Moby-Dick does not belong to Melville—not anymore. Like any popular or important book, the idea of Moby Dick has long resided at least partially in the public consciousness. But when the text itself is owned by all of us, it becomes as malleable as its wide readership. A recent tour of Moby-Dick editions, many of them from the Rare Books collection at my university library, revealed to me just how varied the textual experience of such a book can be. In the space of a morning, with a book cart in front of you, it is possible to encounter many Ishmaels.
Could we walk into a dark gallery and by feeling objects on a wall encounter something akin to a story or a narrative? Can we adapt a symphony or a short story for the somatic perception, the way we adapt a novel to a film?