I have a soft spot for “Schools and Schoolmasters,” which is one of two chapters that mentions my alma mater. The other is “The Advocate.” (Both chapters also mention another school somewhat further down the east coast of the U.S.A., but I suppose the two institutions are intertwined like Ahab and his whale.) Ishmael being Ishmael, he can’t resist literalizing the idea of the “school” of whales, “school” being the term that fishermen use for large groups of of fish or whales.

Literalizing and then metaphorizing: although it’s called “Schools and Schoolmasters,” the chapter could also be described with the phrases “Harems and Colleges.” Ishmael discusses two types of whale schools, one consisting predominantly of females but led by one large male, the other a grouping of young males only.

Writing as I am from NYU’s campus in Abu Dhabi, this chapter also interests me as example of Melville’s use of imagery drawn from the Islamic culture. He describes the school of females as a harem led by a “Grand Turk,” drawing on a prevalent 19th-century American stereotype of Turks as sensualists.