Hester Blum teaches courses in nineteenth-century U.S. literature and culture in the English department at Penn State University, where she is an associate professor. Her scholarship focuses on oceanic studies, book history and material text studies, Herman Melville, and the environmental humanities.
Her new book, The News at the Ends of the Earth: The Print Culture of Polar Exploration, was published recently by 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.
Blum's first book, The View from the Mast-Head: Maritime Imagination and Antebellum American Sea Narratives (University of North Carolina Press, 2008), received the John Gardner Maritime Research Award. Her critical edition of Horrors of Slavery, William Ray's 1808 Barbary captivity narrative, appeared from Rutgers University Press in 2008. She edited a special issue of Atlantic Studies on "Oceanic Studies" and a volume of essays entitled Turns of Event: American Literary Studies in Motion (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2016). She is a frequent contributor to Avidly, a channel of the Los Angeles Review of Books.
Her work has been supported by fellowships and grants from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities (including a 2014-2015 NEH Fellowship), the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities at the University of Edinburgh, Seed Box Environmental Humanities Collaboratory at Linköping University in Sweden, 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 Newberry Library, the National Humanities Center, and the American Antiquarian Society, in which she was elected to membership in 2013. In July, 2014 she participated in the 38th Voyage of the Charles W. Morgan, the world's last surviving wooden whaleship, and in September 2019 I will participate in the Northwest Passage Project, an Arctic expedition tracking climate change.
She is a founder of C19: The Society of Nineteenth-Century Americanists, and recently served as C19 President (2016-2018). She was the 2015 President of the Melville Society, and have served as the Associate Director of the Penn State Institute for the Arts and Humanities from January 2012-June 2013; previously, she was the Director of the Center for American Literary Studies (2007-2010; interim director spring 2016). In the fall of 2015 she served as the interim Co-Director of the Penn State Polar Center.
She is at work on two new book projects: Ice Ages, about the temporalities of ice in an epoch of anthropogenic climate change, and Castaways, a meditation on "female Robinson Crusoes."