- by Ella Robinson
- © 2000, All Rights Reserved
- It was football weather. We left out
early, before the sun had a chance to chase
away the winter’s chill. We knew that we would be traveling a
two-lane road much of the way.
After a while a car with a university pennant attached to
the window passed us, then another. Anticipation was building as each
mile clicked off the odometer.
- Our excitement was not spurred by
football that day. Instead, my friend and I were
on our way to tour Rowan Oak, William Faulkner’s Oxford, Mississippi
- Throughout the United States and in
many other countries, there are homes, museums,
and other landmarks that honor men and women who shaped literature
and influenced the way we live. People
who tour these historic sites are better
able to understand where a writer was coming from and the message he
was trying to convey through his works.
- When you plan a literary tour, you may
choose to explore a particular region and
discover its literary heritage. For example, in Florida, you can visit
Ernest Hemingway’s home,
dine at La Concha Hotel
where Tennessee Williams
completed the manuscript for A Streetcar Named Desire, walk
the grounds of Marjorie
Kinnan Rawlings’ Cross Creek home,
and tour Mandarin, Florida, where
Beecher Stowe became a tourist attraction
as steamboats filled with tourists regularly passed by her summer
- If you have a favorite author, perhaps
you would like to trace his footsteps.
- For example, you could follow F.
Scott Fitzgerald from his
birthplace in St. Paul, Minnesota, through his army years to Montgomery,
Alabama. Visit New York’s Plaza Hotel, where he and Zelda spent
many wild afternoons. How about a brief
trip Paris, then a discovery tour of Baltimore
and Ashville, North Carolina? Travel to California where he worked
as a screenwriter. Then end your quest
with a visit to St.
Mary’s Catholic Cemetery in Rockville, Maryland, where he and
his wife, Zelda, are buried.
- People who tour historic sites
participate in a popular approach to literature
described by educators as schema, background familiarity. Some say
that learning by building on prior
knowledge is the most important factor of good
comprehension. Students--of any age--are better able to understand a
story when they can connect the known
(prior knowledge) with the unknown (new ideas).
- Literary tourists make connections
across time that give them a deeper understanding
of an author’s writing. Walking in the footsteps of an author,
allows us to better understand the
influences that shaped the author’s thinking.
What to Expect.
- Each literary site is different. Some
provide guided tours while others encourage
visitors to walk around at their leisure. Many homes and museums
have knowledgeable docents ready to
answer questions. Several sites offer to begin
the tour with a brief documentary of the author's life.
You can make your
literary tour more enjoyable and informative by:
museum and area where you will be going. Look up information
in guidebooks and on the Internet. Look at maps and plan your route.
related sites are nearby. There will often be parks, monuments,
or other enjoyable sites that could be missed if you don’t do a
ahead and asking about tour hours and admission fees.
Sometimes homes are closed because of
special meetings or repairs, and admission
fees are subject to change.
tours ahead of time. Give the home the number and ages of
people who will be with you. Tell
them if some tour members have disabilities that will need special
attention so tour guides can alter the
tour route if necessary. Ask them to focus on certain topics or
time periods if your group has a specific
Asking if there
are listening sheets or activity pages that can be distributed.
This will be especially helpful for children. If there are not any
available, consider using information from research that you did
earlier to make listening sheets
for your children.
rules. Can children
chew gum in the house? Will
purses and tote bags be inspected? Can
you take photos inside?
the gift shop. Many gift shops will have books and other items
that will be hard to find elsewhere.
- Whether you are planning a day trip, a
weeklong vacation, or a three-month quest,
with a little prior planning, you can have a wonderful time and learn
a great deal along the way. You will
return home with useful insight and heightened
awareness of the influence authors and their writing has on our
There are several
resources that may be helpful in planning literary and historic
through local bookstores and Amazon.com include:
Guide to Literary Sites of the South, by Ella Robinson.
Vision Press, 1998.
Bound: The Hill Street Guide to Literary Landmarks in the South,
by Lola Montgomery. Hill Street Press, 2000.
Ideals Guide to Literary Places in the U.S., by Michelle Prater
Burke. Ideals Publications, 1998.
Author Houses, Museums, Memorials, and Libraries: A State-By-State Guide,
by Shirley Hoover Biggers. McFarland & Co., 2000.
Booklover's Guide to Florida: Authors, Books and Literary Sites,
edited by Kevin M. McCarthy. Pineapple Press, 1992.
Booklover's Guide to New Orleans, by Susan Larson and Kevin
McCaffrey. LSU Press, 1999.
Sites of Interest
Register of Historic Places < www.cr.nps.gov
with Historic Places < www.cr.nps.gov/nr/twhp
Tours < www.suite101.com/welcome.cfm/literary_tour
Traveler: Home in the South < www.literarytraveler.com/southindex.htm
- Ella Robinson (ERobnson@aol.com
) is a freelance writer living in Pleasant Grove,
Alabama. She is the author of A
Guide to Literary Sites of the South (1998,
Vision Press) and contributing editor for the literary
tour site at Suite101.com.