“If the poet you’d understand / Go you must in the poet’s land.”
–Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, “Besserem Verständniss,” West-oestlicher Divan (Stuttgart: Cotta, 1819)
“I see—New Englandly—”
–Emily Dickinson, “The robin’s my criterion for tune,” 1861 (Franklin F256A)
In keeping with our general theme of place, including sites and material conditions of authorship and reception, we are devoting our post-conference excursions primarily to the writers’ houses in which our region is so rich. Other options will, tentatively, focus on the local culture of the book and book arts.
Writers’ Homes & Literary Museums
Please note that all itineraries are provisional. We will confirm choices and details by the time of conference registration.
EASTERN ROUTE: REVOLUTIONARIES AND TRANSCENDENTALISTS
• The Concord Museum: the focus on New England Colonial/Revolutionary and Early National history includes exhibits of particular book-historical interest such as Ralph Waldo Emerson’s study and library. The ideal start for the exploration of an area so rich in history. (The new education center opens in November 2018 and the renovated museum itself is scheduled to open in summer 2019.)
• The Wayside: Home of Authors: an eighteenth-century house, “the first literary site added to the National Park Service,” and “the only National Historic Landmark to have been lived in by three literary families”: the Alcotts (1845-52: the setting for the world of Little Women), the Hawthornes (1852-69), and the Lothrops (1883-1965; children’s books).
• Orchard House: the most permanent home of the Alcott family (1858-77), where Louisa May Alcott wrote Little Women.
• Minuteman National Park (Old North Bridge Battlefield). Ralph Waldo Emerson’s famous phrase, the “shot heard round the world,” occurs in the Concord Hymn he wrote for the dedication of the monument (1837) on the site of this 1775 battle at the start of the American Revolution.
• The Old Manse: “The first shots of the Revolutionary War were fired nearby – and, less than a century later, Emerson, Hawthorne, and Thoreau spawned a revolution in American philosophy from here.”
• Walden Pond: where Henry David Thoreau lived from 1845 to 1847 and began to record the thoughts on nature and society that have become famous as Walden (1858)
SOUTHERN ROUTE: THE POWER OF WORDS
Behind-the-scenes tour of Merriam-Webster, the US preeminent publisher of dictionaries.
Mark Twain House: Twain built this luxurious home, in which he lived with his family from 1874 to 1891. Here he wrote, among other works: Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court.
Harriet Beecher Stowe Center: The author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin spent the last 23 year of her life (1873-96) here, next to Twain House. The museum is distinctive in that its mission includes encouraging continued work in social justice.
Noah Webster House: birthplace of Noah Webster (1758). The famed lexicographer, who also played a central role in Amherst cultural history, viewed reform of education and spelling as essential to the building of a unified and democratic American society.
WESTERN ROUTE: SHAPING AMERICA; ELITES AND DISSIDENTS
[the excursion will probably include some selection from the following, depending on logistics and other practical consideration]
• Arrowhead: home of Herman Melville (1850-63), where he completed Moby Dick, generally considered to be the greatest American novel.
• The Mount: home of Edith Wharton (1902-11), “the first woman awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, an honorary Doctorate of Letters from Yale University, and a full membership in the American Academy of Arts and Letters.” A connoisseur of building and landscape architecture, she also designed the spectacular mansion and gardens: “I am amazed at the success of my efforts. Decidedly, I’m a better landscape gardener than novelist, and this place, every line of which is my own work, far surpasses The House of Mirth… “
Great Barrington, MA
• W.E.B. Du Bois Boyhood Homesite: the property, containing remnants of the home of the African American social scientist and activist, has been creatively interpreted as a memorial and educational site. (Du Bois’s papers are housed at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, which also runs the Du Bois Center, “established in 2009 to engage the nation and the world in discussion and scholarship about the global issues involving race, labor and social justice.”)
Ashley House: home of ardent American Revolutionary John Ashley, who was, however, also a slaveholder. An enslaved woman in his household, Elizabeth (“Mum Bett”) Freeman, used literacy and the court system to sue successfully for her freedom in a landmark legal case
William Cullen Bryant House: home of the nineteen-century author, editor, publisher, abolitionist, journalist, and conservationist. “From its iconic red barn to elegant allee of maples leading to the main house, this lovely property is testament to a celebrated poet’s ideal of living mindfully on the land.”
Given the numerous literary sites in the Commonwealth, we had to make both pragmatic and subjective choices. For example, we quite deliberately excluded the Boston/coastal area because it really constitutes a collective destination in its own right–and on the assumption that many SHARPists will plan to visit there before or after the conference.
Realizing that we cannot show everything and that everyone has different interests or tastes, we also hope to provide a general list of cultural sites that SHARPists may wish to explore on their own.
Local Book Culture & Book Arts
THE FIVE COLLEGES
Visits to the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art and Yiddish Book Center on the campus of Hampshire College; Amherst, Smith, and Mount Holyoke College special collections.
The history of another possible venue might be summarized as: books, not bombs! “The Bunker,” as we fondly call it, was a Cold War command center built into a mountain just south of Hampshire College, so that US commanders could continue to conduct war if other bases were decapitated by a Soviet nuclear strike. Amherst College now uses it as an off-site repository for its burgeoning library and art collections.
LOCAL AND REGIONAL BOOK ART STUDIOS
The upper Pioneer Valley is home to a wide array of book artists, fine printers, and others associated with the craft of bookmaking. This excursion would tentatively include a visit to a private area studio close to Amherst (to which multiple artists from the region would bring their work and meet conference attendees) and a tour of the multi-shop establishment at One Cottage Street, in Easthampton.
NOTE: The above are all just our projected or probable excursion topics and routes. Please bear in mind that details may change. Check back closer to conference registration time for final details.