Virtual Program: Herman Melville & Nantucket

The island of Nantucket filled Herman Melville’s imagination. His time on the Nantucket whaleship Charles and Henry led to the magnificent portrayal of Nantucket early in Moby-Dick. But it was the sinking of the Nantucket whaleship Essex by a sperm whale that inspired the dark ending of the book. And when yet another whaleship, the Ann Alexander, was sunk by a sperm whale, Melville wondered if art is powerful enough to raise monsters from the deep.


Melville scholar Mary K. Bercaw Edwards is a professor of English and the director of Maritime Studies at the University of Connecticut. Her most recent book, Sailor Talk: Labor, Utterance, and Meaning in the Works of Melville, Conrad, and London, was published in March 2021. A U.S. Coast Guard-licensed captain, she has 58,000 miles at sea, all under sail.

The Nantucket Historical Association preserves and interprets the history of Nantucket through its programs, collections, and properties, in order to promote the island’s significance and foster an appreciation of it among all audiences.

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