Moby Dick-inspired card game by SMU professor and students exposes subversive humor in Melville’s classic novel

'DICK, the card game' box setThe upcoming movie In the Heart of the Sea promises to offer a potentially Oscar-worthy take on the whale hunt that inspired Henry Melville’s Moby Dick. For folks who still giggle at the title, there’s another way to enjoy that classic novel 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 ______.”

The player whose response card most tickles the judge’s fancy wins the round.

> Read more about DICK, the card game in the SMU Campus Weekly

What sets DICK apart from its play-on-words peers is that the response cards all contain quotes from Moby Dick. This is where it quickly becomes apparent that Moby Dick is, indeed, rife with toilet humor.

“Humor is something everyone can relate to – especially low-brow humor,” says co-developer Chelsea Grogan. “It makes Moby Dick accessible, and not this ivory tower we make it out to be.”

Potential response cards include: “An eruption of bears,” “Immaculate manliness” and “A sort of badger-haired old merman.”

Cassedy, Grogan and Jenna Peck came up with DICK while Grogan and Peck (recent SMU graduates) were students in one of Cassedy’s spring classes. They debuted the game at a conference of English professors from across Texas, where it was a hit. DICK, the card game is now selling in select bookstores around the country and online at

— Kenny Ryan

Music symposium explores how ‘Moby-Dick’ became an opera

'Moby-Dick' Dallas Opera world premiere posterSMU professors and special guests will share the stage in a symposium on the transformation of a great American novel into a full-scale opera.

“From Page to Stage: The Operatic Journey of Moby-Dick previews the Dallas Opera’s world premiere of the Gene ScheerJake Heggie opera based on Herman Melville’s classic. The symposium takes place March 27-28, 2010, and is a collaboration with the Texas Book Festival and the Division of Music in SMU’s Meadows School of the Arts.

> Visit the Dallas Opera website for performance dates and ticket information

Highlights include:

  • “Melville, the Man” – 2 p.m. March 27, Caruth Auditorium, Owen Arts Center. Free. Moderated by pianist and popular pre-concert speaker Shields-Collins Bray, with Melville scholar T. Walter Herbert (professor emeritus at Southwestern University, Georgetown, Texas) and Duncan Osborne, Melville’s great-grandson. For more information, contact Dallas Opera patron services coordinator Shelby Covington, 214-443-1013.
  • “Melville, the Inspiration” – 3:15 p.m. March 27, Caruth Auditorium, Owen Arts Center. Free. Moderated by Bray, with Heggie and Scheer, with readings from the novel by Michael Connolly, head of acting in the Meadows School’s Division of Theatre. For more information, contact Shelby Covington, 214-443-1013.
  • “Melville, In the Heart of the Sea” – 4 p.m. March 28, Hamon Hall, Winspear Opera House. Free, but limited to subscribers and donors to the Dallas Opera, Texas Book Festival, and Meadows School Division of Music; reservations required. Moderated by KERA reporter-producer Jerome Weeks, with Scheer and 2007 Pulitzer Prize finalist Nathaniel Philbrick (author of In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex, a 2001 book recounting the true story that inspired Melville’s Moby-Dick). For more information, call the Dallas Opera hot line at 214-443-1044, or R.S.V.P. at