Professor Chris Sten proudly discusses his Melville anthology “Whole Oceans Away” Melville and the Pacific, which was released in the fall of 2007. In 2003 at a Melville Conference in Maui, HI, (what a great benefit of studying Melville!) Prof. Sten and two other editors began the project of soliciting and compiling a variety of essays focusing on Melville’s time in the Pacific. From the many submissions the editors received, they selected nearly 20 essays and prepared them for inclusion in the anthology. After much back and forth revision between the contributors and the editors, the anthology was ready to go to the printers. The anthology was picked up by Kent State University Press, which specializes in Melville scholarship, so they were excited about publishing the book. Never before had there been such a comprehensive anthology of scholarship on Melville’s writings on the Pacific, so the book is satisfying what was once a noticeable void.
Melville spent three years of his life as a sailor in the Pacific area, and many of the essays contained in the anthology are historical as well as literary. Although the book is intended for an academic audience, Prof. Sten was quick to inform me that there is an essay about tattoo culture in the Pacific area. Prof. Sten also wrote an essay included in the anthology: “Facts Picked up in the Pacific”: Fragmentation, Deformation, and the (Cultural) Uses of Enchantment in “The Encantadas.”
When asked about the success of the book, Prof. Sten said that it is too soon to receive critical reviews; however, the book’s first run has already sold out and a second printing was released. While it is no surprise that many universities, professors, and libraries would be eager to purchase the book, it is still good news and an indication of the book’s purposefulness.
For an opportunity to read Moby Dick or other works by Melville with one of the most prominent Melville scholars, you can register for Prof. Sten’s course, 167: The American Novel: 19th Century, which will likely be offered again next fall.