpful primarily to those who are new or relatively new to teaching Moby-Dick, but even old Melville hands are likely to come across ideas they will want to incorporate into their teaching.”

American Literary Scholarship

Pondering the physical and metaphysical implications of the whale’s circulatory system, the narrator of Moby-Dick says, “But how easy and how hopeless to teach these fine things!” Ishmael’s exclamation is reflected in the two purposes of this volume: to provide a practical “starter kit,” particularly for instructors who are teaching the novel for the first time, and to stimulate the resourcefulness and creativity of all teachers—including those who have taught the novel for years. The many suggestions and approaches in this collection are distilled in large part from the responses to a lengthy survey of 139 teachers and 72 students.

This volume, like others in the MLA’s Approaches to Teaching World Literature series, is divided into two parts. The first part, “Materials,” reviews editions, critical and background reading, reference works, and aids to teaching (including audiovisual materials). In the second part, “Approaches,” fourteen teachers share strategies for presenting Moby-Dick to a range of college audiences, from members of a freshman honors course to non-English majors. The contributors consider basic questions on how to teach the novel (e.g., whether to teach the book while students are reading it or after they have finished; what types of background materials to present) and employ a spectrum of methodologies and techniques (e.g., encouraging students to keep journals; exploring the novel’s lexicon; incorporating the paintings of J. M. W. Turner).