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English Literature   >   Melville: Moby-Dick


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Melville: Moby-Dick

In this course, Dr Kate McGettigan (Royal Holloway) explores Herman Melville's 1851 masterpiece, Moby-Dick. We begin by providing a broad introduction to Melville's life and career, including his experiences in the South Pacific and his brief but intense relationship with Nathaniel Hawthorne. In the second module, we think about what kind of book Moby-Dick actually is, before turning in the third module to the question of why Melville chose to write about whaling and whales – what do whales signify? In the fourth module, we think about who should be thought of as the central character of the novel – Ahab or Ishmael – and the implications of this choice for how we read Moby-Dick, before moving on in the fifth module to consider how the novel engages with issues of race and slavery. Finally, in the sixth module, we think about the presentation of labour and capitalism in Moby-Dick, focusing in particular on the kind of economic existence represented first by Ishmael, and then by Ahab.


In this module, we provide some introductory material about the life and career of Herman Melville, thinking in particular about his experiences in the South Pacific, his early writings, and his brief but intense relationship with Nathaniel Hawthorne.

Cite this Lecture

APA style

McGettigan, K. (2018, August 15). Melville: Moby-Dick - Introduction [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

McGettigan, K. "Melville: Moby-Dick – Introduction." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 15 Aug 2018,


Dr Katie McGettigan

Dr Katie McGettigan

Royal Holloway, London