For many, Herman Melville's Moby Dick is the greatest novel in all of American literature, an undisputed classic. "It is a great book, a very great book," D.H. Lawrence declared. "It moves awe in the soul." E.L. Doctorow once proclaimed that American literature begins with Moby Dick, "the book that swallowed European civilization whole." When Moby Dick was first published, however, it was a critical and commercial failure. This class will encourage students to reflect on the nature of literary experience by reading Moby Dick twice. We will try to figure out why readers overlooked the novel when it was originally published, and why readers later, after a second closer inspection, gained a greater appreciation for the novel. We will think about what happens when we encounter a text for the first time, and how different kinds of meaning might accumulate over multiple readings. We will consider whether twentieth-century institutional structures, from the modern seminar to the cheap trade paperback, made Moby Dick more likely to be read and reread. In the end, this course offers students the chance to study a literary classic in depth. We will read and reread Moby Dick to better understand how literature works, and how American literary history has taken shape.