Two one-week workshops for eighty school teachers that survey the Hudson River in an interdisciplinary study of modernization in nineteenth-century America.
Ramapo College offers a workshop on the Hudson River as a case study of the scope of modernization in nineteenth-century America. The study of art, literature, and architecture, alongside the developments of commerce, industry, and tourism that emerged on the nineteenth-century Hudson, reveal the diverse ways in which Americans navigated the waterway. This approach also brings an interdisciplinary perspective to history and a humanities focus to environmental studies. Each day allows for a specific topic with lectures, readings, and site-based activities tied to a region of the river. The workshop begins by considering the mouth of the Hudson as estuary and economic gateway; participants survey New York Harbor by boat, walk the commercial district of Wall Street, and read Walt Whitman's poetry at the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge. Farther up river, they discuss short stories by Washington Irving; visit his home, Sunnyside; and compare this modest structure to Lyndhurst, its Gilded-Age neighbor and home of financier Jay Gould. They study the development of the steamboat and Erie Canal for the purpose of industry and commerce, and the Hudson River School paintings of Thomas Cole as romantic depictions of nature. Finally, a morning boat trip-enhanced by readings in period guidebooks-enable participants to interpret the river's dramatic geology, iconic vistas, and environmental change through a nineteenth-century lens. Project directors Stephen P. Rice and Meredith Davis are scholars of American studies and art history, respectively. Their expertise is supplemented by Elizabeth Hutchinson (art history, Columbia University), Roger Panetta (Curator of the Hudson River Collection, Fordham University), Judith Richardson (English, Stanford University), Thomas Wermuth (history, Marist College and Director of the Hudson River Valley Institute), and Stephen Stanne (Hudson River Estuary Program, Cornell University). In addition to place-based writing exercises, a session entitled "Teaching Your Place" assists teachers in the translation of the Hudson River workshop to local sites.