"Are you happy, Rebecca?" Grant asked as he sat down across the table from me at dinner.
"Happy? Should I be especially happy?"
"Did you get the email? You were among those chosen for the England trip!"
"No! You, too?"
When a fellow English major informed me that Dr. Babcox would be teaching Romantic and Victorian Literature in the fall, the news delighted me; no other period in literature holds so much appeal to me as the 19th century, because of writers like Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters, Thomas Hardy, Christina Rossetti and others too numerous to list. Then came news even more thrilling: in November, eleven students from the class would make pilgrimage to sites immortalized by these literary greats, accompanied by Dr. Babcox and Mr. and Mrs. Weisman.
The benefits of a trip to England in conjunction with this class will be numerous; however, one benefit stands foremost in my mind. The class is obviously an opportunity to read great literature; the trip affords an opportunity to step into the paths of writers whose journeys can inform our own course in the world. “We must get beyond textbooks, go out into the bypaths...and tell the world the glories of our journey” writes John Hope Franklin, and I believe he makes a valuable point.
Studying a subject in the classroom informs us something about the world, and of the journeys other men and women have taken in it. When we read, we are like the pilgrim who, preparing for a journey, spreads a map before him on the table and first charts his course. A book can teach us about life, but we begin to live when we stow the map and amble down the paths it charts. We may even choose to cut a new path through old territory. In the role of tour guides, our teachers point out significant landmarks and regale us with the tales of other travelers who have passed this way. Stories interlace with stories, like new roads intersecting with the old; as we embark on our own journeys, our stories interweave with these existing ones.
I have perused the writings of a number of 19th century British writers with an amateur’s enthusiasm. I read these writers for the love of it, as an aficionado of maps might trace with his finger routes beloved, but that he has yet to travel. These writers have been my map makers. Time travel being out of the question, we are not able to visit the 19th century; however, in touring the homes, gardens, and places these writers frequented, we may trace their journeys, gaining new perspectives on their works for having viewed their worlds.
I am keenly interested in the lives and times of the writers of the Romantic and Victorian periods, possessing an enthusiasm for learning and a delight in participating in the learning process with other motivated learners. Being considered for the trip is an honor, and I very much look forward to the class.
It is certainly an honor to be chosen, as a sophomore, for a trip abroad with the school. The other students are juniors and seniors. I will be spending my 27th birthday in England with some of my favorite people from C of O. Happy thought, indeed!