You’re reading Moby-Dick again, or for the first time, aren’t you? We certainly hope so.
What a fascinating article we’ve just discovered in the Times: “When whales attack: the horrific truth about Moby-Dick.”
Just one snippet:
“The sperm whale is no mean adversary. It is the largest predator that ever lived, and although modern sperm whales grow to only 65ft, Melville and his fellow whalers recorded whales 80 or even 100ft long. (Scientists think intensive hunting in the 19th century reduced the number of very large bull sperm whales, thereby affecting the overall size of the population, genetically. Hunting has also reduced the world population from 1.6 million to fewer than 360,000.)
Armed with a lower jaw studded with 42 teeth, it’s a formidable opponent if driven to defend itself. Its tail, as broad as a house, could dash a flimsy whaleboat to smithereens, and often did. The sperm whale is also the only cetacean that can swallow a human being, and, again, has done so, albeit by accident, in the melee of a hunt. (It’s not a nice way to go: its gastric juices are so acidic that sailors cut out of whales have been bleached white by the process.)”
Go read the rest!
We are Remaking Moby-Dick, again, and you are invited to be a contributor to this international multimodal experimental storytelling project. The project engages artists, writers, painters, photographers, musicians, sailors, schoolchildren and all manner of others, who are outside and in-between these designations, to contribute to our on-going narrative inspired by Melville’s materially eccentric and unwieldy text. For information and inspiration about our first remaking, please look through our site (and, if you are interested in seeing the print translation of the project, please see it at Scribd and/or order from Amazon).
In this second remaking, contributors are asked to choose an expressive means most natural, or not, to their own creative practice, and like Melville, test the boundaries of story-making outside modes of conventional, narrative telling. You may write poems and fiction-pieces, perform dances, discuss passages, play music, and tell stories across media and genre forms, all based on inspiration from Melville’s original text. You may even remake your remaking contribution in multiple forms (in print and on video, for example), and you may work individually or collaboratively. (We might even be able to assist you to find a teammate.) However, in this iteration of the project, unlike the first one that worked to cover the entire text, chapter-by-chapter, from epigraph to epilogue, we have a more selective approach. This time our focus is thematic, and we ask you instead to consider “women and other whitenesses” in the text and to build from there. We ask you to be inspired by the silences, pregnant pauses, compelling blankness, and powerful unvoiced presence(s) of those whom we know are there in the text, but whom we can’t see, hear or touch directly. Who are the women, the other sea creatures, the elements, the agents, the materials, the objects, the forces, the environments, and beings (in/organic, non/human) in Melville’s base text, and how can we voice and activate an eco-system that entangles and vitalizes them through your contributions? From poetry to painting, music to dance, sculpture to scripture, all means and modes of expression are possible for you as a remaking participant, as long as your contributions may be captured digitally (in print, video, audio, for example), so they may be published and circulated as part of our network of remaking. Our goal is create both a print version of curated selections (published as a special edition of the Pea River Journal and available for purchase) but also to develop companion texts on social media platforms and in a digital application that offers linkages, alternate readings and access to the remade materials. We strongly encourage multimedia/multimodal submissions, but are happy to accept text-based and literary submissions appropriate to print. (Project curators and co-editors, Trish Harris and Lissa Holloway-Attaway, can assist you with questions and assistance about formats for your contribution. See the “more about publishing and remaking” section below.)
We will accept your contributions through September 2016. Print and digital texts will be available in early 2017. Documentation of the process and updates on contributions and other developments will be available here at the Remaking Moby-Dick blog and via our twitter feed and social media channels. Please follow us. (We mean obsessively, like Ahab after his whale. Bring a harpoon.)
In our second experiment, Remaking Moby-Dick: women and other whitenessess, we invite you to consider a submission inspired by presence and absence, by the largeness of what is left unsaid, lurking at the margins of representation, calling us outwards and inwards, a mute and pregnant incantation for creation inspired by whiteness, and inspired, of course, by the white whale at the core of the text. We ask you to explore the depths and surfaces of Melville’s Moby-Dick to help re-member (piece together) and recover the women and the others who remain outside the narrative proper, but who call us to bear witness (bear whiteness) to their untold stories. In “Chapter 42: The Whiteness of the Whale,” Ishmael ponders the fearful “supernaturalism of this hue,” the dreaded whiteness embodied by the whale himself, Moby-Dick. He then takes us with him on a journey of imagination, where “subtlety appeals to subtlety” as he works to recall “the peculiar apparition to the soul” the dreaded white whale brings to mind. Where is your journey of recovery, and how can it take you to dread, or away and beyond? Who or what do you want to re-member, animate, and how will it materialize?
Women have long been a discussion point for readers of the text: for some they are wholly present in the imagery of the sea and the natural world; for some they are recast as revolutionaries, in the otherly-gendered beings who resist masculine or feminine identities and co-mingle without apology for propriety or for respecting boundaries. But for others still, their presence is not so certain, or acceptable, if found only in the gaps or wounds of loss–in the bleeding breasts of the nursing whales in Chapter 87: The Grand Armada, or the once-removed memories of sailors who recall their wives and mothers set far away from the butchery and firmly held in a distant, and silent, domestic sphere. Or they are displaced and disempowered, as in the (mother) ship the Rachel who meets the Pequod in Chapter 128, begging for assistance to rescue her drowned boys lost at sea, but who is cruelly sent away by Captain Ahab, an unrepentant father. Weeping for her children, she returns again in the Epilogue, just in time to rescue another orphan, Ishmael. Small comfort for aching loss. And who are these others we have yet to see, or have only glimpsed? A master of shifting narrative perspective, Melville activates stories in objects and in the artifacts of the hunt and the voyage: the chart, the line, the dart, the monkey-rope. But do they have more to say, and would they rather speak for themselves? And what might they tell us? And what of that crew, that ethnically and racially diverse set of whalers impossibly bonded together in the maniacal pursuit of immense whiteness–and of slaughter. In Chapter 42, Ishmael claims that “whiteness is not so much a color as the visible absence of color, and at the same time the concrete of all colors.” Color is but a mental construct, an illusion. All earthly hue found in nature, besides white, is a deceit, an add-on, a cover-up for the pale emptiness really at its core. What might Queequeg, the tattooed South Sea island cannibal, with the dark, purplish yellow colored-face, punctuated by black squares, have to say of this philosophical reduction? In what colored hues might he respond?
Since Melville, many artists have recaptured and remade the women in alternate materials, for example, in quilt form (Ann Wilson, 1955), and in painting (Abby Schlachter Langdon, Queequeg in Her Coffin, 1997; Aileen Callahan, The Birth of Moby-Dick, 2000-2001). Still others have given voice to the text in song and music (Laurie Anderson, 1999) and in Opera (Jake Hegge, 2010) and in the many retellings, from plays (Orson Welles, Moby-Dick Rehearsed, 1965; Patty Lynch, The Wreck of the Hesperus, 1987) to staged reading marathons, live and online (annually at the New Bedford Whaling Museum and Mystic Seaport Museum, and in 2013 at the Mixing Realities Digital Performance Festival in Karlskrona, Sweden, a part of our first Remaking Moby-Dick project). Each of these opens new possibilities for rendering and materializing absence, bringing forth new presences, new voices for the choir. We hope you will join them.
During the submission and curation process, we will document progress here on the Remaking Moby-Dick blog. We will update and maintain a Youtube and podcast channel and a Twitter feed to document works in progress and offer teasers for the final issue. Our final publication will be available in print as a special issue of the Pea River Journal and available at peariverjournal.com. Additionally we will post video and audio works on interlinked social media channels, through references and access in the print text, and via a digital application designed to provide yet another alternative for experiencing the stories.
We are looking for essays, fiction, poetry, still images, video, music, performance, games, and whatever the concept conjures or inspires. All work must be submitted through our online submission manager.
If you have questions, please contact the curators, Trish Harris and Lissa Holloway-Attaway, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ooh ahh. We love Moby movies!