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Linking Literature to Travel

English Honors Advisor Walker Rutledge brings literature to life for students through travel.  Study abroad opportunities in Harlaxton and Cuba, and a Fall Break trip to Chicago help students connect with class readings on a deeper level. Connecting a story to the context in which it was written illuminates truth behind the fiction.

Great authors write about what they know. Prof. Rutledge said that when Harlaxton students visit Yorkshire, it becomes clear why Emily Brontë wrote what she did. She could not have written about daffodils, as Wordsworth did, while surrounded by the hauntingly charming moors.

Accompanying literature with travel assists in developing students’ abilities as they realize that their everyday lives are worth writing about. Observing how each author wrote about his or her own experience inspires students to do the same.

Seeing literature this way “makes you feel it emotionally, and even more so intellectually,” Rutledge said. The personal element moves the literature beyond something read just to get through a class. It forges a deep connection.

Naomi Driessnack experienced this with the Hemingway and Faulkner class on their Fall Break trip to Chicago. The trip placed Hemingway in his hometown and “made him more real,” Naomi said.

Often, Hemingway is thought of as a lofty literary genius. The trip shows that Hemingway was a “C” student from a relatively normal childhood in Chicago. Seeing this made him relateable.

Exploring Oak Park, the setting of Hemingway’s childhood, allowed students to build connections between life and literature. Suddenly, short stories become glimpses into the life of the author with characters that speak to their personal relationships.

The Fall Break trip also enhanced class discussion as everyone bonded and became more comfortable with each other.  Pairing study with travel benefits our WKU community by enhancing students’ academic and social experience.

Of interest to Honors students is an upcoming Winter-Term study-tour entitled “Cuban Literature  and Culture,” an  on-site exploration of the art, architecture, literature, and politics of our Caribbean neighbor. Credit may be earned for Honors 300 or English Honors 399.  For further information, please contact Prof. Rutledge at walker.rutledge@wku.edu.

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