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
MLA 2019 - Chicago
Two Panels: Reading the Confidence-Man Today and Melville's Quarrel with Modernity
Panel 1: 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.
Panel 2: Melville’s Quarrel with Modernity
In anticipation of an energized year in Melville studies (when on the 200th anniversary of his birth we consider Melville’s significance in the present moment) contributors to this panel will reflect on a vital but largely unexplored feature of Melville’s thinking: his quarrel with modernity.
Melville is not recognized for the clarity of his philosophical arguments. At best, his philosophizing is dismissed as ingenious but muddled. But perhaps Melville’s philosophical arguments have been hard to grasp because they have been miscategorized; they have been taken to embody the ethos of the distinctively modern world (that is, after the defining work of Descartes and Locke) when in fact what they offer is nothing less than a wide-ranging rejection of modernity’s dominant assumptions.
On this panel, accordingly, we will use Melville’s writing to turn a harsh light on some of the beliefs that characterize modern Western thought.
Melville’s writing has meant many things to many people, but as yet it has not been seen as a way to unite or bring into conversation the growing number of theorists resisting the modernity narrative—theorists making an effort to knock down the edifice of dualism, think carefully about where the nature-culture binary has come from (and what we might imagine in its place), cast doubt on the view that the body is inessential to mind, and in other ways question the account of the world offered by the moderns.
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.
NEH Summer Institute for Teachers
The New Bedford Whaling Museum
Application Deadline is March 1, 2018
Amount of stipend varies according to weeks of participation:
one week ($1,200), two weeks ($2,100), three weeks ($2,700), or four weeks ($3,300).
Click the image below for application instructions.
Tim Marr has announced that the Melville Society Cultural Project's collaboration with the New Bedford Whaling Museum has been awarded funding for a NEH Summer Institute for School Teachers that will take place at the New Bedford Whaling Museum in Massachusetts from June 17-30, 2018.
You can use the links at the end of this article to download for distribution the flyer and full press release. Here are some excerpts from the press release:
The New Bedford Whaling Museum, in association with Melville Society Cultural Project, has been awarded a $136,342 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). The grant will fund a two-week Summer Institute for Teachers in 2018, which will illuminate the art and context of Herman Melville’s famous 19th century American novel Moby-Dick, and help teachers from across the country interpret the book for 21st century students.
Six nationally recognized scholars make up the Melville Society Cultural Project, aimed at sharing an understanding of Herman Melville’s writings, life, and times. They will serve as principal faculty of the Institute: Jennifer Baker, New York University; Mary K. Bercaw Edwards, University of Connecticut; Wyn Kelley, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Chris Sten, George Washington University; Robert K. Wallace, Northern Kentucky University; and Timothy Marr, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, serving as the Institute Director.
“The Melville Society Cultural Project is delighted to partner with the Whaling Museum to bring teachers from around the country to New Bedford, the historical center of American whaling,” said Tim Marr, Director of the Summer Institute for Teachers. “From there we will journey forth together on Melville’s Pequod in quest of Moby-Dick, a text that swims on and is crucially relevant for understanding our human dilemmas in the 21st century.”
The Institute will be hosted at the New Bedford Whaling Museum. New Bedford, Massachusetts is a meaningful location for intensive study of Herman Melville’s masterpiece in the context of the whaling industry. Melville arrived in New Bedford on Christmas day 1840 and shipped nine days later on the Acushnet from Fairhaven across the harbor. Since 2000, the Whaling Museum has partnered with the Melville Society Cultural Project to offer scholarly programming, and the Museum is home to the Melville Society Archive, which constitutes one of the best collections of Melville scholarship anywhere in the world.
Click below for printable flyer.
Click below for press release.
A Call for Book Proposals
From Richard King of the University Press of New England
The University Press of New England and the Williams College-Mystic Seaport Maritime Studies Program seek book proposals for our “Seafaring America” series.
We are looking for works in three categories:
1. Suggestions for timely reissues of forgotten, out-of-print American works of literary and cultural distinction, with new introductions that frame the work for a modern audience.
2. Proposals for anthologies and/or selected editions of writers’ work.
3. Proposals for books of original scholarship or of general interest, according to the series mission below.
We have particular interest in underrepresented voices and “blue” environmental studies.
“Seafaring America” is a series of original and classic works of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and drama exploring the history of America’s engagement with our oceans and coastlines. Spanning diverse eras, populations, and geographical settings, the series strives to introduce, revive, and aggregate a wide range of exemplary and/or seminal stories about our American maritime heritage. This includes the accounts of First Peoples, explorers, voluntary and forced immigrants, women in maritime communities, fishermen, whalers, captains, common sailors, members of the navy and coast guard, marine biologists and oceanographers, and the crews of vessels ranging from lifeboats, riverboats, and tugboats to recreational yachts. “Seafaring America” introduces new stories of maritime interest and reprints books that have fallen out of circulation and deserve reappraisal. The series also publishes selections from well-known works that warrant reconsideration because of the lessons they offer about our relationship with our watery planet.
Leviathan: A Journal of Melville Studies
Vol. 19 – No. 3
Leviathan 19.3 is up on Project Muse! It includes a cluster of essays on Clarel by Zachary McLeod Hutchins, Neal Schleifer, Karen Lentz Madison and R. D. Madison, and Brian Yothers; essays on "The Paradise of Bachelors and the Tartarus of Maids" and Pierre by Jonathan A. Cook and Susanna Compton Underland; poetry by Robert Farrell and Diane Raptosh; book reviews by Colin Dewey and Dawn Coleman; and Extracts. Melville Society members, look for your print copies in the mail over the next couple of weeks!
Membership in the Melville Society includes a Leviathan subscription.
Click here for information about Society membership.
American Literature Association
Call for Papers – Three Panels
29th Annual Conference
May 24-27, 2018
San Francisco - Hyatt Regency
Panel 1: Herman Melville and the Emergence of Trumpism
In 2011, both Seth Meyers and President Obama made several jokes about Donald Trump during the White House Correspondents Dinner. From his involvement in the Miss USA pageant and reality television to his fragile relationship with communities of color, no area from Trump's brash and ostentatious lifestyle was, for several minutes that evening, off limits. However, by November 8, 2016, the very areas that the former president and Meyers poked fun at, in part, were the very areas that aided Trump in becoming the next president of the United States.
Trumpism is a term coined to capture the emergence of the radical branch of Republicanism responsible for Trump's unorthodox journey to the White House. Given the relevance of American political values in Herman Melville's major works, this panel seeks papers that undertake the ways that Melville's publications address some of the enduring issues that have fueled Trump's presidency. What can Melville's art add to discussions in our historical moment relating to America's political landscape and president? Topics may include but are not restricted to gender; traditionalism; classism; race; mass-immigration; surveillance; white nationalism; monument removal; the rise of the alt-right; sexism; birtherism; fake news.
Panel 2: Melville in the Anthropocene (sponsored by the Melville Society and ASLE)
Kathryn Yusoff’s recent work on anthropogenesis and Timothy Clark’s Ecocriticism on the Edge exemplify two critical tendencies, two senses of the idea of the Anthropocene. Clark argues that the Anthropocene “names a newly recognized context that entails a chastening recognition of the limits of cultural representation as a force of change in human affairs, as compared to the numerous economic, meteorological, geographical and microbiological factors and population dynamics, as well as scale effects” (Ecocriticism 21). This scalar gap is, for Clark, “crucial to defining the eventhood of the Anthropocene as a threshold concept. The predatory supremacy of global neoliberal capitalism would represent a further, exploitative intensification of this scalar disjunctiveness …as a way of gaining power over human and nonhuman others” (Ecocriticism 151).
Yusoff draws on the work of Donna Haraway and Elizabeth Grosz to account for what is problematic in the idea of the Anthropocene itself as a means to critique the exploitative intensification it identifies. It contains “a form of Anthropogenesis a new origin story and ontics for man that radically rewrites material modes of differentiation and concepts of life, from predominantly biopolitical notions of life toward an understanding of life’s geophysical origination” suggesting “a more nuanced notion of ‘geological life’” (3) but also a reinscription of human as Man and Man as world-maker, obfuscating “climate racism, social injustice in fossil fuels, and differentiated histories of responsibility through homogenization in a ‘we’ of the Anthropocene” (7). Ultimately, Yusoff suggests we “stay with the ‘promise’ of the Anthropocene as the configuring of an epochal moment of planetary thought, despite, and possibly because of all the explicit problems that make … [it]… an easy target and malleable term” (8).
This panel welcomes papers that engage with any sense of the "malleable term" that the Anthropocene has become. Here we welcome theoretical work that engages with Melville's texts or readings of Melville that respond to the wide range of topics that are linked to the anthropocene: from climate, ecology, energy, geology, and meteorology to posthumanism, materialism, and broader questions of scale.
Panel 3: Bartleby Now
High-spectrum; Refusenik; Divinity. This panel proposes to think about “Bartleby Now,” taking up what continental philosophers and American literary critics alike have long grappled with as the limit-case of the human. We are particularly interested in how cognitive approaches to literature shape our return to this text and figure. In light of Amit Pinchevski’s 2011 assessment of “Bartleby’s Autism” and Agamben’s still resonant reading of Melville’s scrivener as a subject of “pure, absolute potentiality,” what does a critical and, indeed, popular attachment to Bartleby mean today? We ask that panelists take more of a roundtable approach by hazarding some broadly philosophical conjectures about what Bartleby is or might still be. An interdisciplinary angle is welcome in theorizing and defining what our Bartleby Problem is now.
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.