English class 'Reaches toward Concord'
RELEASED: November, 20, 2008
DANVILLE, KY—Seven English majors and their professor, Dr. Daniel Manheim, H.W. Stodghill, Jr. and Adele Stodghill Professor of English, recently embarked on a trip to Concord, Mass., to explore the early beginnings of the authors they've been studying.
The class, "Reaching Toward Concord," focuses on 19th-century Transcendentalist authors whose lives revolved around the intellectual epicenter of their time: Concord, Massachusetts. Manheim explains his idea for the class: "The title of the course comes from an author who doesn't even appear on the syllabus—the historian Henry Adams. Born a generation later than the Transcendentalists, he still felt the pull of the little town west of Boston, even though he 'never reached Concord.' There's so much history there! What Concord stood for wasn't just a philosophy, it was an almost sacred place—an omphalos of the American imagination."
As a part of this junior seminar class, the seven that were able to attend are still marveling over their experiences.
"Seeing the physical space in which these authors lived and wrote, I gained a better understanding of the historical context of their writings," said Jane Marie Lewis '09. "It made reading the works of these great thinkers all the more meaningful because I had a genuine interest in the way that their experiences influenced their ideas."
Trip-goers saw sights such as the homes of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Louisa May Alcott, Nathaniel Hawthorne and the Concord Bridge, where the first shots of the American Revolution were fired, among other places.
When asked about their favorite part of the trip, one student replied: "When Daniel Briscoe '09 asked our guide at the Concord Museum if she believed Nathaniel Hawthorne and Margaret Fuller could have had an affair! The lady had a decided opinion on the matter and gossiped about these people as if they were still alive. It showed how much the people of Concord are still enthralled by their Transcendentalist predecessors."
Manheim's favorite part of the trip was the group's hike around Walden Pond and seeing the foundations for Henry David Thoreau's cabin.
"My favorite moment was reading Walden on the plot of Thoreau's cabin, looking down toward the Pond," Manheim says. "It's impossible not to feel the inspirational power of the woods and the water and the author's enthusiasm."
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