The Melville Society is dedicated to the study and appreciation of the nineteenth-century American author Herman Melville, writer of Typee, Moby-Dick, and Billy Budd, such short stories as “Bartleby” and “Benito Cereno,” and several volumes of poetry, including Battle-Pieces and the epic Clarel.
We publish the award-winning journal Leviathan and meet twice a year for fellowship and scholarly discourse at the annual conferences of the Modern Language Association and the American Literature Association. We also sponsor International Conferences and tours every other year.
Membership and Donations
Membership in The Melville Society is open to all. For information about joining The Melville Society click here. If you want to make a special payment or if you are interested in donating to any of the various projects, endowments, and programs sponsored by The Melville Society, click here.
Events and Announcements
Call for Papers - 12th International Conference - Melville's Bicentennial
New York University
New York, NY
June 17-20, 2019
(download link to CFP located below)
The Twelfth International Melville Society Conference will take place at New York University to celebrate the bicentennial of Herman Melville's birth in lower Manhattan in 1819. The conference will commemorate Melville's life, work, and legacies through a series of papers and conversations devoted to the theme of “origins” broadly conceived. We invite proposals for individual papers or panels organized around MELVILLE’S ORIGINS as it relates to historicist, theoretical, textual, biographical, and pedagogical approaches to Melville’s writings and to the history of their reception in criticism, adaptation, the digital world, popular culture, and the fine arts.
We are delighted to announce that our keynote speakers will be Rodrigo Lazo, Professor of English at UC-Irvine, and Wyn Kelley, Senior Lecturer in Literature at MIT. In addition to the regular panels and roundtables at New York University, there will be a number of special events and Melville-related excursions around New York City. We are also planning an optional post-conference daytrip to Mystic, CT, to tour the historic seaport and see the 1841 whale ship, Charles W. Morgan, on Friday, June 21.
For those traveling to New York City, we are working to procure reasonably priced suites in a residence hall on campus. More details will be available at our conference website, www.melville2019.weebly.com, scheduled to go live the last week of September.
We welcome proposals from independent scholars, creative artists, and academic scholars of diverse institutional affiliation, academic rank, and disciplinary background. We can accept two proposals from an individual so long as they involve two different roles (e.g. paper presenter as well as panel chair or roundtable discussant).
* Papers might focus on Melville’s works in relation to the terms "origins" and "original" as they were understood in various nineteenth-century discourses: for example, political and ethnological debates about national origins, racial lineage, or indigeneity; philosophical formulations of an essential or “aboriginal” self (to use Emerson’s phrase); scientific theories about the genesis of the cosmos, life-forms, and new species; proto-anthropological conversations about human origins, the origins of language, and the role of animals as intercessors between humankind and a primeval past; theological debates over “original sin” and human depravity; proto-psychological theories about the roots of morality, sexual desire, mental faculties, and personality traits.
* “Originality” is also a hallmark of the Romantic artist, and papers might explore Melville’s attitudes regarding this aesthetic. What do we make of Melville’s claim that “it is better to fail in originality, than to succeed in imitation,” especially in light of his own penchant for borrowing from other writers? Papers might explore Melville’s views of intellectual property and the publishing industry, his thinking about “original characters” in fiction, or his varied responses to Evert Duyckinck and Young America’s call for an original American literature. Likewise, papers might examine the importance assigned to artistic originality in popular and scholarly assessments of Melville’s writing.
* We also encourage papers that deploy “origins” as a key term for current theoretical approaches to Melville’s works. As a designation of both temporal and spatial starting points, the concept of origins might help us think about the commencement of narrative (“Call me Ishmael”) or the commencement of movement within an imagined geography—both of which might also be visualized through digital mapping. Scholars engaged in textual historiography, history of the book, or manuscript editing might discuss the problems of discerning an original text from the multiple versions and editions of Melville's works as well as explore the possibilities of using digital technology to present textual variants.
* We hope papers will use this anniversary to reflect on the nineteenth-century response to Melville’s works and on the origins and development of Melville Studies since its inception a century ago, to assess the current state of the field, and to think speculatively about new directions for scholarship and teaching. What new insights might be gleaned from revisiting Melville's origins in New York City—a beacon for global migration and a center of arts and letters—as well as the myriad materials from which he derived ideas and inspiration?
* Scholarship has often worked in tandem with creative responses to Melville by artists of various media, and accordingly, we also invite papers that think about the role of Melville-inspired contemporary art in opening new avenues of interpretation. How do such artistic appropriations suggest the relationship of an adaptation to its original, and how are Melville’s works transformed by such borrowings, filmic, fictional, artistic, and otherwise?
CALL FOR PAPERS
International Melville Conference
Co-hosted by the University of Lille and Paris-Diderot University (France)
October 17-18, 2019
DEADLINE FOR ALL SUBMISSIONS: February, 1st, 2019.
"The measure! the measure!" cried Ahab.
Ahab’s exclamation notwithstanding, Moby-Dick more readily calls to mind the longing for the “unshored, haborless immensities” (ch. 32), “indefinite as God” (ch. 23), than down-to-earth measures taken to apprehend or comprehend “the ungraspable phantom of life” (ch. 1). Significantly enough, “if money’s to be the measurer,” Ahab’s doubloon is an ambivalent gold standard, at once the symbol of rampant capitalism that has transformed the world into a “great counting-house,” the effigy of Ahab’s sovereign self and a figure for Ishmael’s continual forging of symbols of his own coinage. Even as it bears the stamp of Ahab’s empire, the gold coin remains a source of numberless speculations for Ishmael. “The measure” is rife with ambiguities.
Call for Nominations for the Hennig Cohen Prize
for the Best Work in Melville Studies
Click here or in the "Programs" menu above for a list of past winners.
Call for Papers
ALA - Fall Symposium 2018
Sights and Sites: Vision and Place in American Literature
November 1-3, 2018
Santa Fe, New Mexico
To download a flyer, click below.
For the 2018 Fall Symposium, the American Literature Association will head to beautiful Santa Fe, New Mexico. The Drury Plaza Hotel offers both an excellent location right near the central plaza and excellent rates. Single and double rooms will be available for $129 a night plus taxes; this rate includes not only a free breakfast and wireless access, but also an afternoon “kickback” every evening at 5:30 featuring hot food and cold drinks. Valet parking will be $10 per night.
Sights and Sites: Vision and Place in American Literature: What does it mean to envision the American landscape? What are the philosophical, psychological, and political factors that shape how writers look at a place and transform their perceptions into works of fiction, poetry, drama, travel writing, and autobiography? How does race, class, and gender influence the perception of natural and social sites? These and other related questions should provide for a lively weekend of literary exploration and good conversation. We welcome proposals for individual papers, complete panels, and roundtable discussions on any aspect of this important subject.
Please send all proposals to the conference director at
as soon as possible and no later than September 15, 2018.
Leviathan: A Journal of Melville Studies
Vol. 20 – No. 2
Click image to visit the Leviathan website
Leviathan: A Journal of Melville Studies, volume 20, issue 2, is now available through Project Muse at http://muse.jhu.edu/issue/38709, and dues-paying members of The Melville Society can expect copies in the mail in the next month. The issue contains a cluster of essays on digital approaches to Melville’s marginalia in Shakespeare, Milton, and Home, guest-edited by Steven Olsen-Smith and Christopher Ohge of Melville’s Marginalia Online and including contributions from Peter Norberg and Tony McGowan as well as the guest editors. Notably, these pieces also have multiple student co-contributors. The issue also includes pieces from Warren Broderick on Melville and a “young Scotch Artist” and John Gretchko on Melville’s will and three reviews: Joel Pfister on Robert S. Levine and Cindy Weinstein’s Norton Critical Edition of Pierre; Jennifer Greiman on Branka Arsić and K. L. Evans’s collection Melville’s Philosophies; and Christopher Phillips on Brian Yothers’s Sacred Uncertainty. “All Astir,” a Bezanson Archive Fellowship Report from Meaghan Fritz, and MLA 2018 abstracts round out the issue. For information on subscribing to Leviathan, see https://www.press.jhu.edu/cgi-bin/order.cgi?oc_id=2102
Membership in the Melville Society includes a Leviathan subscription.
Click here for information about Society membership.
2019 Modern Language Association Conference
In addition to Rodrigo Lazo's panel, "Reading The Confidence-Man Today," Kim Evans' panel on "Melville’s Quarrel with Modernity" was accepted. While it's not directly a Society event John Matteson and Edlie Wong's "American Lives: Whitman and Melville" was also accepted. We'll be hosting our first cash bar! It should be a nice bridge between our panels and our dinner… and an opportunity to do something special for the bicentennial. Scheduling information will be posted soon.
Reading The Confidence-Man Today
What types of interpretations come up when someone reads the The Confidence-Man in light of recent events? Presenters should offer short, reflective pieces (8 minutes) that provoke discussion. Although a lack of faith (or confidence) in political institutions is a major part of news reports today, presenters may focus on any of the topics brought up in Melville’s book, including stocks and finance, religious organizations, charity, racial identity, belief, and other considerations. Other approaches could include reflections on reading historically or the dynamics of re-reading today.
Organizer: Rodrigo Lazo
Panelists: Peter Bellis, Russ Castronovo, Meredith Farmer, Justine Murison, Sam Otter
Melville’s Quarrel with Modernity
Melville is not recognized for the clarity of his philosophical arguments. But the argument driving this panel is that Melville’s philosophical arguments have been miscategorized: taken to embody the ethos of the distinctively modern world, when in fact what they offer is nothing less than a wide-ranging rejection of modernity’s dominant assumptions. Panelists turn a harsh light on some of the beliefs that characterize modern Western thought.
Organizer: K.L. Evans
Panelists: Jason de Stefano, Willis McCumber, Pilar Martinez Benedi, Joe Conway, Tim Sweet, K.L. Evans
Respondent: Michael Puett
American Lives: Whitman and Melville
At their bicentennial, we examine the challenges and rewards of writing the lives of Whitman and Melville. Who were they? Who, via scholarship, have they become?
Organizer: John Matteson and Edlie Wong
Panelists: Michael Bateman, Kelvin Beliele, John Bryant, Meredith Farmer
Call for Essays – Special Bicentennial Issues of Leviathan
"Melville at 200"
Deadline September 1, 2018
“Mer Pacifique.” 1776. Historic Maps Collection, Department of Rare Books and
Special Collections. Courtesy of Princeton University Library.
"And some certain significance lurks in all things, else all things are little worth, and the round world itself but an empty cipher."
Chapter 99 of Moby-Dick, “The Doubloon”
The year 2019 marks the 200th anniversary of Herman Melville’s birth. For special issues of Leviathan: A Journal of Melville Studies to be published in the bicentennial year, the journal’s editors invite submissions on any aspect of Melville’s work, life, times, and reception. We welcome submissions, critical or creative, that advance our understanding of the “certain significance” of Melville at the present moment, 200 years after his birth and 100 years after the biographical and critical “Melville Revival.”
Contributions might approach Melville from any number of methodological and theoretical perspectives and foreground any number of issues, including politics, religion, the arts, aesthetics, biography, textuality, digital humanities, US and world literatures, and global reception. How does Melville continue to speak, as C. L. R. James phrased it, to the “world we live in”?
Click the link below to download a PDF of the Call for Essays.
Call for Papers
The 12th Biennial Symbiosis Conference
11-14 July 2019, University of Dundee, Scotland, UK
Deadline for proposals: 30 January 2019.
The 12th Biennial Symbiosis Conference will take place at the University of Dundee, Scotland, 11-14 July 2019. As ever, we welcome paper and panel proposals on all areas of Transatlantic literary exchange.
Deadline for proposals: 30 January 2019.
In addition to the general call for papers, there will be three special themes:
Dundee in the spotlight:
Dundee is one of the great powerhouses of comics production, not just in the UK, but internationally. The publisher DC Thomson is at the heart of the city, and many of the top comics creators in Britain began their careers with the company or have been inspired by Dundee’s comics. It is therefore fitting that Dundee hosts annual events that celebrate this legacy, and that the University of Dundee offers courses in Comics Studies at both undergraduate and postgraduate level.
The University of Dundee is a world leader in Anatomy and Human Identification and hosts the Leverhulme Research Centre for Forensic Science. Harnessing this scientific expertise, Dundee now offers a Masters in Creative Writing: Crime Fiction and Forensic Investigation. Scotland has a flourishing crime writing scene with several crime festivals in stunning historic locations celebrating the ‘tartan noir’ phenomenon.
Located on the east coast, Dundee is Scotland’s sunniest city, and one of the easiest to get to. It has a regional airport, but Edinburgh and Glasgow airports are also conveniently close. 90% of Scotland is within 90 minutes’ drive, with famous castles, lochs and golf courses easy to visit even for a daytrip.
Visit Our Media Pages
Featuring Videos from Our International Conferences and a Poetry Reading by Gordon Poole
Photo Gallery of the June 2017 London Conference on Flickr
Thanks to the photographers and participants in 11th International Conference in London last June
for sharing their memories and photos.
Click in the menu above to view the "Photos" page for a gallery of photos from the London 2017 conference.