‘Moby-Dick’ Marathon Moves Online

“As for me, I am tormented with an everlasting itch for things remote…” – Ishmael, Moby-Dick

            The best-known literary event centered on Herman Melville’s iconic American novel, “Moby-Dick,” is moving online in 2021. The New Bedford Whaling Museum’s annual Moby-Dick Marathon attracts thousands of people of all ages from around the world who share a fascination with the sweeping story. The 25th anniversary of this remarkable read-a-thon falls in the middle of a pandemic, so organizers have moved the event online. The Moby-Dick Marathon runs from January 8 – January 10. Details are at www.whalingmuseum.org.

            Every winter, the Whaling Museum’s Moby-Dick Marathon marks the anniversary of Melville’s January 1841 departure from the Port of New Bedford aboard the whaleship Acushnet. Melville would later pen “Moby-Dick,” publishing the famous novel in 1851. Although the marathon will be virtual in 2021, Whaling Museum President and CEO Amanda McMullen is confident that participants “will still be drawn in by the drama and excitement of the hunt for the while whale. As always, there will be plenty of opportunities to have fun and to dive deeper into the content in our hosted talks with experts on Zoom.”

            Hundreds of readers from across the country recorded themselves reading passages from the book and sent them in to the museum to be stitched together as a full cover-to-cover reading of “Moby-Dick.” The final product will be played beginning Saturday, January 9, at 11:30 am and run through Sunday, ending around noon.

            Activities begin on Friday, January 8, at 7:00 pm with a lively online presentation, “‘A Wonder, a Grandeur, and a Woe’: Melville and Human Progress,” with Steven Olsen-Smith. A past president of The Melville Society, Olsen-Smith is professor at Boise State University and general editor of “Melville’s Marginalia Online.” Tickets for the Friday event must be purchased in advance and cost $10 for Whaling Museum members and $15 for non-members.

            All weekend long, people living in Dartmouth, New Bedford, Acushnet, or Fairhaven, Massachusetts can have warm chowder, delicious brews, or a full meal well-suited for a hungry sailor delivered to their homes, thanks to the museum’s event partners. Go to the museum’s website for details on how to order.

            A virtual chat with Melville Scholars takes place at 2:30 pm on Saturday, January 9, via Zoom. Whaling Museum Curator of Maritime History Michael Dyer will pair artworks with Melville’s writings during “Visualizing Melville: An Exhibition of Words, Ideas, Images, and Objects,” an online presentation on Sunday beginning at 10:00 am. These events and activities, as well as the reading itself, are all free and open to the public.

            Although participants will not be able to gather for the traditional “Stump the Scholars” session, scholars from The Melville Society have created a Moby-Dick quiz, so everyone can test their Melville knowledge. The quiz will be available online during the Moby-Dick Marathon on the museum’s website.

            The Whaling Museum, in collaboration with The Melville Society, is the established home of the Melville Society Cultural Project and the Melville Society Archive, which is housed in the Whaling Museum Research Library. The archive constitutes one of the best collections of Melville scholarship and resources anywhere in the world.

            Visit www.whalingmuseum.org for the full schedule of events and details on how to participate.

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