Last week, Dr. Kohlhepp took the Advanced Humanities Research class to The Mount, the home of Edith Wharton, for a visit to the source.
Here's a quick explanation from Dr. Kohlhepp of the AHR program and how this trip fits in with its goals:
This visit, in that it encompassed architectural and landscape design as well as literary and historical study, tied together many elements of the Advanced Humanities Research course. The AHR scholars spend the first quarter learning about critical approaches and research methods in the various humanities disciplines, then determine a specific field of study and compile a reading list in the second quarter. The second semester sees them propose and execute a lengthy scholarly project, with oversight from the AHR teacher and guidance from at least one off-campus mentor.
The class's pilgrimage to Edith Wharton’s Berkshire cottage The Mount gave these ambitious scholars the chance to connect a writer with her locus of composition and to trace, within the cottage’s beautiful rooms and gardens, some of the key themes that exist within this American master’s oeuvre. (To prepare, the students read stories from Wharton’s lesser-known collection The Descent of Man, published just as she was completing construction.)
Students were greeted, escorted and informed by Kelsey Mullen ’05, a former English standout at Berkshire. Mullen, the Mount’s Director of Public Programming, was thrilled to share her passion and erudition with some of Berkshire’s best and brightest and “to get Berkshire School students integrated into the local scene.” Mullen also put the AHR crew to work in formulating ways to enrich the visitor’s experience. One team proposed a design competition on the order of Iron Chef; their rivals advocated a writers’ retreat-cum-historical reenactment.
Other memorable aspects of the trip included a visit to Edith’s bedroom and heated hypotheses about the identities of three gentlemen on her mantle; an unstructured tour of the grounds, with much spirit directed toward to the pet cemetery; a balanced debate about the relative virtues of the French and Italian gardens; and an ice cold root beer on the verandah.