What better place to study 19th-century English Romantic literature than to immerse oneself for a few summer weeks in England’s northwest Lake District, wake to a damp shawl of mist over glacial ribbon lakes and hike the rugged mountains while discussing Wordsworth and Coleridge?
Each summer for twenty years, Washington College Professor Emeritus Dr. Richard Gillin, his wife Barbara, and a dozen students from Washington College did just that as part of the Kiplin Hall program they co-founded and chaired.
The learning project’s mission was to connect “literature and landscape” using the our-hundred-year-old ancestral estate of Lord Calvert, whose son Cecil Calvert founded one of Maryland’s first settlements in the 1600s as a haven for persecuted Catholics.
Each day, the Gillins and students explored the surrounding countryside of North Yorkshire and West Cork, Ireland, an experience he would later describe in his book A Guide to Hiking the Liberal Arts as “an explanation of what the liberal arts are and how learning history, art, philosophy, literature are so important It’s not a matter of collecting numbers or gathering simple facts. It demands experience, time, and contemplation.
Princeton Review selected A Guide to Hiking the Liberal Arts as one of its 2020 Best 300 books. Publisher Robert Frank wrote that the book is a tribute to the extraordinary dedication of America’s best undergraduate college professors “and the vitally important role they play in our culture, and our democracy.
The Spy chatted with Dr. Gillin to talk about how the Kiplin Hall project came about and his reflections on why experiences like the summer learning tours are fundamental to a liberal arts education.
This video is approximately six minutes in length. The Bookplate bookstore’s ongoing Authors & Oysters series will feature Dr. Gillin at 6 pm. Wednesday, January 8 at the Retriever Bar at 337 ½ High Street. The event is free and open to the public.