Faculty Bookshelf: Mary K. Bercaw Edwards

Books by Mary K. Bercaw Edwards

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Cannibal Old Me: Spoken Sources in Melville’s Early Works (Kent State University Press, 2009).
At twenty-one, Herman Melville sailed from Massachusetts to the South Pacific as a common seaman on the whaleship Acushnet. On reaching Nuku Hiva in the Marquesas Islands, he deserted and spent a  month ashore on this reputed “cannibal island.” He departed as crew of another whaleship but was put ashore in the heavily missionized Tahitian islands after participating in a bloodless mutiny. Eventually making  his way to Hawaii, he joined the crew of the American frigate United States and finally reached Boston in October 1844 after four years at sea. By the time he sat down to write his first book, Melville had been recounting tales of these experiences for four  years. The spoken elements of the overlapping discourses involving  sailors, cannibals, and missionaries are essential to his first six  books. Mary K. Bercaw Edwards investigates the interplay between spoken  sources and written narratives, examining how Melville  altered original stories, and she questions his truthfulness about his experiences. Bercaw Edwards also explores the synergistic blend of the oral and written worlds of seafaring and the South Pacific and provides  an analysis of Melville’s development as a writer. This is a study of the  aesthetic, ethical, linguistic, and cultural implications of Melville’s borrowing. Cannibal Old Me is an excellent  contribution to Melville scholarship, challenging long-held assumptions regarding his early works. It is an indispensable addition to the study of 19th-century literature and maritime history.
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Herman Melville. Moby-Dick  (New York: Penguin, 2009). eBook edition. Includes eBook Notes, Filmography, Chronology, List of Suggested Readings, and 4 original essays: “Moby-Dick in Popular Culture,” “Melville’s Whaling Years,” “Cannibal Talk in Moby-Dick,” “Sermons in Moby-Dick.”
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 Herman Melville. Omoo. (New York: Penguin, 2007). Ed., with Introduction and Explanatory Notes.
Following the commercial and critical success of “Typee”, Herman Melville continued his series of South Sea adventure-romances with Omoo. Named after the Polynesian term for a rover, or someone who roams from island to island, “Omoo” chronicles the tumultuous events aboard a South Sea whaling vessel and is based on Melville’s personal experiences as a crew member on a ship sailing the Pacific. From recruiting among the natives for sailors to handling deserters and even mutiny, Melville gives a first-person account of life as a sailor during the nineteenth century filled with colourful characters and vivid descriptions of the far-flung locales of Polynesia.
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“Ungraspable Phantom”: Essays on Moby-Dick (Kent State University Press, 2006). Ed., with John Brant and Timothy Marr. Introduction with Marr.
The twenty-one essays collected in “Ungraspable Phantom” are from an international conference held in 2001 celebrating the 150th anniversary of the publication of Moby-Dick. The essays reflect not only a range of problems and approaches but also the cosmopolitan perspective of international scholarship. They offer new thoughts on familiar topics: the novel’s problematic structure, its sources in and reinvention of the Bible, its Lacanian and post-Freudian psychology, and its rhetoric. They also present fresh information on new areas of interest: Melville’s creative process, law and jurisprudence, Freemasonry and labor, race, Latin Americanism, and the Native American.
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Wilson Heflin. Herman Melville’s Whaling Years (Vanderbilt University Press, 2004). Ed., with Thomas Farel Heffernan.
The initial research for this book was done in the late 1930s and 1940s by Wilson Heflin. His dissertation was completed in 1952, and he left the work relatively untouched until his death in 1985. Thomas Farel Heffernan and I spent 16 and 13 years respectively reworking the entire text with the twin goals of keeping Heflin’s voice but also reflecting the standards of a published work versus a dissertation and the intervening sixty years of scholarship. I verified facts and quotations for every document that Heflin consulted—original letters, logbooks, newspapers, pamphlets, and books on whaling, as well as consular documents, letters, census records, and logbooks housed in the National Archives. I also included myriad other facts and sources that I discovered in the midst of doing the archival research. Heffernan and I each wrote appendices to the volume including completely new research. The book was published under Heflin’s name because he did the original research sixty years ago and to honor his memory.
Herman Melville. White-Jacket (Random House, 2002). Ed., with Explanatory Notes.
Melville’s Sources
(Northwestern University Press, 1987)
Books on Melville 1891-1981: A Checklist. (Loose-Fish Books, 1982)