This page originated as part of my course on Melville and the Arts during the 1996 Spring Semester. Teaching that course was one of my most stimulating experiences in twenty-five at Northern Kentucky University. Equally stimulating was the sequel to that course during the 1997 Spring Semester. In designing the 1996 course, I was indebted to Elizabeth Schultz's pioneering 1995 book entitled Unpainted to the Last: Moby-Dick and Twentieth- Century Art. In teaching the course, I was indebted to the twelve students who chose to take it. Their initiative as active learners transformed my original syllabus into what we were still calling, a year later, "the course that never ends."
The turning point was our overnight excursion to see Schultz's traveling exhibition Unpainted to the Last at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. Having spent the month of January reading Moby-Dick, and most of February choosing our own favorites among the extraordinary array of artists whose responses to Melville's novel are reproduced in Schultz's book, we spent the morning of February 24 engaging with the art works themselves in Northwestern's Mary and Leigh Block Gallery. For two vivid hours we had the rare opportunity of seeing original Moby-Dick art works face-to-face as we told each other what we felt and thought about them. The above photo was taken in the corner of the exhibition featuring three works from Frank Stella's Moby-Dick series. We reproduce it here with Stella's permission.
We saw more of Stella's Moby-Dick creations later that same afternoon in downtown Chicago, where our walking tour also included sculptures by Picasso, Calder, Dubuffet, and Miro. After the bus brought us back to Northern Kentucky, the course began to change from what I had planned. I soon found myself scrapping the last six weeks of my syllabus to make room for two student-generated initiatives. One was the integrated web site that you are reading right now. The other was the exhibition of Moby-Dick art that the entire class mounted in our Fine Arts building during the last week of class. Both initiatives were exciting in themselves as unanticipated culminations of the course. They also resulted in two spin-offs from the course that necessitated Further Studies in Melville and the Arts during the 1997 Spring Semester.
In March eight of us traveled to Provo, Utah, to present a session at the 1997 Conference of the National Association for Humanities Education at Brigham Young University. In April the entire class traveled to Rockford, Illinois, where we exhibited new Moby-Dick art as part of a joint exhibition with students of Rockford College at the Rockford College Art Gallery.
We were able to reconvene for the Spring 1997 semester because none of thestudents had been seniors the year before. One of four freshmen in the 1996 class did transfer to New York University over the summer, but he rejoined us in Rockford for the LANDLOCKED GAM. We are all present in the photo at the bottom of this page.
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