Date of Award

Spring 5-11-2017

Document Type

Honors Project

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


English, Linguistics, and Communication

First Advisor

Rigsby, Mary

Second Advisor

Richards, Gary

Major or Concentration



At the time Herman Melville was grappling with the monstrous manuscript that was to become Moby-Dick, America was engaged in its own battles of global expansionism, including the Mexican War and the War of 1812, environmental devastation, unfair class conditions, the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, and shifting ideals of the self, other, and collective in American culture (Armstrong 1039). Unbeknownst to Melville, whose novel would go unappreciated during his lifetime, Moby-Dick would become prime fodder for 20th and 21st century literary critics and scholars who both critiqued and praised Melville's literary accomplishment as an exploration of the physical, emotional, and spiritual realms of human-nature and human-human interaction. In academia, we are quick to apply ethics to areas of study involving human subjects as examples of social injustice or scientific inquiry, but oftentimes overlook nontraditional areas of ethical exploration such as the treatment and portrayal of nature in literature like Moby-Dick.