The cod and the whale: Melville in the time of extinction

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This essay tracks the interrelated histories of the cod and the whale from John Smith's colonial American vision of abundance to the near disappearance of the living resources he described as inexhaustible. Working at the intersections of animal studies, food studies, and the environmental humanities- and considering cultural artifacts from Smith's tracts and Herman Melville's fiction to Cheryl Savageau's poetry and the underwater sculpture of Jason deCaires Taylor-the essay reads the commodification and consumption of these creatures as constitutive elements of an extinction-producing economy. Within this reading, the cod and the whale appear as exemplary figures not only for the important distinction between the edible and the exotic animal-wild food and wildlife-but also for the larger historical relation between "animal capital" and mass extinction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)851-879
Number of pages29
JournalAmerican Literature
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Animal studies
  • Consumption
  • Ecocriticism
  • Environmental humanities
  • Food studies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Literature and Literary Theory


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