Date of Award
Bachelor of Arts
English, Linguistics, and Communication
Major or Concentration
Many contemporary critics read Ishmael, Moby-Dick's loquacious narrator, as a queer character. The words homosexual and heterosexual would not be coined until 1868, some eighteen years after the events of Moby-Dick; thus, Ishmael comes of age in a time when there was no language to express or even acknowledge same-sex attraction, and even if there had been, the rigid societal codes that regulated sexuality in the nineteenth century would have prevented him from doing so. Despite these disadvantages, Ishmael, through his "marriage" to Queequeg and, later, his admittance into the queer haven of the Pequod, not only manages to reconcile himself to his desires but also learns to celebrate unorthodox sexualities. I propose that Moby-Dick can be read as Ishmael's "coming out narrative"―a genre similar in style and substance to the bildungsroman (or "novel of education")--in that it depicts a protagonist who, through his initiation into an unabashedly queer community, comes to accept his sexuality and his identity as a queer man.
Brady, Ryan M., "Queering the Dick: Moby-Dick as Coming-Out Narrative" (2016). Student Research Submissions. 165.