Moby Dick: Herman Melville on Man, Nature, and Discerning the Will of God

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Moby Dick: Herman Melville on Man, Nature, and Discerning the Will of God

Speak confidently about a well-known classic in American Literature, Moby Dick, from an academic and Catholic perspective with TAN Courses' exclusive American Literature Short Courses. Written by Herman Melville, Moby Dick captures several beautiful philosophical, political, and theological implications that help us better understand the world at that time. While Herman Melville was not Catholic, there are many ways in which Catholicism influenced his work. Dr. Henry Russell reflects how our nation is rooted in Catholicism and the innumerable ways American literature is influenced by the Church.

In each lecture, your professor, Dr. Henry Russell, will take you on a journey where you will begin to discuss topics that you never covered in your high school American literature class, such as: 

  • The beautiful goodness of God in his creation.
  • Romantic literacy: a new way to consider Moby Dick. 
  • The symbolic and allegorical implications Melville intended for us to contemplate. 
  • Society and religion; the conflicts and the complimentary.

In this fascinating short course, excerpted from Dr. Russell's complete 32-lecture series on American Literature, enjoy a more concentrated field of study diving into these topics of theology, philosophy, and contemporary politics. This book is about what is true and how to respond to what is true and is well worth your time and contemplation.

Lecture Sample


Lecture Synopses

Moby Dick Part 1 

Who was Herman Melville? While he began much of his writing about the topics of cannibalism and the vicious and cruel life a sailor has to endure, his works became continuously more philosophical as he continued his writing career. Compare the romanticism of Melville's work to that of Hawthorne. 

Moby Dick Part 2 

Dr. Henry Russell tells us that authors always try to tell us something. They are teachers, in some way. What themes is Melville driving at in Moby Dick? He seems to introduce a sense of spirituality in the story. Does Melville believe in the God of the Old Testament? 

Moby Dick Part 3 

Moby Dick is a book about the danger to society of romantic men who have divorced themselves from ordinary understandings of the good and real. It is a book about what is true and how to respond to what is true. Consider the multiple ways Melville presents his fascination with the necessity to discern the will of God. 

Moby Dick Part 4

Continue discussing Ahab and his philosophical way of looking at life. Finally, learn more about his motivations for what Melville calls "the fiery hunt" for Moby Dick. 

Moby Dick Part 5 

The following chapters introduce us to the younger Melville, before the author’s embrace of philosophy and imbuement of his work with deeper meaning. Through this more raw form of Melville's writing, we get a better view of the extraordinary act of whaling in the mid-1800s. 

Moby Dick Part 6

Join Dr. Russell exploring how Moby Dick becomes more allegorical and symbolic as they finally spot the white whale. View Ahab in a place of vulnerability, perhaps what could be considered a humbling moment. What do we learn about the character of Ahab in these moments? 

Moby Dick Part 7

Ahab is granted a last chance to abandon the hunt for Moby Dick. Why might this be? Is this moment perhaps an expression of the fabulously beautiful goodness of God in His creation? Why would Melville point us to this at the end of his work?

Henry Russell, PhD
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