Imagining Boston, A Literary Landscape by Shaun O’Connell

John Winthrop 1587-1649

…those places which have held significance for Bostonians and their writers: the Garden and Common, Back Bay, the South End, all clustered in the city’s center. Beyond lie the hard edges of the city, where immigrant energies, racial and ethnic identities have long been felt: the North End, South Boston, Charlestown and Dorchester. To the west lies Cambridge, central to Boston’s self-definition from the beginning, and particular Harvard, which embodies so much of the city’s mind and soul. We travel from Beacon Hill to Harvard to Concord, the pastoral and ideological counterpoint to pragmatic, commercial Boston. Farther West lie Amherst and the Berkshire Hills, Lenox, and the other towns, at the outer edge of Boston’s reach. The sphere of influence arcs north to include southern New Hampshire and south to encompass Cape Cod. All of these are sites which have been illuminated by the imagination of Greater Boston’s writers who have infused such places with ideas, passions, and symbols. America’s city upon a hill, though radically transformed, is still, as John Winthrop imagined it should be, a beacon–“the eyes of all people are upon us.”  –Shaun O’Connell, Imagining Boston, A Literary Landscape

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