Hester Blum

Hester Blum

Fellow: Awarded 2019
Field of Study: Geography and Environmental Studies

Competition: US & Canada

Hester Blum is Associate Professor of English at The Pennsylvania State University, where she has taught since 2003; she received her Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania in 2002 and her B.A. from Princeton University in 1995. Her scholarship and teaching focus on oceanic and polar studies, nineteenth-century U.S. literature and culture, Herman Melville, and the environmental humanities.

Her most recent book is The News at the Ends of the Earth: The Print Culture of Polar Exploration (Duke University Press, 2019). In it she examines polar expeditionary newspapers and other forms of knowledge that circulate geophysical and climatic extremity, both in the age of polar exploration and in our current moment of climate change and polar resource extraction. She is also the author of The View from the Masthead: Maritime Imagination and Antebellum American Sea Narratives (2008), which received the John Gardner Maritime Research award. Her edited books include the essay collection Turns of Event: American Literary Studies in Motion (2016); special issues of Atlantic Studies and the Journal of Transnational American Studies on oceanic and archipelagic studies; and Horrors of Slavery (2008), William Ray’s 1808 Barbary captivity narrative. Blum’s public humanities writing includes frequent contributions to Avidly, a channel of the Los Angeles Review of Books, on topics that include ponies in Antarctica, Sondheim musicals, and a viral video of a Boston fisherman battling a sunfish.

Blum’s work has been supported by grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, 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 National Humanities Center, and the American Antiquarian Society, to which she was elected to membership in 2013. Blum is a founder of C19: The Society of Nineteenth-Century Americanists, and over her career has served as president or director of C19, the Penn State Institute for the Arts and Humanities, the Penn State Center for American Literary Studies, the Penn State Polar Center, and the Herman Melville Society.

In summer 2019 she will participate in the Northwest Passage Project, an Arctic expedition tracking climate change. In July, 2014 she joined the 38th Voyage of the Charles W. Morgan, the world’s last surviving wooden whaleship.

She is at work on two new projects. Castaways is a meditation on female Robinson Crusoes. During her Guggenheim Fellowship year she will work on Ice Ages, a book about the temporalities of ice in an epoch of anthropogenic climate change.

Profile photograph by Avery Belser

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