Every semester, Southern Virginia University students enrolled in the university’s America and the Enlightenment course have the unique opportunity to visit Monticello, the iconic home of Thomas Jefferson. This semester, students traveled with their professors — Dr. David Cox, Dr. Lora Knight and Dr. Francis MacDonnell — and Delaney Taylor, travel study assistant, to Charlottesville, Va., to see the historic house on the back of the U.S. nickel.
Jefferson spent a significant amount of his life designing and creating Monticello, which took 40 years to construct. Jefferson named his home Monticello because it means “little mountain” in Italian. At Monticello, students toured the house itself and also participated on an outdoor tour about the lives of the enslaved people at Monticello. I enjoyed tagging along on the tours to take some photos and to revisit a truly fascinating place.
One of the purposes of the Monticello course excursion is for students to get a better glimpse into the life of Jefferson and particularly into how the Enlightenment influenced early American thought and culture. When I took the America and the Enlightenment course from Dr. Cox a few years ago, I enjoyed touring Monticello and seeing direct examples of the Enlightenment influence on one of America’s foundational leaders. And in true liberal arts fashion, in addition to learning about the many aspects of Monticello that exemplify the Enlightenment during the tour of the house, the second tour gave us an example of one of the aspects of early American life that contradicted the Enlightenment emphasis on equality and reason: slavery.
After the course excursion, students took what they learned at Monticello to write papers relating back to what they have learned in the course.
(Post and Photos by Hannah King ’13).