Both English and History secondary education students, literature majors, and poets will love this tour of Missouri authors from the past and present.
I sat down with Dr. Cathie English to hear a little bit about her brand new intersession course ENG 565/665: Write Across Missouri. This 3-hour mixed Undergraduate/Graduate course is offered through the Study Away program (Study Away tour portion only is 1 credit hour: ENG 184) and will take Missouri State students all across the State of Missouri. From Mansfield to West Plains, St. Louis to Hannibal, Kansas City and back again, students will have an incredible experience interacting with the landmarks and contemporary authors of Missouri’s most famous writers.
“When I proposed it, it was really with undergraduates in mind,” Dr. English said, “but I always perceived the class to be more geared towards in-service teachers, or pre-service English ed[ucation]. Or,” she added, “it could actually be for people in the social sciences because there’s going to be a lot of historical stops along the way. We’re going to go to the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum and when we go to West Plains we’re going to the place of the Ballroom Explosion.”
The West Plains Ballroom Explosion was a 1929 tragedy responsible for the deaths of 36 young men and women. It’s a central event in The Maid’s Version by native Missourian and contemporary author Daniel Woodrell (Winter’s Bones). While in West Plains, students will enjoy a private lunch with Woodrell where they can ask him questions about life as a novelist and what is it like to have one of your book be turned into a movie starring Jennifer Lawrence. (Seriously, what is that even like?!)
The bus trip will continue to St. Louis where students will get to visit the St. Louis Art Museum; walk by T.S. Eliot’s residence; stroll around Washington University, founded by Eliot’s grandfather, William Greenleaf Eliot; Kate Chopin’s residence at the time of her death; Calvary Cemetery to visit Chopin’s, Marianne Moore’s, and Tennessee Williams’ graves; and much more. “Of course, the stop in Hannibal, MO is all historical!” Dr. English enthused. Students will visit The Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum, his father’s law offices, and other stops that readers of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn will find familiar.
The experience will end in Kansas City, MO. On the itinerary is the Kansas City Library—individuals will recognize it as the city block that resembles a row of books—and a private conversation and Q&A with former Missouri poet laureate William Trowbridge.
The thing that will particularly appeal to English students is the time spent in each place. After the tours and immersion of the history, students will have time to sit at each stop and take some time to write, reflect, and create. “There’s a sense of writing in a space and sharing without giving any kind of feedback.” Dr. English explained. Once students get back from Kansas City, they’ll have a final group dinner and a student read-aloud of their favorite works they wrote during the trip. “At this final read around, we’re also hosting a reading by Dr. Blackmon and other MSU creative writing faculty. Dr. Blackmon has agreed to give autographed copies of his book.”
The two weeks leading up to the Study Away portion will consist of several readings of each author of each destination. Assignments will be online, and Dr. English does give a warning that the reading will be “pretty intense” (although certainly engaging). The larger readings will be Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Little House on the Prairie, The Maid’s Version, and The Glass Menagerie (the play by Tennessee Williams was set in a St. Louis apartment). Shorter readings which will most likely be manageable during the trip itself will consist of the poetry of Maya Angelou, T.S. Eliot, William Trowbridge, Langston Hughes, Marianne Moore, and short works by novelists Jonathan Franzen and Jane Smiley. Obviously, the bus rides might seem a little long, so the bus will be used as a mobile classroom so to give mini lectures and play documentaries to give students a fuller understanding of the people and places they’ll be studying.
This Study Away intersession is a trip of a lifetime: multiple stops, great stays, writing on location, personal meetings with published authors, and much, much more! If this sounds like something you’re interested in, please contact Dr. Cathie English at CathieEnglish[at]Missouristate[dot]edu and register for ENG 565 (Undergraduates) or ENG 665 (Graduate or Accelerated Master’s Program Undergrads) today!
The Study Away portion will last for 5 days, beginning June 5th and ending June 9th. The cost will be $1,390 and will include travel costs, hotels, a few meals, and entrance fees. It may be possible to apply your financial aid to the cost of this once in a lifetime trip, so please contact the Financial Aid Office to discuss possibilities.