London: British Literature and Culture

Southbank and Thames Tour (Autumn 2019)
Final App Deadline: 
Monday, February 14, 2022
Language Requirement: 
None
Coordinator: 
Dana Currier
Quarter(s): 
Autumn
Core Credits: 
Arts Core

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.

Autumn 2021 Program Theme: Literature and Social Change

ENGL 23301/CRES 23301: The Legacies of the Windrush Generation
Kaneesha Parsard

In 1948, the Empire Windrush docked at Tilbury, Essex. Onboard were people who were from colonies such as Jamaica, Barbados, and Trinidad: they were migrants and subjects of the British Crown, as well as descendants of enslaved Africans and indentured Asians from the West Indian sugar colonies. Their arrival would transform British society, forcing a confrontation with its colonial past. As the Windrush Generation settled in, some coped with their new surroundings by writing and creating art, and organizing. In fact, what we now know as Caribbean literature took hold in this period, as newly-arrived West Indian writers found platforms for their work on radio and in London publishing houses. Windrush migrants and their descendants have commented on and critiqued race, empire, and plantation histories since.

This course explores Windrush and its legacies as social, political, and aesthetic phenomena. Beginning with Henry Swanzy, Una Marson, and their leadership on BBC’s radio show Caribbean Voices, we will engage with the creative works of Windrush migrants and their descendants: Samuel Selvon, Linton Kwesi Johnson, Hew Locke, and others. To understand social struggle, we will study the life of activist Claudia Jones and her founding of the West Indian Gazette And Afro-Asian Caribbean News. Finally, we will also examine the 2018 Windrush Scandal, in which at least 83 Britons were unjustly deported, in conversation with works like excerpts of Hazel Carby’s account of the intertwined histories of Jamaica and Britain, Imperial Intimacies (2019).

As we will be studying in London, we will visit the Black Cultural Archives in Brixton, a mainstay of Black Britain, as well as other local institutions such as the British Library, the National Maritime Museum, and/or the British Museum. We will also conduct a studio visit with local painter Jacqui Cooke, a descendant of Windrush migrants whose chosen subjects are historical and contemporary Black British figures.

This course fulfills the following Creative Writing requirement(s): literary theory (LT).

ENGL 23302/ARCH 23302: Gothic Fiction and Architecture
Benjamin Morgan

In this course we study the aesthetics and politics of gothic fiction and architecture. Many of us associate Gothic fiction with fearful tales of mystery and suspense. But the rise of a Gothic aesthetic in the eighteenth and nineteenth century was a political movement: British writers and architects used the gothic medieval aesthetic to express their opposition to capitalism and industrialization by looking to a supposedly better past. We will study gothic fiction since the eighteenth century, paying attention to how this fiction was used to comment on a rapidly changing society. Our study of fictional gothic architecture will draw us into the real spaces of London, where we will tour renowned Gothic Revival buildings such as the Houses of Parliament and St. Pancras railway station. Readings may include Horace Walpole, The Castle of Otranto; Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey; Bram Stoker, Dracula; Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray; and Henry James, The Turn of the Screw.

This course fulfills the following Creative Writing requirement(s): pre-20th century literature (LC) and literary genre-fiction (LG-fiction).

CRWR 12146: London vs. Nature: Writing Utopia and Dystopia in the Urban Landscape
[Creative Writing Arts Core: Reading as a Writer]

Jennifer Scappettone

In this Arts Core course, students will be introduced to a range of the utopian and dystopian fantasies that writers have produced in response to the metropolis of London as the imperial epicenter of manufactured ecologies, from the late nineteenth century through the present day. They will study early responses to modernism and modernization in the city by figures like William Blake, Frederick Engels, Henry James, Ezra Pound, and Virginia Woolf before moving on to contemporary writers such as R. Murray Schafer, who apprehends the city through “earwitnessing” of noise pollution, and Bhanu Kapil, who recalls the race riots of the 1970s against the backdrop of the Nestle factory on the site of King Henry VIII’s hunting grounds. Students will be exposed first-hand to how London is read by writers confronting planetary and political crisis through meetings with living publishers, authors, and art collectives like the Museum of Walking, grappling with the continual metamorphosis of the landscape—and through a sequence of on-site visits and psychogeographical experiments, they will have the opportunity to respond to the city in their own writing across a range of genres.

ENGL 23304: The Stage and the City: Performance and Daily Life in Renaissance London
Sarah-Gray Lesley

Between the years 1500 and 1660, London developed into an urban superpower. By 1660, London was boasting a population of 350,000, which was nearly six times its population in the early sixteenth century (~60,000). This course asks what it was like to live in London as it evolved into something equal parts new, exciting, and frightening. We will be considering this question through three city comedies set in London and written between 1609 and 1640. City comedies are particularly good at detailing the perils, thrills, and novel sensoria of an expanding metropolis. We will use these plays as a testing ground to articulate for ourselves what central issues have been raised by London-living over the centuries. What was it like to go to an early iteration of a shopping mall? How were categories of disability, race, gender, and sexuality negotiated through this dense and diverse population? How have city dwellers dealt with plague or famine?

Students will be asked to use the issues drawn from this historical context to formulate their own research project about any period of London’s history. Throughout the course, the class will take field trips to London neighborhoods, an archive, a theatre performance, and several museums. By engaging with the resources and experiences available in 21st-century London, students will use their imagination and research skills to travel back in time and discover the various “Londons” that have emerged over this city’s history.

Housing

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.

Finances

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 2021–2022 year are listed below:

Autumn tuition: as set by the Bursar’s Office

Study abroad administrative fee: $675

London program fee: $4,975

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 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, please contact Dana Currier.

What you’ll see: 

Excursion to Black Cultural Archives in Brixton (Autumn 2019)Excursion to Black Cultural Archives in Brixton (Autumn 2019)Southbank and Thames Tour (Autumn 2019)Touring a Thameside Victorian sewage station (Autumn 2015)Group at Stratford-upon-Avon (Autumn 2013)