American Places:

Reading and Writing about Place

Rhetoric 102-10

Spring 2010

Dr. Lowell T. Frye


(Aerial photograph of Hampden-Sydney College, Hampden-Sydney, Virginia. Courtesy of Richard McClintock)

During the spring of 2010, students in Rhetoric 102-10 have been reading and writing about place in general, about American places in particular. In the book American Places: A Writer's Pilgrimage to 16 of This Country's Most Visited and Cherished Sites (1992; 2002; 2007), William Zinsser tells that he went "looking for America" and that he hoped to find it—to understand it in a new way—by visiting a number of iconic American places, seeking "to enter into the intention of each place—to find out what it was trying to be, not what I might have wanted or expected it to be" (3). For Zinsser as for many other writers, there is a deep significance in our relationship to place, one that is rooted simultaneously in the personal and the public. It is that significance that my students and I have been exploring and expressing in Rhetoric 102.

During the course of the semester, we have been reading and writing about place, sometimes with an emphasis on the personal, more often with an emphasis on the public. In addition to the Zinsser book, we read essays by Suzanne Freeman, Scott Russell Sanders, David Huddle, and Maurice Isserman; we read a series of essays on American places by eminent American historians, including John Demos on Fenway Park, Jules Tygiel on the Polo Grounds, James McPherson on Gettysburg, Louis Harlan on Stone Mountain, C. Vann Woodward on Montgomery, Merrill Peterson on Monticello, Joel Williamson on Graceland, and Donald Worster on the Grand Canyon.

The emphasis in my section of Rhetoric 102, as in all sections, has been on persuasion, style, and research. What we have read about American places has provided us with a subject to explore as we develop our research and rhetorical skills. But the course theme has also allowed us to engage our passions and imaginations and memories, as we reflect on the significance of particular places both to our sense of self and to our sense of nation. For the final project of the semester, students chose a place of both public and personal significance; they searched their memories, as well as published sources, so as to find their own meaningful place and to bring it to life, in words and images, for others. Armed with ideas and information, the students have designed, written, and now published a web essay that displays the fruits of their research and writing in several web pages. In addition, each student has posted essays written earlier in the semester on the significance of place.

Below is a list of students in Rhetoric 102-10, as well as the title of each writer's web essay; each name is a link to that student's website. In addition, I have provided links to additional sites that contain work done by previous classes of students in my sections of Rhetoric 102.

Acknowledgments: Neither I nor my students would have been able to construct our websites without the expertise and patience of Chandra Gigliotti-Guridi, Instructional Technologist & Assistant Director of the Library; Cheryle Dixon, College Webmaster; and Mike Timma, Library Associate in Instructional Technology and Media. Thanks to all of you for your help.

Lowell T. Frye

April 26, 2010



Web Project

Phillip Bailey

Victory Lost

John Dille

Places & Their Significance

Nathan Marshall

The Sinks of Gandy

Shiva Patel

Poquoson Traditions

Chris Schram

LaGrange, Tennessee





Link to Work on American Places Produced by Students in Rhetoric 102-10, Spring 2009

Link to Work on Ghost Stories Produced by Students in Rhetoric 102-17, Spring 2007

Link to Work on Ghost Stories Produced by Students in Rhetoric 102-3 & 102-6, Fall 2005