Winona State University Professor Emeritus Emilio DeGrazia is especially careful these days crossing the street. “I had a high school teacher who gave me a list of ten books I was required to read before I died. Moby-Dick was number one on that list.”
Though he’s not read every page of every book on the list he has read Moby-Dick several times, and he’s scheduled to teach a course on it as a prelude to the Rockwell Kent festival that will take place in Winona in early February.
The Rockwell Kent Festival, scheduled for February 6-10, will celebrate the life and works of the famous artist who lived a few years in Winona a hundred years ago. The program will feature exhibitions of Kent’s works, a symposium, a film, an original play by Lynn Nankivil based on Kent’s Winona experiences, and other activities related to Kent.
Herman Melville, the author of Moby-Dick, had slipped into obscurity when Kent agreed to illustrate the new edition of the book that appeared in 1930. Kent’s now famous illustrations revived interest in the book and set the stage for its recognition as a classic.
“Though the title of Melville’s book is part of our American vocabulary,” says DeGrazia, “very few people have actually read the book. And only a very few are aware of the Winona connections to Kent’s illustrations of Melville’s famous book.”
DeGrazia’s class will take readers into the complexities of Moby-Dick, helping readers unfamiliar with the text to understand what makes it, in the eyes of many authorities, the greatest American book.
The class is open to anyone willing to read the book. “The only pre-requisite for taking this class,” says DeGrazia, “is an honest desire to dive deeply into a long, complex, challenging, and often slyly humorous book. The final exam question for this class is one you will answer silently for yourselves as you leave the final class: Has the journey been worthwhile?”
The class will meet for two hours, from 6:45-8:45 on four Monday evenings: January 7, 14, 21, and 28, 2013. Anyone interested in taking the class can learn more by going to the Rockwell Kent Festival website, Rockwellkentwinona.org, or contacting Professor DeGrazia by phone.
“And I must confess,” DeGrazia adds, “that the only book I haven’t completely read from that list of ten is Dante’s Divine Comedy. I named my son Dante, but I have yet to read Part III called ‘Paradise.’ I haven’t had time to get to it yet.”