London: British Literature and Culture

Photo of The British Museum
Final App Deadline: 
Monday, February 24, 2020
Language Requirement: 
Dana Currier

The London program is designed to provide students with the unique opportunity to study British literature and culture in London, the lively capital of modern England and a city of great beauty and historical richness. In the course of this intensive, ten-week program, students take four courses. Three of these courses, devoted to British literature and culture, are each compressed into approximately three weeks and taught in succession by Chicago faculty. The fourth course runs throughout the term at a less intensive pace and allows for independent study of a London-based topic. London itself, once the metropolitan hub of the British Empire with a history dating from Roman times, is central to the mission of this program and students are expected to make a serious project of exploring its corners. Toward this end, the program includes a number of field trips within and around London, aimed at connecting texts with living monuments.


London’s Water Stories: Representations of the Thames in Literature and Visual Culture (Josephine McDonagh)

This course will consider representations of urban experience in 19th and 20th -century London through focusing on the Thames estuary, the docks and the river. As one of the main points of entry to Britain for people and goods throughout the 19th and much of the 20th century, the river and especially the London docks, loom large in many of the mythologies of London as an imperial center, a destination for immigrants, and, with the redevelopment of Canary Wharf in the 1980s, a center of global finance. We will think about the licit and illicit traffic of the river, the various cultures and counter cultures that have emerged along it, and the ways in which they figure in literary and other texts. Students will travel on the river, visit relevant museums and exhibitions, including the Maritime Museum at Greenwich, the Docklands Museum, and the two Tates, and take a trip to the estuary town on the Isle of Sheppey. The texts we will study are likely to include works by Dickens, Oscar Wilde, Woolf, Conrad, and Hanif Kureishi, and films by Derek Jarman and John Mackenzie.

Postcolonial England: Migration, Race, Nation (Sonali Thakkar)

This course will examine how ideas of English identity and nationhood have been transformed by postwar migration and diaspora, as well as by political and cultural contestations over race, racial representation, and the legacies of the British Empire. We will ask how the decline and overthrow of Britain’s influence and rule in the colonies after WWII gave rise to not just postcolonial nation-states overseas, but also to a postcolonial England. Our focus will be on the discourses and cultural production of migrant and diasporic communities. But we will also consider the historical context in which our authors and artists worked, and the various forms of imperial amnesia and nostalgia, as well as nativist and xenophobic political currents, against which they struggled.

We will examine literary texts, cultural criticism, and film, music and visual culture from the early postwar period (Windrush Generation and the Suez Crisis) up to the present. Authors we might study include Sam Selvon, Kazuo Ishiguro, Salman Rushdie, Bhanu Kapil, and Kamila Shamsie, with films by Isaac Julien and Hanif Kureishi. We will also make use of London’s historical and cultural offerings, with a possible trip to the Black Cultural Archives, among other outings.

The Country and the City (James Chandler)

Following loosely in the track of Raymond Williams’s 1973 book of the same title, this course will consider the interplay of urban and rustic life in literary productions of the early British Industrial Revolution. Writers we read will include William Blake, William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Jane Austen, and possibly Charles Dickens. We will take advantage of the major exhibition of William Blake that will be on offer at London’s spectacular Tate Britain gallery (the first there in two decades), and we will probably make an excursion to Chawton, about 40 miles outside of London, to see Jane Austen’s village, including the 16th-century country house where her brother Edward presided.


London program participants occupy furnished two-bedroom apartments with shared bathrooms and full kitchens in the Farringdon neighborhood in London. The apartments include wireless internet access, laundry facilities, and televisions. The Farringdon neighborhood is home to many restaurants, cafes, grocery stores, and other amenities. Access to public transportation, including buses and the tube, is nearby.

Credits and Registration

Participants in the London program remain registered as full-time students in the College. They take and receive credit for four courses: the three courses in the “British Literature and Culture” sequence and the fourth independent study course. Literature courses taught by Chicago English faculty may be used in their respective majors without special approval. Their use, partial or total, in other majors must be approved by the undergraduate chair of that department. Courses not used to meet major requirements may fill elective slots. Course titles, units of credit and grades are placed on the College transcript.


Study abroad students pay regular College tuition, a program fee, and a nonrefundable study abroad administrative fee. The tuition and program fee are paid in conformity with the home campus payment schedule, and the nonrefundable study abroad administrative fee is submitted when accepting a place in a program. Precise figures for the London program during the 2019-20 year are listed below:

Autumn tuition: as set by the Bursar’s Office

Study abroad administrative fee: $675

London program fee: $4,900

Program fee includes: Out-of-pocket expenses include:
accommodation with kitchen round-trip airfare to and from the program site
instruction transportation on site
student support meals
program excursions course materials
emergency travel insurance (ISOS) personal entertainment and travel
  communications (most students bring or buy a cell phone)
  health insurance and upfront payments for care
  other miscellaneous expenses

Previous program participants report spending in the range of $200 to $250 per week on meals and incidentals while on the program, though frugal students may spend less, and others could spend much more. Bear in mind that the cost of living in London is relatively high and that, while it is possible to live frugally, it is also possible to run short of money if you are unwary. It is therefore essential that you budget your funds prudently, apportioning your resources so that they last for the duration of the program. If you are planning to travel before or after the program or on weekends, you should budget accordingly.

Study abroad students retain their financial aid eligibility. For more information about financial aid resources, please see our Tuition, Fees, and Funding section.

Eligibility and Application

The London program is open to University of Chicago undergraduate students only. Applications from outside the University are not accepted.

The Chicago London program is designed for third- and fourth-year University of Chicago undergraduates in good standing with a strong interest in British literature and culture and with some coursework in this area. It is not required that English be a student’s major subject at Chicago, though students concentrating in those fields will likely find the program to be especially attractive and profitable. In general students should present a solid academic record and demonstrate the kind of maturity that is necessary to participate successfully in a program abroad.

Each application is examined on the basis of the student’s scholastic record, personal statement and academic recommendation. If you are interested in applying for this program please fill out the online application.

Further Information

To discuss the London: British Literature and Culture program and the possibility of participating in it, please contact Dana Currier.

What you’ll see: 

Photo of 2013 group at Stratford-upon-AvonPhoto of 2015 group touring a Thameside Victorian sewage stationPhoto of 2015 group visiting the Hope Coal PitPhoto of The British Museum