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Honors Students, Faculty Tour American Literature's Historic Sites

The group outside of the Ralph Waldo Emerson house in Concord, MA.
Left to right: John Tolle, Richard Kopley, and honors students Jacqueline Tynes, Owen Samuels and Mandy Marconi outside of the Ralph Waldo Emerson house in Concord, MA.
6/29/2012 —

Two Penn State DuBois faculty members took some honors students on an educational and insightful tour of some of American Literature's most historic sites this spring.  Led by Distinguished Professor of English Richard Kopley and Mathematics Instructor John Tolle, an advisor for the honors program, the students toured historical homes and locations around the Boston, Massachusetts area. Most of the places they visited had significant meaning for American authors of the American Renaissance period of the 19th Century, such as Henry David Thoreau, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Edgar Allan Poe, and others.    


"We visited sites that were historically significant to literature," said Kopley, noting that the group traveled around Boston, Concord, Cambridge, and Salem.  Some of the highlights included the location of Thoreau's cabin on Walden Pond, a home and environment that inspired one of the author's most revered works, Walden.  They also visited the former homes of Hawthorne and Ralph Waldo Emerson, a public square honoring the nearby birthplace of Poe, and Author's Ridge in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, where many of history's famous authors are buried, including Hawthorne, Emerson and Thoreau. 


"The work and the people that I talk about in my 19th Century American Literature class became a little more real to the students," Kopley said of touring the historic locals.  "There's Emerson's house, Emerson's desk, there's Emily Dickinson's piano, there's where Thoreau lived.  It reinforces the sense that this really happened, that these were real people who lived in a real world that is reachable and recoverable.  It takes on an added meaning. It also makes it easy to see the relationship between the world these authors lived in and the world they created." 


"I know from doing genealogy, in my copious spare time, that it's one thing to read about people and places, but there's no substitute for standing at a spot and seeing it with your own eyes, seeing where people actually slept, ordinary objects they used, and how they lived," said Tolle.  "It gives you new insight into their lives that imagination alone can't always provide.  That's what makes these trips so indispensable."


Another opportunity for insight into the Massachusetts way of life was the lodging that the group took advantage of while on the trip.  Kopley's father-in-law, Yuda Golahny allowed the group to stay at his Boston area home.  As Kopley said, "It provided a nice atmosphere of home where we could share dinner each night and reflect on all the things we saw that day. 


Tolle said of the hospitality, "We are very grateful for this, as it kept the cost way down and enabled us to offer the opportunity free of charge to the honors students.


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