The Eaton Portrait

Eaton portrait of Herman Melville
By permission of Houghton Library
Harvard University: 61Z-4

(Click to view a larger image)


whale-trp200Leviathan: A Journal of Melville Studies appears three times a year in March, June, and October. We welcome articles, notes, reviews, and creative writing on the life, works, and influence of novelist and poet Herman Melville (1819-1891). Click here for more information.

Melville Electronic Library

mel-thumb-crpd-3The Melville Electronic Library is an online resource for Melville texts. Housed on a Hofstra University server, MEL is being developed and maintained by a group of Melville scholars and digital specialists.

Johns Hopkins University Press

jhup-logoTo join the Melvillle Society and subscribe to Leviathan, visit Leviathan's Johns Hopkins University Press journal site by clicking here.

Melville Society Cultural Project

Melville Society and New Bedford Whaling Museum Cultural Project The New Bedford Whaling Museum in collaboration with The Melville Society is the established home of the Melville Society Cultural Project and Melville Society Archive. The Melville Society Archive is housed at the New Bedford Whaling Museum's Research Library, where significant works from this collection are also on display. The Melville Society Cultural Project also sponsors a book donation program and presents exciting annual events including the Moby-Dick Marathon and a Birthday Lecture.

Hennig Cohen Prize Award Winners

The Cohen Prize honors the memory of Hennig Cohen with an annual award for the best article, book chapter, or essay in a book about Herman Melville. The award is typically made in the year after the article or chapter is published.  Preference is given to newer scholars in the field of Melville studies.

Cohen Award Winners (the year listed is the year in which the winning article was published; the award is given in the following year)

Paul Hurh, 2015

John Cyril Barton, 2014

Jennifer Greiman, 2013

Christopher Freeburg, 2012

Dominic Mastroianni, 2011

Cody Marrs, 2010

Jeannine Marie DeLombard, 2009
Hester Blum, 2008

Matthew Cordova Frankel, 2007

Jeffory A. Clymer, 2006

Geoffrey Sanborn, 2005

Naomi C. Reed, 2004

Ralph Savarese, 2003

Robin Grey, 2002

Caleb Crain, 2001

Maurice S. Lee, 2000

Sam Otter, 1999

Geoffrey Sanborn, 1998


1998: Geoffrey Sanborn, "Walking Shadows: 'Benito Cereno' and the Colonial Stage," The Sign of the Cannibal: Melville and the Making of a Postcolonial Reader (Durham: Duke University Press, 1998): 171-200.


1999: Samuel Otter, "Inscribed Hearts in Pierre," Melville's Anatomies (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999): 208-54.


2000: Maurice S. Lee, "Melville's Subversive Political Philosophy: 'Benito Cereno' and the Fate of Speech," American Literature, 72:3 (2000): 495-519.


2001: Caleb Crain, "The Heart Ruled Out: Melville's Palinode," American Sympathy: Men, Friendship, and Literature in the New Nation (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001): 238-70.


2002: Robin Grey, "Annotations on Civil War: Melville's Battle-Pieces and Milton's War in Heaven," Special Issue on Melville and Milton, ed. Robin Grey, Leviathan: A Journal of Melville Studies, 4:1-2 (2002): 51-70.


2003: Ralph James Savarese, "Nervous Wrecks and Ginger-nuts: Bartleby at a Standstill," Leviathan: A Journal of Melville Studies, 5:2 (2003): 19-49.


2005: Geoffrey Sanborn, “Whence Come You, Queequeg?” American Literature, 77 (2005): 227-57.


2006: Jeffory A. Clymer: "Property and Selfhood in Herman Melville's Pierre," Nineteenth-Century Literature, 61.2 (September 2006): 171-99.


2007: Matthew Cordova Frankel: "Tattoo Art: The Composition of Text, Voice and Race in Melville's Moby-Dick," ESQ: A Journal of the American Renaissance, 53.2 (2007), 114-47.


The award committee found Frankel's article to be a substantive, energetic work that opens up new possibilities for future criticism of a major work. It takes a concern of early Melville criticsÑvitalityÑand offers a trenchant reconsideration by putting Matthiessen in conversation with Deleuze, thus countering the former's knee-jerk dismissal by contemporary scholars as theoretically naive. Noting the essay's magesterial command of its material, the committee was particularly impressed by how it manages to orchestrate multiple arguments in a comprehensive, almost concentrically developing, way and, at the same time, to offer elaborate close readings, all the while avowing an approach that makes aesthetics useful, attractive again, and tractable. By tying aesthetics to ideological critique (the essay's attention to race), the author nicely deconstructs the binary that gives rise to the notion of an "aesthetic turn," one intended as a corrective to the purported excesses of political approaches to literature. The committee was delighted to encounter an essay that evinces such dynamism and extends its congratulations to Matthew Cordova Frankel of the University of Rhode Island.

2008: Hester Blum: "Douglass's and Melville's 'Alphabets of the Blind,'" Frederick Douglass and Herman Melville: Essays in Relation, ed. Robert S. Levine and Samuel Otter (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2008): 257-78.

The Cohen Prize committee for 2008 unanimously agreed that the best essay or chapter of the year was Hester Blum’s “Douglass’s and Melville’s ‘Alphabets of the Blind,’” in Frederick Douglass and Herman Melville: Essays in Relation, ed. Robert S. Levine and Samuel Otter (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2008): 257-78. By setting Douglass’s elisions of rape in his 1845 Narrative alongside Melville’s similar elisions in the Hunilla chapter of “The Encantadas,” Blum makes it possible to register, in each case, the cost of “the euphemization of acts of violence.” She goes on to argue, however, that both Douglass and Melville are “attentive to and angry with” such euphemizations. Just as Douglass ultimately condemns “southerners’ fraudulent manipulation of language,” she writes, so does Melville “[chafe] under the idea that the narrative text must be mutilated in order to produce true or full accounts.” It is a lucid, subtle, and forceful argument, and it makes an original contribution to an important subject of inquiry in the scholarship on Douglass and Melville.

2009: Jeannine Marie Lombard: "Salvaging Legal Personhood: Melville's Benito Cereno," American Literature, 81.1 (March 2009): 35Ð64.

Lombard's essay is remarkably fresh and acute in its exploration of the legal dimensions of "Benito Cereno." At its center is a simple, alarming question: "when does the dependent, irresponsible captive metamorphose into the independent, autonomous legal person?"  Although we might imagine that the ordinary modes of "civil agency," such as "contract making and testimony," would be sufficient, nothing could be farther from the truth. As DeLombard shows, the inescapable narrative dimension of those modes of agency "break[s] down the subject," insofar as the legitimating narrative is necessarily grounded in a past moment when the subject was not a subject at all. Even if newly freed people do not involve themselves in those modes of public identification, they can never feel entirely free, DeLombard argues, given that "the human faculty of memory refuses to limit itself to officially designated temporal distinctions between captivity and autonomy." Viewed in this light, the overshadowed Benito Cereno of the story's final paragraphs is by no means an idiosyncratic figure. He is, instead, a representative image of all recently liberated subjects. This is an essay that will make us all think differently about "Benito Cereno" and enhance our understanding of the meanings of slavery, property, and "personhood" in the nineteenth century.

2010: Cody Marrs: "A Wayward Art: Battle-Pieces and Melville's Poetic Turn," American Literature (March 2010).

Marrs's essay offers a brilliant and ambitious rethinking of Melville's career as a poet and the sudden, puzzling shift from the writing of prose narrative to poetry as a result of the author's experience of the American Civil War.  Contrary to several earlier assessments, Marrs's essay argues that this "turn" marks not a retreat from the world or from Melville's recent failures in the marketplace, but a profound realignment of his political and artistic thinking.  In Marrs's reading, the Civil War reshaped Melville's career even as it suggested a new and horrifying sense of history as a relentlessly cyclical forceÑan "extended tragic repetition" or series of related destructions with a "traumatic kernel" at its core.  The poems in Battle-Pieces, in this searching, multi-layered reassessment, provide more than an extensive collection of meditations on the events of the war and the larger conflict itself; they stand as an "immanent account" of Melville's own experience of the Civil War as an historical event and of his transformation as a poet.  The members of the Cohen Prize committee believe this is an essay that will challenge readers to rethink the reasons for Melville's embrace of poetry as his chosen medium and also help to repair the strange neglect of Civil War literature in Americanist work more generally. 

2011: Dominic Mastroianni: "Revolutionary Time and the Future of Democracy in Melville's Pierre," ESQ: A Journal of the American Renaissance, 56.4 (2011): 391-423.


Mastroianni's essay is a provocative, brilliantly managed reading of Melville's novel as a political allegory concerned with the nature of revolution and the question of "whether a permanent democracy can result from revolution."  In this extraordinarily original, illuminating essay, Mastroianni reveals Melville to be engaged in a heady and sophisticated exploration of "the time of revolutionary foundation," one where democracy is shown to require "a structural impermanence driven by a call for social and economic equality" that goes beyond the calls for fraternity in the French Revolution of 1848 to include a call for sisterhood and equality for women.  The members of the Cohen Prize committee believe this is an essay that will challenge readers not only to rethink the political dimensions of Melville's novel but to move politics to the center of the author's concerns in this narrative.


2012: Christopher Freeburg: “Embodying the ‘Assaults of Time’: ‘The Encantadas,’” Melville and the Idea of Blackness (Cambridge University Press, 2012): 132-164.


The Cohen Prize committee for 2012 unanimously agreed that the best chapter or essay of the year was Christopher Freeburg’s “Embodying the ‘Assaults of Time’: ‘The Encantadas,’” chapter four of his monograph in Melville and the Idea of Blackness (Cambridge University Press).  Freeburg finds in Melville’s descriptions of the Galapagos a rhetoric of “blackness” that “destabilizes normative modes of time and social life” associated with U.S. colonial expansion in the Pacific.  The timeless, barren landscapes in Melville’s sketches confound the idea of progress central to U.S. imperial ambitions, figuring such ambitions as ultimately unproductive and rightly abandoned. This sociopolitical context is conjoined with an existential context as well: the fate of characters like Hunilla, the Dog-King, and Oberlus forces readers to confront “the overwhelming vulnerability” caused by the experience of timelessness associated with the islands' blackness.  When the metaphors of blackness in “The Encantadas” are read in this doubled sense, “colonial mastery, rooted in a telos of temporal progress, becomes an utter fiction.”  Freeburg’s insistence that Melville’s representations of race are both historically concrete and philosophically abstract (bearing on questions of ontology and epistemology) makes the book crucial for thinking about how Melville’s writings address the complex relation between literature and history.


2013: Jennifer Greiman: “Circles upon Circles: Tautology, Form, and the Shape of Democracy in Tocqueville and Melville,” J19: The Journal of Nineteenth-Century Americanists 1.1 (Spring 2013): 121-146.

This year's Hennig Cohen Prize for the best article, book chapter, or essay on Herman Melville goes to Jennifer Greiman for her essay, "Circles upon Circles: Tautology, Form, and the Shape of Democracy in Tocqueville and Melville," J19: The Journal of Nineteenth-Century Americanists 1.1 (Spring 2013): 121-146. Examining Tocqueville's Democracy in America and Melville's Moby-Dick in the context of the political philosophy of Jacques Derrida, Hannah Arendt, and others, Greiman makes the case that both authors use circular metaphors to evoke the possibilities of democracy, as well as its inherent contradictions and "precariousness." While acknowledging how Tocqueville and Melville "foreground [democracy's] limitations—its exclusivity, its capacity for self-destruction," Greiman contends that they also identify "the circles of democracy with the art of common action." Her claim is compellingly supported by a sustained reading of chapter 87, "The Grand Armada," which finds in the pod of sperm whales pursued by the Pequod through the straits of Sunda, "a powerful instance of action in common-indeed, a pledge that joins the principle of its community with the action that creates and secures that community." Greiman's incisive essay confirms the abiding importance of Melville's art to considerations of democracy and offers thrilling new directions for Melville studies.

2014: John Cyril Barton: "Melville, MacKenzie, and Military Executions," Literary Executions: Capital Punishment and American Culture, 1820-1925 (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2014).

The Cohen Prize committee unanimously agreed that John Cyril Barton's "Melville, MacKenzie, and Military Executions"—from his book Literary Executions: Capital Punishment and American Culture, 1820-1925 (Johns Hopkins UP, 2014)—was the best essay or chapter in Melville studies. Barton masterfully elucidates Melville's sustained interest in executions and the broader questions they pose regarding justice, sovereignty, and storytelling. Moving from White-Jacket to Billy Budd, Barton shows how the Somers mutiny, and the accompanying debates about capital punishment, formed a touchstone for Melville's career. The chapter enlists an eclectic range of historical materials, putting Melville into conversation with Alexander Slidell MacKenzie, Horace Greeley's New York Tribune, and other legal documents and pieces of nineteenth-century print culture. In doing so, the chapter reveals the cultural dialogues out of which Melville's writings emerged and with which he was so imaginatively and philosophically engaged. The argument around which the chapter revolves—that differences between White-Jacket and Billy Budd can be traced to a "changed notion of sovereign authority behind the law that came with the Civil War and the emergence of the Republican Party"—will alter how scholars think about Melville's career and his response to the Civil War. The chapter's graceful fusion of a legal approach to literature with an attentiveness to print culture and theoretical considerations regarding death and execution offers a promising model for future work in Melville studies.

2015: Paul Hurh: "Dread: Space, Time, and Automata in The Piazza Tales," American Terror: The Feeling of Thinking in Edwards, Poe, and Melville (Stanford University Press, 2015).

This year's Hennig Cohen Prize for the best article, book chapter, or essay on Herman Melville goes to Paul Hurh for "Dread: Space, Time, and Automata in The Piazza Tales," a chapter in his book American Terror: The Feeling of Thinking in Edwards, Poe, and Melville (Stanford University Press, 2015). Hurh offers a powerful argument for reading The Piazza Tales as a work in its own right, while showing the importance of terror to Melville's conceptions of affective and intellectual experience. Carefully attending to the "motley nature" of The Piazza Tales, Hurh proposes a "unified reading" that reveals a book intensely concerned with moods, "deep undercurrents of melancholy, anxiety, and unease," that he describes as forms of terror. Hurh links Melville's terror to a concept of dread (Angest) developed by Kierkegaard to account for human freedom, and transformed in Heidegger's examination of the spatial and temporal nature of existence. Like the philosophers, Melville provides "affective descriptions of philosophical dilemmas." More particularly, Hurh shows, Melville's practices of "spatial deformation and temporal miscalibration" produce a startling "understanding of time and space as a function of terror." Hurh's chapter illuminates subtle connections among the tales of The Piazza Tales, while offering extended, revelatory readings of the relatively neglected "The Lightning-Rod Man" and "The Bell-Tower." Hurh reads Melville's book with an extraordinary balance of philosophical sophistication, historical acuity, and unabashed devotion to the "strange particulars" of Melville's writing. This chapter promises to change the way The Piazza Tales is read, while challenging readers to reconsider Melville's thinking about materiality, subjectivity, interpersonal relations, and philosophy.


Current Facebook Posts

Greg Lennes Today in Melvillean history: On August the 19th 1819, Melville is baptized at home by J. M. Mathews, a minister of the South Reformed Dutch Church in New York City.
Greg Lennes Melvillean Solar Eclipse: From Clarel: A Poem and Pilgrimage in the Holy Land (1876) - 3.5.60-65 "This change, this dusking change that slips (Like the penumbra o'er the sun), Over the faith transmitted down; Foreshadows it complete eclipse?" Footnote: "The "penumbra" is the Earth's shadow that falls upon the moon during a lunar eclipse, but Melville here is applying the term to a solar eclipse." (From "Herman Melville: Stargazer" By Brett Zimmerman) The first photo of a total solar eclipse, shown here, was a daguerreotype by the Prussian photographer Johann Julius Friedrich Berkowski. (July 28, 1851 - same year that Moby-Dick was published) :) 2017-08-19T15:30:17+0000
Greg Lennes Review: The Eleventh International Melville Society Conference (June 27 - June 30, 2017) by Hannah Murray.
Review: The Eleventh International Melville Society ConferenceKings College London Organised around the focus of ‘Melville’s crossings’, the event covered the breadth and depth of Melville studies and paid close attention to Melville’s dialogues with philosophy and aesthetic theo…
Colin Dewey All members of the Melville Society receive three print issues of our award-winning journal, Leviathan, per year. With membership rates beginning at only $25 this is an incredible bargain.
Leviathan: A Journal of Melville Studies | JHU Press EditorSamuel Otter, University of California, Berkeley Steven Olsen-Smith, Leviathan PODCAST: Steven Olsen-Smith, Leviathan Leviathan features a bounty of scholarly articles, notes, reviews, and creative writing of a critical, theoretical, cultural, or historical nature on the impressive body of wor...
Eileen Valentino Flaxman MOBY DICK - Ch. 16 – THE SHIP is about everything being ready for sail: the crew is on board, the larder is stocked. But no Captain Ahab. For days, the men are in limbo, waiting for their captain to arrive . . . A ship in the harbor a ship not at sea is no ship at all, strange and solitary. A ship with no captain, not anywhere seen is not yet alive but mere joints and beams. But when sails unfurl and Ahab walks the deck and the salt spray stings the back of my neck Then the Pequod will reign and come into its own With the ocean its kingdom and the waves its throne.
Greg Lennes From Providence Journal: The Berkshire County Historical Society's annual hike up Monument Mountain on August 6th:
Annual Berkshires hike marks a literary moment A visit to western Massachusetts includes a stop at Monument Mountain and Arrowhead, the home of the great author Herman Melville.
Greg Lennes Melvillean Trivia: October Mountain Shelter along the Massachusetts Appalachian Trail is said to have been named by Melville, who wrote “One fine morning I sallied forth upon the errand I had much ado finding the best road to the shanty. No one seemed to know where it was exactly. It lay in a very lonely part of the country, a densely wooded mountain on one side (which I call October Mountain on account of its bannered aspect in that month), and a thicketed swamp on the other.” (From his short story - COCK-A-DOODLE-DOO ! OR THE CROWING OF THE NOBLE COCK BENEVENTANO" - 1853). Here is the present shelter in the October Mountain State Forest:
October Mountain Shelter October Mountain Shelter
Colin Dewey Note to members: The Melville Society will now be communicating with members via email rather than snail mail. The Executive Committee has chosen "Survey Monkey" as our platform for official polling and elections, so we will no longer send paper ballots. Please accept Survey Monkey messages from the Melville Society and make sure when you renew your Society membership that your email and postal mailing addresses are up to date. If you have opted-out of Survey Monkey emails in the past you will not receive ballot or election materials. To opt-in visit Note that this not affect our journal, Leviathan, which you will continue to receive just as you have been. Thank you!
SurveyMonkey: Free online survey software & questionnaire tool Opt in or out of receiving emails from SurveyMonkey.
Colin Dewey Visit to learn about the society and membership.
Home A society dedicated to the study and appreciation of the nineteenth-century American author Herman Melville
Colin Dewey Established in 1947, the Melville Society is one of the largest international single-author societies, dedicated to the study of the life and works of Herman Melville, and their cultural impact since the nineteenth century. The organization enjoys the fellowship of scholars, artists, teachers, writers, readers, and enthusiasts throughout the world. All members receive our award-winning journal Leviathan, which is published three times a year by Johns Hopkins University Press, and offers scholarly articles, book and art reviews, Society news, and Melville-related current events. With subscriptions starting at just $25 per year, our membership remains an incredible bargain. To join, or learn more, go to:

From Our Photo Collections

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Fellowships and Scholarships

Melville Society Archive
Walter E. Bezanson Fellowship
The Melville Society, under the auspices of the Melville Society Cultural Project in New Bedford, offers an annual fellowship to help a scholar undertake research on Herman Melville at the Society’s Archive in the Research Library of the Whaling Museum in New Bedford, Massachusetts.


Click here for more information and application details.


New York Public Library
Short-term Research Fellowships


Graduate students or other affiliated academics whose work would benefit from visiting the Manuscripts and Archives Division to view collections such as the Gansevoort-Lansing collection, and Duyckinck family papers are encouraged to apply.


Click here for more information and application details.

Woodlawn Cemetary

WoodlawnWoodlawn Cemetary - final resting place of Herman, his wife, Elizabeth, and other family members. Click here to view photos of the gravesites.


125th Anniversary Celebration

125th Woodlawn

A celebration of Melville's life at Woodlawn Cemetary on the 125th anniversary of his passing.

Lansingburgh Historical Society

Melville House

Melville lived for nine years in this Lansingburgh house. It was here that he wrote Typee and Omoo

Berkshire Historical Society

ArrowheadMelville's Arrowhead home and farm in Pittsfield, MA where he wrote Moby-Dick and lived for most of the 1850s.