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
Robert K. Wallace has shared his illustrated blog essays covering all five days of the recent 12th International Melville Society Conference held in New York celebrating Melville's Bicentennial. To read the essays, you can click here or click the "Blogs" link above in the main menu. Thank you Professor Wallace!
ALSCW 2019 Conference
Association of Literary Scholars, Critics, and Writers
Twenty-Third Annual Conference
October 3-6, 2019 at The College of the Holy Cross
Highlights for the 2019 ALSCW Annual Conference include: seventeen seminars and four plenary panels, with subjects ranging from classical to medieval to modern literature; poetry readings by A. E. Stallings, Major Jackson, and Rachel Hadas; a string quartet by Matthew Pinder; a banquet dinner; and much more.
Click here to visit the conference website.
One of the seventeen seminars, titled "Melville at 200," is moderated by John Burt, Paul E. Prosswimmer Professor of American Literature, Brandeis University and Wyn Kelley, Senior Lecturer, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Leviathan: A Journal of Melville Studies
Volume 21, Number 2 - June 2019
The June 2019 issue of Leviathan: A Journal of Melville Studies (vol. 21, no. 2) is now available on Project Muse! If you have a subscription, click here to download.This issue is the second of the four “Melville at 200” issues being published in the year of Melville's bicentennial. It features a collection retrospective essays commemorating the completion of the 15-volume Northwestern-Newberry edition of The Writings of Herman Melville. These retrospective essays were written by editors and scholars who worked on the Northwestern-Newberry edition during the more than 50 years it took to bring the project to completion in 2017. This issue of Leviathan also contains three essays on Moby-Dick and a look at the papers presented at the MLA conference in January. John Bryant reviews the final Northwestern-Newberry volume, "Billy Budd, Sailor" and Other Uncompleted Writings" in the context of the primary goal of N-N project to establish accurate texts. Bryant also discusses the ongoing project of the Melville Electronic LIbrary to make available online fluid texts that include layered sections of color-coded text that represent Melville's sequence of revisions. Dues-paying members of The Melville Society who subscribe to the print edition should receive their copies in the mail soon. For information about subscribing to Leviathan, click here.
Co-hosted by the University of Lille and Paris-Diderot University (France)
October 17-18, 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.
MLA Conference 2020
Seattle, WA - January 9-12
Melville, Gesture, Love
“Thus Spake Zarathustra,” writes Agamben, is “the ballet of a humanity that has lost its gestures.” Melville’s corpus, it may be imagined, presents a ballet of gestures in the felt absence (thus spake “Bartleby’s” flummoxed narrator) of humanity. Ahab and Pip, Vere and Billy Budd (for that matter, everyone and Billy), Ishmael and Queequeg, Pierre and Isabel: love circuits through Melville’s characters like an Emersonian force, illuminating what in Melvillean characterology seems least substantive, least persuasive. It is arguably love’s failure along characterological lines that may draw our attention to its constitutive gestures, the frequency with which it surfaces across Melville’s oeuvre as a specifically textual matter: figuratively jubilant, expressively incessant spume recalling Werner Hamacher’s definition of gesture as “what remains of language after meaning is withdrawn from it,” or Roland Barthes’s understanding of gesture as a “quantum of phantasmatic brilliance, of desire, or of pleasure.” This Melville Society panel is envisioned as an opportunity for reconsidering both the contours and qualities of love’s gestures and our own love, as critics and theorists, of the gesture. After all, the concept of gesture has for some time gestured toward something strange and strangely alive at the heart of Melville’s enterprise—this isn’t unfamiliar terrain, and yet the term’s tenacity and continued salience suggests that Melvillean gesture (or our relation to it) has not yet fully done its office. How might the unfixed relation of these terms speak to the historical haunting of Battle-Pieces, to Clarel’s experiments in fidelity and scale, to the antiquary geology of “The Encantadas”? Or only somewhat more straightforwardly, the sumptuous queerness of Melville’s attachment to Hawthorne, not to mention the sumptuousness of what Newton Arvin describes as Melville’s “love of rare adjectives.”
Visit Our Media Pages
Featuring Videos from Our International Conferences and a Poetry Reading by Gordon Poole
Photo Gallery of the June 2019 New York Conference on Flickr
Thanks to the photographers and participants in 12th International Conference in New York last June
for sharing their memories and photos. .
Click here or on the photo below to view the New York album in the Melville Society Flickr gallery