Research Programs: Summer Stipends

Period of Performance

6/1/2005 - 7/31/2005

Funding Totals

$5,000.00 (approved)
$5,000.00 (awarded)

The View from the Mast-Head: Antebellum American Sea Narratives and the Maritime Imagination

FAIN: FT-53749-05

Hester Blum
Penn State (University Park, PA 16802-1503)

My book-in-process examines antebellum-era American sea narratives and their textual specificity about the conditions of life and labor at sea. Sailors’ narratives stress the value of experiential knowledge, and are the result of thought in tension with the materiality of labor. Maritime writing is invested in another kind of materiality as well: the materiality of the printed text. Sea narratives discuss how books are circulated, composed, and read at sea. In paying attention to the work of sailors in the worlds of sail and print, I examine specifically how sea narratives propose a method for aligning reflection with labor practice.

Media Coverage

Annual Bulletin of Historical Literature 94:1 (December 2010): 171–216 (Review)
Date: 12/27/2011

Maryland Historical Magazine 105:1 (Spring 2010): 83-84. (Review)
Date: 12/27/2011

Journal of American Studies 43:2 (August 2009): E43. (Review)
Date: 12/27/2011

International Journal of Maritime History 22:1 (June 2009): 415-416. (Review)
Date: 12/27/2011

Journal of American History 96:1 (June 2009): 211-213. (Review)
Date: 12/27/2011

Common-Place 9:3 (April 2009). (Review)
Date: 12/27/2011

Nineteenth-Century Literature 63: 4 (March 2009): 543–548. (Review)
Date: 12/27/2011

Author(s): New England Quarterly 82: 1 (March 2009): 189-191.
Publication: New England Quarterly
Date: 12/27/2011

American Literature 80:4 (December 2008): 836-838. (Review)
Date: 12/27/2011

American Historical Review 113:4 (October 2008): 1153-1154 (Review)
Date: 12/27/2011

Sea History 124 (August 2008): 51. (Review)
Date: 12/27/2011

SHARP Newsletter (Society for the History of Authorship, Reading, and Publishing) 17:2 (Spring 2008): 6. (Review)
Date: 12/27/2011

Associated Products

The View from the Masthead: Maritime Imagination and Antebellum American Sea Narratives (Book)
Title: The View from the Masthead: Maritime Imagination and Antebellum American Sea Narratives
Author: Hester Blum
Abstract: With long, solitary periods at sea, far from literary and cultural centers, sailors comprise a remarkable population of readers and writers. Although their contributions have been little recognized in literary history, seamen were important figures in the nineteenth-century American literary sphere. In the first book to explore their unique contribution to literary culture, Hester Blum examines the first-person narratives of working sailors, from little-known sea tales to more famous works by Herman Melville, James Fenimore Cooper, Edgar Allan Poe, and Richard Henry Dana. In their narratives, sailors wrote about how their working lives coexisted with—indeed, mutually drove—their imaginative lives. Even at leisure, they were always on the job site. Blum analyzes seamen's libraries, Barbary captivity narratives, naval memoirs, writings about the Galapagos Islands, Melville's sea vision, and the crisis of death and burial at sea. She argues that the extent of sailors' literacy and the range of their reading were unusual for a laboring class, belying the popular image of Jack Tar as merely a swaggering, profane, or marginal figure. As Blum demonstrates, seamen's narratives propose a method for aligning labor and contemplation that has broader applications for the study of American literature and history.
Year: 2008
Primary URL:
Publisher: University of North Carolina Press
Type: Single author monograph
ISBN: 978-0-8078-585


John Gardner Maritime Research Award
Date: 10/1/2009
Organization: G. W. Blunt White Library