Paperback / softback
August 6, 2013
9.00 Inches (US)
6.00 Inches (US)
.95 Pounds (US)
$29.95 USD
v2.1 Reference

"A Bold and Hardy Race of Men"

The Lives and Literature of American Whalemen

In his novel Miriam Coffin, or The Whale-Fishermen (1834), Joseph C. Hart proclaimed that his characters were "a bold and hardy race of men," who deserved the "expressive title of American Whale-Fishermen." Hart was not the only American author to applaud these physical laborers as the embodiment of national manhood. Heroic portraits of whalers first appeared in American literature during the 1780s, and they proliferated across time. Writers as various as Lydia Howard Huntley Sigourney, Frederick Douglass, and Walt Whitman celebrated the talents of the seafarers who transformed the New England whale fishery into a globally dominant industry. But these images did not go unchallenged. Alternative visions—some of which undermined the iconic status of the trade and its workers—began to proliferate. Even so, these depictions did very little to dismantle the notion that whaling men were prime exemplars of a proud American work ethic.

To explain why this industry had such a widespread and enduring impact on American literature, Jennifer Schell juxtaposes and analyzes a wide array of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century whaling narratives. Drawing on various studies of masculinity, labor history, and transnationalism, Schell shows how this particular type of maritime work, and the traits and values associated with it, helped to shape the American literary, cultural, and historical imagination. In the process, she reveals the diverse, flexible, and often contradictory meanings of gender, class, and nation in nineteenth-century America.

About the Author

Jennifer Schell is assistant professor of English at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.


"Schell identifies an extensive, distinct, and yet diverse body of literature on whaling and clearly establishes its significance in the early nationalist discourse of the United States. . . . The book is poised to make a significant contribution to the important, emerging body of scholarship termed 'Oceanic' studies."—James Salazar, author of Bodies of Reform: The Rhetoric of Character in Gilded Age America

"Jennifer Schell has written a rich and intriguing book that brings a different perspective to our understanding of American whalemen."—Mary K. Bercaw Edwards, author of Cannibal Old Me: Spoken Sources in Melville's Early Works

"Schell does an exemplary job of placing her arguments within the body of knowledge about American whaling that has been generated in the last several decades. . . . "A Bold and Hardy Race of Men" serves as an introduction to the obscure but important body of American whaling narratives and the conversation that American whaling engenders."—The New England Quarterly

"Well-penned. This is a book for everyone interested in literature and whaling."—Mystic Seaport Magazine

"'A Bold and Hardy Race of Men' is stimulating, erudite and, at times, moving. It is a worthwhile addition to the collected works about gender and whaling."—The Northern Mariner/Le marin du nord
University of Massachusetts Press

9781625340207 : a-bold-and-hardy-race-of-men-schell
Paperback / softback
296 Pages
$29.95 USD

Other Titles in LITERARY CRITICISM / American / General

Irish Writers in the Irish American Press, 1882-1964

Stephen G. Butler
Jan 1970 - University of Massachusetts Press
$90.00 USD - Hardback
$28.95 USD - Paperback / softback

Placing Papers

Amy Hildreth Chen
Jun 2020 - University of Massachusetts Press
$90.00 USD - Hardback
$26.95 USD - Paperback / softback

Writing across the Color Line

Lucas A. Dietrich
Jun 2020 - University of Massachusetts Press
$90.00 USD - Hardback
$26.95 USD - Paperback / softback