Melville’s “Brit”: an etymological and ecocritical chomp into Moby-Dick
I teach undergraduate literature of the sea at Mystic Seaport, the museum that maintains the last wooden American whaleship, the Charles W. Morgan . Built in 1841 this vessel is nearly identical to the Acushnet, which less than a year earlier was also launched into Buzzards Bay and carried Herman Melville around Cape Horn and into the Pacific. So it is only natural that I ask my students to perform chapters of Moby-Dick (1851) for one night during the semester. I got the idea from Professor Susan Beegel, who taught the course before me. I give the students a given amount of time per person, they can work individually or in groups, and I encourage a wide range of interpretations and performance styles. Then, aside from requiring that we have a “Loomings” and a “The Chase – Third Day, ” I pretty much let the chips fall, usually with wonderfully diverse results.