About

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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 print culture, oceanic studies, book history, and Herman Melville. My first book, The View from the Mast-Head: Maritime Imagination and Antebellum American Sea Narratives (UNC 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 in 2008.

In my current book project, “The Ends of the Earth: Oceanic Studies and the Print Culture of Arctic and Antarctic Exploration,” 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 the C19 Vice President through 2016 (President 2016-2018). In 2015 I will be the President of the Melville Society. I 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).

2 thoughts on “About

  1. Seb Tiley

    Dear Hester,

    I am an English student at the University of Sussex in the UK and I was really interested in the nautical theme in the works of Edgar Allan Poe. The mysterious transience of tales like MS Found in a Bottle and Arthur Gordon Pym absolutely fascinates me, though I am having some difficulty formulating a question for my essay. I was wondering if it would be at all possible for you to perhaps give me some pointers? I have ordered your book and am very excited to read it, but I need to think about potential ideas for what I should write about. I was interested in the TS Eliot quote regarding Poe, describing him as ‘a displaced European’ and was hoping to somehow use that as part of my argument – as in Poe seems to continually try and escape from America. If there is any chance you have read this and are able to reply, I would be hugely grateful.
    Thanks very much,
    Seb

  2. Greg Stiffler

    Dear, Professor Blum as a fellow Penn Stater and a nautical admirer of freshwater to saltwater; from, brown to deep blue seawater, best wishes , have fun, be safe, and God Bless you and your crew. Sincerely, Greg Stiffler from Queen, Bedford County PA, USA. Ps. A Geography fan too.

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