Gearing up for the Moby-Dick Marathon

American Icons: Moby Dick, Studio 360 (Listen in here)

Posted by Elizabeth Schultz,
In 2003, WNYU Radio’s Studio 360 decided to launch a series on American Icons which continues to this day, with Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick chosen to be the first American Icon in the series. Not the Empire State Building, not the Golden Gate Bridge, not “The Star-Spangled Banner,” but Moby-Dick!

I was delighted by this news and was delighted to be invited by Studio 360’s executive producer, Julie Burstein to be invited to help their staff think about the diverse perspectives which might be used in a radio-presentation of Moby-Dick. Called to New York for a brain-storming session, I joined the staff in a day of brainstorming to discuss the novel’s characters and themes as well as the art, music, and cartoons inspired by the novel.

It was evident that the staff was concerned to create a program which would reflect a range of responses and to generate the excitement which readers of the novel experienced. They wanted to know why science fiction writer Ray Bradbury, artist Frank Stella, playwright Tony Kushner, or an academic like myself would be moved by Moby-Dick. They considered the contrasting sounds of Lori Anderson’s Moby-Dick music and a two-minute summary of the novel in the voice of teenage surfer alongside Melville’s wondrous words in the novel. In April, 2005, the Peabody board, gave Studio 360 its award for “illuminating and revitalizing a masterpiece,” further testifying, “This is great radio.” As Studio 360 continues in 2009 to run its program on Moby-Dick, I receive enthusiastic emails from all over the country, feeling, in Melville’s words, that “the mingled, mingling threads of life” continue to connect Moby-Dick readers everywhere.

Elizabeth Schultz’s grandfather was the youngest ship captain on the Great Lakes during his day. She herself grew up sailing Michigan’s inland waters and has subsequently spent summers sailing among many of the world’s archipelagos. Above all, however, she has sailed with Herman Melville in search of Moby Dick.  She wrote “Unpainted to the Last”: Moby-Dick and Twentieth-Century American Art, co-edited a collection of essays on Melville and women, and published essays on Melville and Moby-Dick in relation to illustration, popular fiction, popular culture, race, gender, and the environment. Retired from the English Department at the University of Kansas, she was a founding member of the Melville Society Cultural Project at the New Bedford Whaling Museum and involved in diverse cultural and education programs during her six years of service.

Join us  for the 14th annual Moby Dick Marathon Noon, Saturday, January 9, 201o .

The non-stop reading of the Melville Classic.

3 responses to “Gearing up for the Moby-Dick Marathon

  1. It’s great that icons don’t have to be made of stone. And that radio is still alive! Thank you for this piece.

  2. Will you be shooting video during this year’s Marathon? I’d love to see a good 2-3 minute Museum-created video about this event so that I could embed it in a blog post.


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