Ahab’s Rolling Sea: A Natural History of Moby-Dick

Richard J. King presents Ahab’s Rolling Sea: A Natural History of “Moby-Dick,” a book for all the naturalists, mariners, and readers of classics among us. King will give a talk about the book, which has been lauded by the journals Science and Nature, as well as the American Scholar and the Times Literary Supplement. Knowledge of the novel is not necessary to enjoy and learn from the presentation, and his talk will be followed by a discussion and book signing.

Although Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick is beloved as one of the most profound and enduring works of American fiction, it is rarely considered a work of nature writing—or even a novel of the sea. Yet Pulitzer Prize–winning author Annie Dillard avers Moby-Dick is the “best book ever written about nature,” and nearly the entirety of the story is set on the waves, with scarcely a whiff of land. In fact, Ishmael’s sea yarn is in conversation with the nature writing of Emerson and Thoreau, and Melville himself did much more than live for a year in a cabin beside a pond. He set sail: to the far remote Pacific Ocean, spending more than three years at sea before writing his masterpiece in 1851.