Summer 2004 • Vol. XXVI No. 3 NonfictionJuly 1, 2004 |

Composing Moby-Dick: What Might Have Happened

This essay was originally presented by E. L. Doctorow as the Astman Distinguished Lecture at Moby-Dick 2001, a conference hosted by the Melville Society (Hofstra University, Hempstead, New York) to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Moby-Dick's publication. "Composing Moby-Dick What Might Have Happened" was first published in Leviathan: A Journal of Melville Studies and is reprinted here with the author's permission.   I for one, appreciate my courage in speaking here this evening. For what can I presume to say about Melville's Moby-Dick to a congregation of literary harpooners who have heaved their darts time and time again into the textual hide of this Leviathan? I suspect that while I seem to be standing in an academic setting facing a company of scholars, I am actually in the fo'c'sle of the Pequod with the oil lamp swinging from the headbeam and throwing lights and shadows over the faces of a crew of savage old salts who have lit their pipes and downed their drams o

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E.L. Doctorow (1931-2015) was the author of several novels, including City of God, Ragtime, The Book of Daniel, and The March. Among the honors he received are the National Book Award, two National Book Critics Circle Awards, the PEN/Faulkner Award, the Edith Wharton Citation for Fiction, the William Dean Howells Medal of the Academy of Arts and Letters, and the presidentially conferred National Humanities Medal.

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