of Europe, Literally
Patrick Kennedy, a Johns Hopkins University junior
from Watchung, N.J., spent much of last summer overseas,
staging a one-scholar revival of the European "grand tour"
popular with newly minted college graduates in the 19th
To cover the costs of his first trip abroad, Kennedy was granted funding from the university's Provost's Undergraduate Research Award program, which allowed him to travel through cities including London, Venice, Florence and Paris. During his travels, he experienced firsthand the classical West that captivated "the most potent literary minds in generations past," while also exploring his own American upbringing and lifestyle in contrast to life in 21st-century Europe. Kennedy will present his findings at a recognition ceremony on Thursday, March 8, on the university's Homewood campus in Baltimore.
Since 1993, about 40 students each year have received PURA grants of up to $3,000 to conduct original research; some have published their results in professional journals. The awards, funded through a donation from the Hodson Trust, are an important part of the university's mission and its commitment to research opportunities for undergraduates. The awards are open to students in each of the university's four schools with full-time undergraduates: the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, the Whiting School of Engineering, the Peabody Conservatory and the School of Nursing.
Under the guidance of his PURA adviser, novelist Jean McGarry, and another close adviser, poet and critic John Irwin, both of the Writing Seminars, Kennedy immersed himself in his host cities' culture and customs. He simultaneously studied expatriation testimonies by American writers like Gertrude Stein, E.E. Cummings, Henry Miller, Ernest Hemingway, Ezra Pound and T.S. Eliot, reading their accounts while traveling through the places they wrote about.
"When I applied for the PURA, I envisioned myself writing autobiographical fiction, a format that very strongly mirrored their writing," Kennedy said. "On a stylistic level, I find that I have learned much from well-traveled poets like T.S. Eliot and Hart Crane. Both Americans used abundant allusions and 'ventriloquized' speakers. But both Eliot and Crane were very intimate writers, who gave intellectual thrust to their most meaningful, even painful personal experiences."
Kennedy, who is triple majoring in Writing Seminars, English and History of Art, is distilling all he absorbed during last summer's sojourn into several works of personalized fiction, taking the project beyond a simple historical re-creation or literary criticism. McGarry calls Kennedy "a spectacular student."
"Using himself as a test case, he absorbed what he could and has written his own first-person testament on the grand tour as an intensive and highly personal cultural and intellectual education," McGarry said. "He finds that contemporary fiction has ignored this interesting subject, and he wants to jump-start a reinvestment in art and culture as the substance of stories and novels."
Kennedy's first trip abroad had its share of Hollywood moments: During his travels, he randomly bumped into both McGarry and Irwin, who were in Europe attending conferences. A journal he'd been keeping was lost somewhere in Brussels. A taxi strike led to an epic, sleepless search for lodging in Florence — but also gave him a breathtaking city view he would otherwise have missed. Then Kennedy was robbed by some Paris street toughs, who employed an elaborate ruse to distract him and somehow drain his bank account while he was using an ATM.
Luckily the majority of his PURA funds were safe in a separate account back home, and his parents wired him some cash — he even managed to stay on budget. But all told, Kennedy is a strong advocate for the American student's need for foreign travel.
"Study abroad has to be something that is spontaneous and synthesized on a very individual level," Kennedy said. "Seeing in person for the first time the great works of art I had previously only read about was amazing."
Kennedy's first trip abroad won't be his last: He hopes to head overseas again this summer, perhaps with support from a separate Johns Hopkins program known as the Woodrow Wilson fellowship, to study the impact of expatriate Russian modernism on painting and sculpture in Western Europe during the 1920s.
Kennedy is the son of Marina and Charles Kennedy and a graduate of Oratory Preparatory High School in Summit, N.J.
[Note to editors: High resolution digital photos of Kennedy are available upon request to firstname.lastname@example.org.]
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