Monthly Archives: April 2011

Beyond the Dead White Whales: Literature of the Sea and Maritime History

International Journal of Maritime History, XXII, No. 1 (June 2010), 205-228.[1]

In the course of researching a maritime history of the world, I became aware of a vastly greater body of maritime literature than the armchair sailor – or armchair historian – usually encounters. I wondered whether this lack of awareness was due to my own want of initiative in recognizing or seeking out foreign works, or whether the corpus of maritime literature upon which historians, teachers and compilers of anthologies draw was too narrowly circumscribed. In an effort to find an answer, I compared the syllabi of more than two dozen courses that focussed on the literature of the sea. As the findings suggest, it is apparent that in the United States and elsewhere what passes for “maritime literature” is almost exclusively the work of English and American authors of the past two centuries. Nor is this bias limited to the classroom. Of the more than 200 selections from the three best-known anthologies of maritime literature of the past two decades – The Oxford Book of the Sea, The Oxford Book of Sea Stories, and The Faber Book of Tales of the Sea – only three were of non-English origin.[2]

Continue reading Beyond the Dead White Whales: Literature of the Sea and Maritime History