The Pequod Meets the Excursionists
By Hanna Goetze
On Friday the fifth of July, the students of Dr. Felix Sprang’s ‘Whale Watching’ seminar undertook an excursion to Övelgönne in order to celebrate the seminar’s main topic: Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick! Dedicating the evening to one of America’s most famous novels also fit very nicely with the previous day’s Forth of July celebrations – Melville himself would have approved! He certainly would have been in for a surprise had he seen that the bow of the Pequod had ‘run ashore’ on the bank of the River Elbe.
Said Pequod is an actual set piece from a remake of Moby-Dick (supposedly a production from 2011 which none of us could remember catching on TV). But now it gets even better: This set piece is a 1:3 imitation of the actual film ship and was used for extreme long shots of the epic finale when the Pequod sinks. Dun, dun, dun! To say the least, we were definitely starstruck. Dr. Sprang himself was “deeply moved” by the experience.
Paul Hamann, the contriver of the event, remained quite humble. Having discovered the miniature Pequod on a stroll through the idyllic alleyways, he “just passed the information on to Dr. Sprang who then came up with the idea to do an excursion.” But if it hadn’t been for Paul, there wouldn’t have been a trip. So, kudos!
One of the many highlights of the night was the group’s fruitful discussion about a topic which had been neglected throughout the semester due to the complexity of the class. Who would have guessed that we had not spoken about gender a whole lot yet? In order to live up to the American/British Studies department’s reputation, we caught up on the book’s gender discourse. The findings: Moby-Dick is male, the sea is a “surrounding thing” which is “always male by default” (the logic in this is apparent), and the sailors are male, too. Ergo, homosociality at its best! The opinions varied on this, though, and, in the end, the only safe thing to say is that Melville is profoundly ambiguous.
Other mentionable points of splendor: great food and wine on the beach under a cloudless sky, accompanied by an exchange of our favorite Moby-Dick passages; live music by skilled up-and-coming performers; my first ride on the ferry to Övelgönne (made it at last!). And then the truly enviable thing, as if the Pequod hadn’t been great enough yet: Cocktails at the ‘Einstein’ and cultivated conversation, which may or may not have involved games of a particular college aesthetic.
But let me finish on a serious note. When a middle-aged lady on the bus (by the way, she had read Moby-Dick and approved of Ahab’s “dominance”!) asked us if we were “on the way to a birthday party” or if this was “really a legit thing for uni,” it occurred to me how rare such trips are and how lucky we were to be taking this class with Dr. Sprang. It is not a common occurrence that students enrolled in German universities are motivated enough to come together outside of classes and engage in any conversation other than that about course requirements. I believe this might have something to do with the fact that Germans tend to be rather private to begin with, but also with the university system encouraging anonymous relationships among students as well as between students and professors. This is a great pity and I must admit that the story repeats itself every semester: By the time people are warming up to each other, the semester is over and you never see any of your classmates again. I think this problem would not arise so many times if university instructors put more emphasis on their social function within the university. It is one thing to be knowledgeable about a subject, but it is another thing to be a great teacher. Katharina Stücker put it best: “It was fantastic that this difficult novel was brought closer to us through this wonderful excursion.” I, too, believe Dr. Sprang did a fantastic job this semester and on behalf of the class, Katja, Tim, Paul, Felix, Katharina, Anne and myself would like to thank him for the great time!
Ed – For those students interested in a more social department, check out:
tbaJournal– Well, you’re already here, but if you haven’t written anything yet, we’d be delighted for you to get involved.
Where: Room 1172, Philturm
When: Editorial meeting every Wednesday from 18-20h
Improv Your English – Come hone your improvisational and English skills with us for an hour each week.
Where: To be confirmed
When: Every Monday from 18-19h
SoulFilms – A great opportunity to watch and talk about important films that you don’t often get to see in the local cinemas.
Where: Medienzentrum, Von-Melle-Park 5 (Kino)
When: Every Thursday from 18-20h