NEH Summer Institute, July 2-28, 2001. (GAM)

By Robertson-Lorant, Laurie | Melville Society Extracts, February 2002 | Go to article overview

NEH Summer Institute, July 2-28, 2001. (GAM)


Robertson-Lorant, Laurie, Melville Society Extracts


Melville and Multiculturalism," a joint project of the New Bedford Whaling Museum, the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, and the Melville Society, was attended by twenty-four high school teachers and one first grade teacher. The participants included men and women of different ages and levels of experience, from a 40-year veteran from Oregon to a first-year teacher from Texas. Most were from public schools, but a few came from private schools, including one girls' school. And they came from all over the country: Colorado, Oregon, Alaska, Alabama, Indiana, Texas, California, Idaho, South Carolina, Minnesota, and Arkansas as well as New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts.

Course work at UMASS was complemented by workshops, performances, hands-on demonstrations, and site visits to the Whaling Museum, Mystic Seaport, Arrowhead and the Berkshire Athenaeum in Pittsfield, and the Wampanoag Tribal Center at Aquinnah on Martha's Vineyard. The institute faculty consisted of a dozen noted Melvilleans from various universities for whom scholarship and classroom teaching are twin passions, and half a dozen local historians and archivists spoke to the participants on New Bedford history, the whaling industry, and the antislavery movement.

The Institute provided the teachers with 1) contextual information on Melville's life and times, especially the whaling industry and the antislavery movement; 2) close reading of Melville texts dealing with race and ethnicity, namely Typee, Moby-Dick, "Benito Cereno," and "The Gees"; 3) curriculum planning sessions, demonstrations, and discussions of effective strategies for teaching these challenging and rewarding texts; 4) experiential learning in the form of hands-on presentations and visits to historic sites associated with Melville's life and writings; 5) instruction in the use of visual aids and internet resources, websites, and bibliographies; 6) a sense of the relevance of what has been studied in the Institute to real teachers and real students in real schools.

The Melvilleans on the faculty included Jonathan Beecher, Martin Bickman, John Bryant, Mary K. …

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