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Eckerd College alumna meets Parisian Winter Term class

By Grey Curcio '24
Published January 31, 2024
Categories: Academics, Alumni, Global Education, History, Humanities

Winter Term students in Paris with Associate Professor of History Adam Guerin, Ph.D. (back row, fourth from left)

This Winter Term, Associate Professor of History Adam Guerin, Ph.D., led 17 Eckerd College students across the Atlantic to Paris, where they immersed themselves in French culture and studied travel writing. They focused on the work of Eckerd grad and travel writer Linda Lappin ’75, with whom they met during their time abroad.

The course, titled Writers Abroad in the City of Light, explored Paris through the lens of writers past and present. During the three-week trip, Jan. 3–26, students read works by James Baldwin, Ernest Hemingway, Patrick Modiano and Lappin. After graduating from Eckerd College as a double major in English and creative writing in 1975, Lappin was awarded a research assistantship at the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where she completed her MFA in 1978. She has published four novels and numerous essays, stories and poems in international literary journals as well as one travel writing workbook, The Soul of Place: A Creative Writing Workbook—Ideas and Exercises for Conjuring the Genius Loci.

During their time in Paris, Eckerd students had the unique opportunity to meet Lappin for an aperitif, joining her to talk about The Soul of Place and her life as a travel writer. Junior biochemistry and humanities student Elianna Tenace says, “It was nice to talk to her and hear the perspective of someone who went to Eckerd a long time ago.” Elianna, who hails from Colorado Springs, also says that meeting with Lappin gave her a more concrete understanding of a long-term career in writing, as well as insight into Lappin’s unique approach to travel writing. “I like the idea of writing from place instead of writing from a person or setting … it felt like a style of writing that can be inhabited. That’s more sustainable, I think, than what I came in with when I first started reading the book.”

Lappin has enjoyed a long career in travel writing, but her love of travel started at Eckerd. Her two semesters abroad—one in London and one in Florence—ignited her yearning to live in Italy.

“We had a ‘club’ of Italophiles who gravitated around [now–Literature and Humanities Professor Emeritus] Howard Carter, who was a specialist in contemporary Italian literature, had lived in Florence and, like us, shared the dream. We frequented the language lab, read books and watched movies in Italian—and cooked Italian dinners at Howard and [now–Literature and Humanities Professor Emerita] Nancy Carter’s house. Thanks to that extracurricular support, I managed to learn enough Italian to win a Fulbright grant to attend a translation seminar in Rome—which opened the door to my future.”

During her January visit with Eckerd’s Winter Term class, Lappin advised writers who were planning to move abroad to do several key things: Learn more about a place’s history, language and culture before setting out on your own; master as many practical skills as possible; choose a smaller town where you will be unique; learn how to review books; and always keep a journal.

“Places inhabit us as we inhabit them, dwelling in our imagination, kindling questions and leading us into unexplored dimensions of ourselves,” Lappin stated. “I’d say, what gives me the greatest joy in writing is rediscovering a place in my imagination when I have begun to write about it, and experiencing it as it comes alive.”