Meet the SMU professor and students behind the irreverent ‘Moby-Dick’ inspired card game ‘Dick’


Originally Posted: November 24, 2015

Admit it: When reading or discussing the classic novel Moby-Dick in high school or college, your mind went places. Maybe you vocalized the inappropriate jokes you were thinking of, getting an easy chuckle from your nearby friends. Or maybe you kept your thoughts to yourself, thinking that surely such lowbrow humor was not good enough for literature as great as this.

But Tim Cassedy, an English professor at SMU, thinks it’s OK to laugh at Moby-Dick. In fact, he thinks that’s the intent of the name.

“I genuinely believe that on some level there is a dick joke in the title of the book — hidden in plain sight,” Cassedy told me via e-mail. “I think the book frequently plays around with that meaning of ‘dick.’ Sperm whales really are named that because they have a white, waxy substance in their head that early mariners mistook for semen. They called that substance ‘spermaceti’ (which means whale sperm) or just ‘sperm.’ (It turns out to make excellent candles.) The book is full of moments where the whale meaning of sperm starts to blur over into the reproductive meaning — sometimes just to play with words, sometimes for comic effect, and sometimes as part of straining to articulate ideas that are difficult to put into words. Relevant chapters include 81, 94, and 95. The entirety of chapter 95 is about making a smock out of the foreskin removed from a sperm whale’s 6-foot-long penis. So.” READ MORE

English professor’s Moby-Dick inspired card game makes classic novel accessible in most unlikely of ways

SMU News

Originally Posted: November 23, 2015

The upcoming movie, The Heart of the Sea, promises to offer a classy, high-brow and potentially Oscar-worthy take on the whale hunt that inspired Henry Melville’s classic novel, Moby Dick. For folks who still giggle at the title there’s another way to enjoy Melville’s classic this winter: DICK, the card game, from the mind of SMU English Professor Tim Cassedy.

“Moby Dick is really, really funny,” Cassedy says. “You can downplay the irreverence and read the book as a very earnest story about American ruggedness and Ahab’s will and vengeance, and it is those things. But if you go into it knowing Melville is often kidding, it reads completely differently.”

DICK, the card game, exposes that humor.

In a concept familiar to anyone who’s played Apples to Apples or Cards Against Humanity, DICK is a humorous game of “complete the sentence.” Each turn, one player serves as a judge and asks their fellow players to submit cards that complete the sentence on one of the prompt cards, which contain phrases such as:

“Oh yeah? Well I graduated from the University of _______!” or, “Ted Cruz caused a stir today when he called a press conference to denounce ______.” READ MORE

English professor creates ‘Moby Dick’ inspired card game

The Daily Campus

Originally Posted: November 16, 2015

An SMU English professor and a couple of his students have taken the American literary classic “Moby Dick” and created a game. A card game simply called “Dick.”
Professor Tim Cassedy came up with the idea for the game while teaching a “Moby Dick” seminar class at SMU in the spring of 2015. Hayley Waring, a senior in the class at the time, said the class was reading the Henry Melville novel and started picking up on the humor in the text.

“Professor Cassedy came up with the concept for a game that preserves the literary merits of the book but still highlights that the language Melville used is really funny,” Waring said.

Cassedy and students Chelsea Grogan and Jenna Peck made a prototype of the game and brought it to class. It was an immediate hit.

“We all loved it and could not stop laughing,” Waring said. READ MORE

SMU students in Paris report they are safe; SMU monitoring situation

SMU News

Originally Posted: November 14, 2015

SMU has heard from all 11 of its students studying in Paris that they are safe. The SMU Travel Oversight Committee is closely monitoring the situation and is receiving updates from the U.S. State Department and International SOS.

SMU community members abroad are asked to be aware that France has declared a national state of emergency and has tightened its borders. On Saturday, November 14, the U.S. Embassy in France issued a security message regarding the terrorist attacks: “Further incidents are possible. We strongly urge U.S. citizens to maintain a high level of vigilance, be aware of local events, and take the appropriate steps to bolster their personal security, including limiting their movements to essential activity. U.S. citizens are encouraged to monitor media and local information sources and factor updated information into personal travel plans and activities.” While airports and train stations remain open, travelers may expect delays due to heightened security measures.
All SMU Abroad students are covered by emergency travel assistance through I-SOS and may use the services of I-SOS worldwide during their term of study abroad. During SMU Abroad orientation, students received laminated cards with emergency phone numbers for I-SOS. I-SOS contact information also is available online at In addition, every SMU-approved study abroad program has its own emergency preparedness plan and protocols.

Students with concerns or questions are asked to contact the SMU Abroad Director, Dr. Cathy Winnie, at (214-768-4904) or SMU Assistant Chief of Police Jim Walters at (214-768-1586). Student safety is the highest priority of SMU and our partner study abroad programs. READ MORE

Event: Nov. 12, Noah’s Ark – Figuring Climate Change

SMU News

Originally Posted: Nov. 10, 2015

Professor Jeffrey Jerome Cohen of George Washington University, who specializes in medieval studies, ecotheory, posthumanism and the history of monsters, will speak on “Noah’s Ark — Figuring Climate Change” at SMU on Thursday, Nov. 12.

The lecture, which is free and open to the public, will be at 6 p.m. in Dallas Hall’s McCord Auditorium. It is part of the Gilbert Lecture Series.

Most medieval illustrations of Noah depict him serenely floating in his ark, surrounded by his family and a harmonious menagerie. What would happen if we stopped using the Flood as our unspoken cognitive frame for global warming – or at least if we stopped playing the role of Noah, if we abandoned the hope of salvaging a small community in an ark built against more complicated, more collective, more livable futures? What if we thought with more sympathy about what is lost when we assume the world must drown? This talk traces some alternative traditions about Noah and his ark, medieval and modern, attempting to use them to rethink the future during a time of climate change.

Cohen’s work ranges over medieval literature, cultural studies, digital humanities, posthumanist theory, and the environmental humanities. In addition to his traditional scholarship, Prof. Cohen manages a strong online presence on Twitter and on his group blog In the Middle, which features academic work in progress as well as reflections on higher education. He is also a key member of The BABEL Working Group, a co-disciplinary, global collective for scholars, researchers, and artists inside and outside the academy who are interested in the relationship between “medieval” and “modern.” READ MORE

Life on the Hilltop: Bonnie Wheeler’s Dedication to Scholarship and Students

Inside Dedman College

Originally Published: November 5, 2015

Bonnie Wheeler, Associate Professor and Director of Medieval Studies, was given a “40 years at SMU” party this August, and it came with a joyful twist: hosts Kathryn and Stephen Arata announced their intent to establish The Bonnie Wheeler Centennial Professorship in Medieval European Literature. The professorship will be housed in the English Department, Wheeler’s institutional home at SMU.

Wheeler wears many hats as a scholar-teacher. She founded the interdisciplinary SMU Medieval Studies Program in 1978 (and has directed it ever since). Here students can choose a minor, major, or M.A. Its graduates go into every career with the knowledge that, when they get to Paris or Istanbul, they will be able to impress their companions with information about the art, literature, and history of these places. READ MORE

Willard Spiegelman, English, reviews poetry/photo collection Emblems of the Passing World, by Adam Kirsch

Wall Street Journal

Originally Posted: October 29, 2015

The German photographer August Sander (1876-1964) called his life’s work “People of the Twentieth Century.” In “Emblems of the Passing World,” the poet Adam Kirsch reproduces 46 images from what he terms Sander’s “massive portfolio of documentary portraits.” More compellingly, he adds poetic commentaries on these studies of ordinary Germans who lived during their country’s worst period. READ MORE

Meet Dedman College Faculty during Family Weekend

2:00PM 3:00PM

Dedman College, the heart of SMU houses the vital disciplines the underlie great accomplishment. Denman College offers 85 exciting majors and minors in the humanities, sciences, and social sciences. Their award winning faculty will be available to discuss their teaching and research interests. READ MORE

Tim Cassedy, English, has developed a card game based on the novel Moby Dick

Washington Post

Originally Posted: October 15, 2015

Rereading passages of “Moby-Dick,” I have no idea how my old English teacher once kept 20 hormonal teenagers from staging a mutiny of bawdy wisecracks. It helped, I suppose, that ours was a very conservative Christian prep school. If any of us was tempted to see risque puns lurking in Melville’s classic novel, we knew to pray rather than titter.

Times have changed.

Oct. 18 marks the 164th birthday of “Moby-Dick,” and if you’re looking for the perfect gift for a literary nerd with a ribald sense of humor, ahoy — thar she blows: An English professor and a couple of his former students have produced a card game based on “Moby-Dick” called simply “Dick.”

[The Totally Hip Video Book Reviewer searches for Melville]

For $19.75, you get a box of 400 white cards containing short phrases from Melville’s novel. Each player starts with 12. Here, for example, are several cards chosen at random (and then rejected and chosen again and again until I found three that could get by the copy desk). READ MORE