London has always bulked unusually large in the life of Great Britain—in its politics, its economy, and its imagination. From the opening of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales at the Tabard Inn to the multi-cultural North London of Zadie Smith’s White Teeth, it is difficult to find an important English author or film director who does not turn to London, even if only to criticize it, as in William Wordsworth’s The Prelude. And so for English majors and non-majors interested in the arts more broadly, London offers an unparalleled place to study English literature and culture, both for its rich history and its contemporary vibrancy as one of the truly global cities of the world. This is why we’re eager to lead a group of students to learn in this setting.
By taking two of the four courses offered and by drawing liberally on the rich resources of London and places nearby (for instance., Oxford), you will engage with the texts in ways that are impossible to reproduce in a typical classroom. In grappling with the difficult joy of Shakespeare, there is no substitute for actually attending a Shakespeare play performed by the greatest actors in the world at the Globe Theatre and other theaters, something all students will enjoy whether or not enrolled in Shakespeare at the Movies. Nor, as part of Introduction to English Literature, 1660-1900 is there a substitute for walking in the footsteps of the great poet and visual artist William Blake, who drew inspiration from the London cityscape he knew so well, or visiting the Old Bailey, London’s Central Criminal Court, to see a trial in order to grasp the importance of crime and punishment.
New light is cast on understanding the role race has played in English history by visiting The Museum of London, Docklands, in an old sugar warehouse that had received the poison fruits of the slave trade or by visiting England’s only immigration museum at 19 Princelet Street, where group after group found refuge for three centuries. Grasping the choices made by the directors studied in Intermediate Film is made easier and enriched by visiting the sites where they shot their movies in London and Oxford. And then there are all the opportunities to expand your horizons in the time you will have to yourself, whether you decide to make brief trips to Paris, Amsterdam, or Edinburgh, as students have done in the past, or you decide to stay close to home and dig more deeply into the vibrant, cosmopolitan, history-drenched world of London, from its museums to its parks to its bustling neighborhoods.