Greenburgh Professor Sets Sail To Study Herman Melville's Life, Works

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Hartsdale's Dr. John Bryant, is an English Professor and expert on the life an works of Herman Melville.
Hartsdale's Dr. John Bryant, is an English Professor and expert on the life an works of Herman Melville. Photo Credit: Contributed/Dr. John Bryant
Hartsdale's Dr. John Bryant will be one of the scholars sailing on the whaleship Charles W. Morgan in a study of writer Herman Melville.
Hartsdale's Dr. John Bryant will be one of the scholars sailing on the whaleship Charles W. Morgan in a study of writer Herman Melville. Photo Credit: Contributed/Mystic Seaport

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Dr. John Bryant, who was captured by Herman Melville's Moby-Dick as a young man, will embark Monday, July 14 on a dream voyage having been invited to sail on the whaleship Charles W. Morgan.

Bryant, a Hartsdale resident and English professor at Hofstra University, is one of 79 scholars invited to sail on the commemorative 38th voyage on its final leg from Provincetown, Mass., to Boston from July 14-15. Bryant’s experience aboard the Morgan is part of the research he is doing for a Melville biography and for his blog.

"I've been interested in Melville ever since, as a boy, I witnessed my mother lugging around a big volume of Moby-Dick, which I eventually read in high school," Bryant said Sunday before setting sail. "In college I found other works -- like Bartleby, Benito Cereno and Billy Budd -- that I loved, and they propelled me into graduate school where I wrote my dissertation on Melville."

After having been the centerpiece exhibit at the Mystic Seaport Museum for more than 80 years, the Morgan was re-fitted for sailing and staffed with a professional crew and noted artists, historians, scientists, journalists, teachers, musicians, scholars, and whaling descendants along for the ride. Bryant is one of the world’s foremost experts on Herman Melville, and the Morgan is a “sister” ship of Melville’s first whaling vessel, the Acushnet.

"Melville's experiences at sea as a young man, starting at 19, shaped his career, and though he often wrote of other things, the sea was always a symbol for him of the rhythms of life, but also the rapacity of nature," Bryant said.

Bryant said Melville's love of language, his commitment to creativity, and his courageous questioning of everything conventional -- especially the presumed sanctities of nature, race, gender, sexuality, and god -- make him one of the most enduring artists of our culture.

The 38th Voyagers program was made possible in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. The 79 guests have been divided into small groups to sail with the ship’s crew for a night and a day on different legs of the journey.

"I will be blogging through the trip," Bryant said. "In fact, I have already started, and as you will see from it, I have never gone sailing on the ocean, on a whaling vessel, powered only by wind."

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