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Fast-Fish and Loose-Fish: Teaching Melville's "Moby-Dick" in the College Classroom

Robert Paul Lamb
College Literature
Vol. 32, No. 1 (Winter, 2005), pp. 42-62
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/25115245
Page Count: 21
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Fast-Fish and Loose-Fish: Teaching Melville's "Moby-Dick" in the College Classroom
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Abstract

"Moby-Dick"-an ultra-canonical text but also a favorite of postcolonialists, feminists, and cultural studies critics-nowadays goes untaught for pedestrian reasons: size and difficulty. Its absence from college syllabi points to a larger problem in the academy: the increasing gulf between scholarship, including scholarship on pedagogy, and the practical exigencies of the classroom. Eschewing the theoretical for the pragmatic, this article suggests specific ways to teach "Moby-Dick" successfully. The first strategy is to demystify Melville, his text (as some unapproachable icon of high culture), and the rhetorical situation of studying "Moby-Dick" in a classroom. The second is to develop a question-guide for students to consult that focuses their reading and makes it more productive. The third strategy is to use the novel's symbolic field of binary oppositions to explore the indeterminacy of the text. Although the article is specific to "Moby-Dick", these strategies can be pedagogically useful for other texts.

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