Literature of the Sea, taught by Dr. Richard King, takes advantage of our maritime museum, coastal setting, and three field seminars to read and study canonical and lesser known American novelists and poets who set their works in the watery world, often in the exact places where we travel as a class.
In a typical semester we may read Ernest Hemingway when sailing on the Straits of Florida, John Steinbeck when exploring Cannery Row on Monterey Bay, and Mark Twain on a steamship headed down the Mississippi River. We read Rachel Carson beside our own Mystic River estuary, Kate Chopin on the sands of the Gulf of Mexico, Ursula K. LeGuin on the sands of Oregon, Langston Hughes standing on a levee of the Mississippi River, and we read, of course, Herman Melville’s masterpiece Moby-Dick aboard Mystic Seaport’s historic whaleship the Charles W. Morgan, a vessel nearly identical to the vessel Melville climbed aboard at age twenty-one. Back in the classroom, we discuss the relationship between literature and students’ emerging knowledge of maritime history and marine science while examining these works through a mixture of lecture, small-group tutorials, formal and creative writing, and occasionally even drama.
Williams-Mystic supports the Williams-Mystic Essay Contest in Honor of Joseph Conrad and the Searchable Sea Literature website, which is run by students. We offer additional research and internship opportunities in Literature of the Sea both during the semester and the summer.