From the Bible’s “Canst thou raise leviathan with a hook?” to Captain Ahab’s “From Hell’s heart I stab at thee!,” from the trials of Job to the legends of Sinbad, whales have breached in the human imagination as looming figures of terror, power, confusion, and mystery.
In the twentieth century, however, our understanding of and relationship to these superlatives of creation underwent some astonishing changes, and with The Sounding of the Whale, D. Graham Burnett tells the fascinating story of the transformation of cetaceans from grotesque monsters, useful only as wallowing kegs of fat and fertilizer, to playful friends of humanity, bellwethers of environmental devastation, and, finally, totems of the counterculture in the Age of Aquarius. When Burnett opens his story, ignorance reigns: even Nature was misclassifying whales at the turn of the century, and the only biological study of the species was happening in gruesome Arctic slaughterhouses. But in the aftermath of World War I, an international effort to bring rational regulations to the whaling industry led to an explosion of global research—and regulations that, while well-meaning, were quashed, or widely flouted, by whaling nations, the first shot in a battle that continues to this day. The book closes with a look at the remarkable shift in public attitudes toward whales that began in the 1960s, as environmental concerns and new discoveries about whale behavior combined to make whales an object of sentimental concern and public adulation.
A sweeping history, grounded in nearly a decade of research, The Sounding of the Whale tells a remarkable story of how science, politics, and simple human wonder intertwined to transform the way we see these behemoths from below.
Winner of the 2015 CPTSC Award for Excellence in Program Assessment
Written for those who design, redesign, and assess writing programs, Very Like a Whale is an intensive discussion of writing program assessment issues. Taking its title from Hamlet, the book explores the multifaceted forces that shape writing programs and the central role these programs can and should play in defining college education.
Given the new era of assessment in higher education, writing programs must provide valid evidence that they are serving students, instructors, administrators, alumni, accreditors, and policymakers. This book introduces new conceptualizations associated with assessment, making them clear and available to those in the profession of rhetoric and composition/writing studies. It also offers strategies that aid in gathering information about the relative success of a writing program in achieving its identified goals.
Philosophically and historically aligned with quantitative approaches, White, Elliot, and Peckham use case study and best-practice scholarship to demonstrate the applicability of their innovative approach, termed Design for Assessment (DFA). Well grounded in assessment theory, Very Like a Whale will be of practical use to new and seasoned writing program administrators alike, as well as to any educator involved with the accreditation process.
Despite declining stocks worldwide and increasing health risks, artisanal whaling remains a cultural practice tied to nature’s rhythms. The Wake of the Whale presents the art, history, and challenge of whaling in the Caribbean and North Atlantic, based on a decade of award-winning fieldwork.
Sightings of pilot whales in the frigid Nordic waters have drawn residents of the Faroe Islands to their boats and beaches for nearly a thousand years. Down in the tropics, around the islands of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, artisanal whaling is a younger trade, shaped by the legacies of slavery and colonialism but no less important to the local population. Each culture, Russell Fielding shows, has developed a distinct approach to whaling that preserves key traditions while adapting to threats of scarcity, the requirements of regulation, and a growing awareness of the humane treatment of animals.
Yet these strategies struggle to account for the risks of regularly eating meat contaminated with methylmercury and other environmental pollutants introduced from abroad. Fielding considers how these and other factors may change whaling cultures forever, perhaps even bringing an end to this way of life.
A rare mix of scientific and social insight, The Wake of the Whale raises compelling questions about the place of cultural traditions in the contemporary world and the sacrifices we must make for sustainability.
Publication of this book was supported, in part, by a grant from Furthermore: a program of the J. M. Kaplan Fund.
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