Suffolk University hosted the official launch of the new Boston Literary District, the first of its kind in the nation, on October 2.
Suffolk is now an executive partner in the initiative, along with GrubStreet, the Boston Public Library, the Boston Book Festival, Emerson College, and The Drum, an audio literary magazine.
Suffolk’s involvement came about after Boston’s GrubStreet creative writing center, which initiated the bid for the Literary District, asked College of Arts & Sciences Dean Kenneth Greenberg to join its effort. Greenberg, convinced of the district’s potential, called together several English Department faculty to help identify locations that could be used as potential literary tour sites and to find Suffolk’s place within them.
Representatives from each of these organizations attended the launch event, along with nearly 80 others from Boston media and literary circles, including local authors Anita Shreve and Dick Lehr, and Anita Walker, executive director of the Massachusetts Cultural Council. The highlight of the evening was the unveiling of the website for the Literary District, introduced by James Carroll, internationally acclaimed journalist and author and a distinguished Scholar-in-Residence at Suffolk.
A Campus Rich in Literary History
The Literary District highlights more than 80 sites, including several on the Suffolk campus. Notable Suffolk stops on the route include the Modern Theatre and the Rosalie Stahl Center, which houses the Clark Collection of African American Literature, the Poetry Center, and Salamander, the celebrated literary journal. By showcasing the University and its values, the district will help steer an even more diverse population of talented students to Suffolk.
English professor Gerald Richman, whose knowledge of Boston’s literary history has been invaluable to the project, says that the inclusion of campus buildings will put Suffolk on the map—literally and figuratively. “It will increase Suffolk’s presence to the public, potentially attracting more students and parents, and also highlight the significance of the University’s location” says Richman.
The Perfect Setting
Beyond the Suffolk campus, Boston’s long and rich literary history makes it the ideal home for the first Literary District in the nation.
“Boston is currently undergoing a literary renaissance,” says Larry Lindner, the Literary District coordinator. “The addition of the Literary District helps the city be seen as a mecca for writers.”
The district stretches from Copley Square to Beacon Hill and Washington Street. Along the way, literature lovers can explore the Boston Athenaeum, one of the oldest independent libraries in the country; the Boston Public Library; the Brattle Book Shop, one of the oldest used book stores in the United States; Benjamin Franklin’s birthplace; and the former homes of writers like Sylvia Plath and Robert Frost.
The organizers emphasized contemporary literature to help build community among Boston’s writers and drive the many cultural activities and events planned for the district, such as mobile app tours, readings, poetry slams, and literary festivals. The Literary District also welcomes young writers and readers. Lindner says that the district will be a great channel to create programming that would improve literacy levels among Boston’s youth and promote interest in and excitement about reading and writing.
But in addition to charming literary arts supporters, the Literary District will benefit the city itself. The activities and attractions that come with establishing such a district have the potential to fuel tourism, support local businesses, and encourage community partnerships, according to organizers.