I teach courses in nineteenth-century U.S. literature and culture in the English department at Penn State University, where I am an associate professor.
My scholarship focuses on oceanic studies, book history and material text studies, Herman Melville, and the environmental humanities. My first book, The View from the Mast-Head: Maritime Imagination and Antebellum American Sea Narratives (University of North Carolina Press, 2008), received the John Gardner Maritime Research Award. My critical edition of Horrors of Slavery, William Ray’s 1808 Barbary captivity narrative, appeared from Rutgers University Press in 2008. I recently edited a special issue of Atlantic Studies on “Oceanic Studies“ and a volume of essays entitled Turns of Event: American Literary Studies in Motion (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2016). I am a frequent contributor to Avidly, a channel of the Los Angeles Review of Books.
I am completing a book entitled The News at the Ends of the Earth: Oceanic Studies and the Ecomedia of Arctic and Antarctic Exploration, in which I examine the unexpected role played in polar expeditions by private publishing and what we might call “extreme printing.” I am interested in the forms of knowledge that circulate as intellectual and imaginative resources in geophysical and climatic extremity, both in the age of polar exploration and in our current moment of climate change and polar resource extraction.
My work has been supported by grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities (most recently, a 2014-2015 NEH Fellowship), the Mellon Foundation, the American Philosophical Society, the Library Company of Philadelphia, the Huntington Library, the John Carter Brown Library, the Bibliographical Society of America, the Newberry Library, the National Humanities Center, and the American Antiquarian Society, in which I was elected to membership in 2013. In July, 2014 I participated in the 38th Voyage of the Charles W. Morgan, the world’s last surviving wooden whaleship.
I am a founder of C19: The Society of Nineteenth-Century Americanists, and am beginning a two-year term as C19 President (2016-2018). I was the 2015 President of the Melville Society, and have served as the Associate Director of the Penn State Institute for the Arts and Humanities from January 2012-June 2013; previously, I was the Director of the Center for American Literary Studies (2007-2010; interim director spring 2016). In the fall of 2015 I served as the interim Co-Director of the Penn State Polar Center.
A recent road trip to the U.S. Southwest is documented at http://www.hesterblum.com/.