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Published: June 03, 2021

Walking in Hemingway’s Shoes

Three University of Tampa students, Chandler Culotta ’22, Lily Connolly ’21 and Nina Darcy ’21, took their books and notes to Key West this May to walk in the footsteps of their favorite author, Ernest Hemingway.

Students talking on the porch of Ernest Hemingway's home in Key West.
University of Tampa students took their books and notes to Key West this May to walk in the footsteps of their favorite author, Ernest Hemingway. Pictured from left are Assistant Professor Sarah Juliet Lauro, Lily Connolly ’21 and Nina Darcy ’21. 

From grabbing a bite to eat at Hemingway’s haunt, Sloppy Joe’s Bar, to wandering his home-turned-museum, the students’ goal was to create annotations for things referenced in Hemingway’s novels The Old Man and the Sea and To Have and Have Not for a Hemingway-focused research website,

“In order to fully understand the impact of the Nobel-prize-winning novella, The Old Man and the Sea, and the legacy that unites Hemingway fans and critics alike, one must first understand the history of Key West during the author’s time and cultural context,” the website reads. “We hope that this website will enrich the experience … by bringing the splendor of the location to life through these coordinated annotations and media projects.”

The trip, which was fully funded by the University’s Office of Undergraduate Research and Inquiry, was organized by Sarah Juliet Lauro, assistant professor of English, to build upon the site she created with three previous students in 2019.

“We want this (website) to be a resource that other people can draw from that might make these books come alive and give them a visual when teaching or learning about Hemingway,” said Lauro. “The University of Tampa’s charge is learning by doing, and this is it in action.”

Three students working on laptops on a porch.
The students explored some of Hemingway’s favorite places, from kayaking in the mangroves to grabbing a bite to eat at Sloppy Joe’s Bar. Pictured from left are Darcy and Connolly. 

Culotta, Connolly and Darcy took charge of the trip to fill in missing gaps on the Hemingway website. The group transformed ordinary passages in Hemingway’s novels to showcase his beauty in writing by providing photographs, annotations and explanations of things in Key West that inspired his writing, such as the lighthouse, mangroves and fishing community.

“By having these pictures and these digital media annotations, it can help people really understand what was so easy for us to see because we love Hemingway,” said Darcy, an English major from Austin, TX. “But, since so many people are forced to read him and don’t love him, they may not originally see the beauty (in his words) until it is physically shown.” 

Time not spent exploring Key West was allotted to reading and rereading Hemingway’s novels, marking up the texts and updating the website. According to Culotta, a double major in art and creative writing, physically being in Key West, rather than studying from UT’s campus, allowed a bigger scope for understanding Hemingway’s writing than conducting research behind a computer screen.

Students kayaking
Time not spent exploring Key West was allotted to reading and rereading Hemingway’s novels, marking up the texts and updating the website. 

“It would be so much harder to contextualize the things we learned if we were researching from campus,” said Darcy. “Being immersed in the environment that inspired his writings really helps me understand why he wrote certain things or why he wrote in a specific style. We’re as close to the sources as we could possibly get.”

Not only was this research trip exciting for their love of Hemingway, but the students developed their professional abilities as well.

“The collaborative aspects of working together has been really amazing, and it has taught us a lot about teamwork and how to work with others by combining everyone’s unique strengths to create the best product,” said Connolly, a writing major from Lakeland, FL. “It’s also an amazing opportunity to be doing research on my own without getting a grade and find my footing for my future without the guidance of being in a classroom. It’s testing our characters and our abilities.”

Lauro saw the importance of this hands-on learning experience as an outlet for the students to showcase their work and talent to future employers. It is ultimately a valuable addition to their résumés. 

The students and Lauro hope to pass the torch on to the next group of Hemingway lovers to continue updating the website and take a future research trip to Cuba, another place that inspired his famous writings.


By Kayla Lupedee ’22, journalism major with a minor in writing
Photos provided by Chandler Culotta ’22

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