It is easy to assert that Thomas Jefferson belongs to Virginia, as he was born and raised in the commonwealth and proud of that fact. Claiming Jefferson as a significant Virginia writer is hardly a stretch. His Notes on the State of Virginia was his way of contending that the American (and, particularly, Virginian) landscape was more than capable of inspiring and providing for great thinkers. He later wrote in a letter that his Notes was his way of “proving that the man of America was equal in body and in mind, to the man of Europe.”11 The Virginian landscape certainly has proven to be up to that task of forging powerful minds, especially in the literary arena. By taking a trip to some of the 33 sites commemorated by the state, visitors are able to forge their own connections with these creative forces. Being able to connect via an actual physical location is important to the human mind. It gives context that merely reading cannot provide. We can see what it must have been like to study in a cramped room at Mr. Jefferson's University. We can understand the importance of central governmental documents by their viewing their secret hiding places. We can look out on the landscaped viewed by authors, be they full of willows or rivers or mountains, and imagine how they would have translated those sites from their eyes to their pens. We can understand better the settings chosen for books by strolling down the paths upon which their creators walked. We can ponder what kind of man would take time out of a travel schedule to write for an unknown deceased child. We can witness the humble origins of great writers and understand that, perhaps, another great wordsmith is stepping out right around the corner.


Virginia Literary Landmarks Quiz


This site was created by Emily Kane as part of the University of Virginia's American Studies program.
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American Studies at U.Va.