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Harvey L. Hix

About

Harvey Hix is a Professor in the Philosophy Department and the Creative Writing Program at UW.  His Ph.D. is from the University of Texas, and he has been a visiting professor at Shanghai University and Fulbright Distinguished Lecturer at Yonsei University in Seoul.  His recent books include an essay collection, Demonstrategy, a poetry collection, Rain Inscription, and an art/poetry anthology, Ley Lines, that was also a show at the UW Art Museum.

Honors College Clay Fellow: Featured Course

Moby Dick

It is often identified as “the Great American Novel,” but Moby Dick is also a proof text for the characterization of literature as “news that stays news.”  It was written 170 years ago, yet:

  • Its characters come from a U.S.A. that is at a fever-pitch of political polarization. Sound familiar? (Moby Dick was published in 1851; the U.S. Civil War began in 1861.)

  • It depicts a small population extracting the primary fuel of its time, one dwindling in both supply and demand, as other fuels were being developed. Sound like Wyoming? (Whale oil use peaked in the 1820s, and by the 1860s kerosene had become the dominant fuel.)

  • It is preoccupied with race and gender/sexuality. What’s your pronoun? (The queer, interracial love between Ishmael and Queequeg is a defining feature of the book.)

  • It interrogates the impact of global commerce on individuals. When was the last time you went through a day without using a product or service from Google, Amazon, Apple, or Walmart? (Whaling was prominent among the drivers of globalization.)

And so on.  In this course, we will read Moby Dick cover to cover, reflecting together on its contemporary salience, aided by a complementary text, Rebecca Giggs’s 2020 nonfiction book about the history, ecology, biology, and cultural meanings of the whale, Fathoms: The World in the Whale.

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