Centre College’s Milton Reigelman, professor of English, director of international programs, and special assistant to the president, joined more than 300 Herman Melville scholars and enthusiasts at the 21st annual Moby-Dick Marathon at the New Bedford Whaling Museum in New Bedford, Mass., on Jan. 6-8, an event co-sponsored by the Melville Society.
Since 1995, the Museum has marked the anniversary of author Herman Melville’s 1841 departure from the Port of New Bedford and Fairhaven aboard the whaleship Acushnet with this mid-winter tradition. Melville would later pen Moby-Dick, publishing the famous American novel in 1851. The 25-hour Moby-Dick readathon, fueled by caffeine, warm local chowder, theatrical performances and a fondness for the author’s artistry, features inspiring options including a children’s marathon as well as a reading of the abridged Portuguese adaptation of the novel.
Attendees apply for a sought-after spot at the event by writing an essay demonstrating their expertise and interest in the classic American novel, qualifications for which Reigelman is renowned.
In 2007, Reigelman co-chaired the International Melville/[Joseph]Conrad Conference in Poland that featured 100 leading scholars from 22 countries, and he has presented papers at conferences in Greece, Hawaii, Rome, New Bedford and Washington D.C. With his Polish co-editor Pawel Jedrzejko, he has published two books, Secret Sharers: Melville, Conrad and Narratives of the Real (M-Studio, 2011) and Hearts of Darkness: Melville, Conrad and Narratives of Oppression (M-Studio, 2010) that bring together innovative Melville and Conrad essays from scholars around the world.
During the marathon event, the book was read aloud by 168 readers in both English and Portuguese. Reigelman regularly teaches Centre courses on Melville that also have included smaller marathon readings.
“This is the most important piece of literature published in America, and hearing it read aloud is really stirring,” Reigelman says.
At the New Bedford event, Reigelman was given two reading time slots from 1:10 a.m. to 1:30 a.m. on Sunday, when he read from chapters 64 through 68.
Reigelman also secured a spot at one of the weekend’s most coveted events, a reading of the chapter “The Sermon” in historic Seamen’s Bethel. This is the real-life location in which Melville details the sermon by fictional Moby-Dick character Father Mapple to seamen preparing to set sail on the Pequod, a sermon that presents themes on the nature of truth that run throughout the novel.
by Cindy Long
January 9, 2017
Photo: The 2016 Marathon kicked off with bestselling author Nathaniel Philbrick reading the most famous opening line in American literature, “Call me Ishmael,” in the Seamen’s Bethel in New Bedford, Mass.