Date of Award

Spring 5-10-2013

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Mark Noble

Second Advisor

Calvin Thomas

Third Advisor

Nancy Chase


“Hunting and Writing the Whale” investigates the persistent resurfacing of the maternal body in Moby-Dick and examines how the masculine identities of the characters Ishmael and Ahab are constructed in response to their anxieties toward the maternal. Drawing on the work of Julia Kristeva and contemporary theory of womb envy, I argue that Ishmael and Ahab each struggle with defining and maintaining their identities in the presence of a maternal body that both attracts and repulses. Whereas Ahab’s dogged attempt to maintain a fixed identity results in annihilation, Ishmael embraces a more fluid existence informed by a maternal semiotic that he endeavors to manage through the project of writing.