London: British Literature, History, and Culture

Photo of 2015 group touring a Thameside Victorian sewage station
Final App Deadline: 
Monday, February 26, 2018
Language Requirement: 
Dana Currier

The London program is designed to provide students with the unique opportunity to study British literature, history, 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/or history, 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.

2017 Program Theme “Institutions and Revolutions”

With London serving as the constant reference point, this sequence of courses will focus on literature’s engagement with revolution in three different centuries. The revolutions range from the political and social to the cultural and aesthetic. The literary engagements range from complex response to provocation. From British Romanticisms’s reaction to the upheaval of the French Revolution (1789-1799), to one of London’s loudest avant-garde attacks on bourgeois culture in the midst of World War I, to literary accounts of how metropolitan movement can effect radical change in the perception of value, the sequence will highlight both the institutions that particular authors struggled against and those which they struggled to foster.

Institution and Revolution in Romantic Arts (Timothy Campbell)

In the first part of the course, focusing on William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s monumental poetic work Lyrical Ballads (1798), we will consider the implications of revolutions abroad and of institutionalizations of arts and culture at home for the rise of modern literary culture in Romantic-era Britain. Wordsworth famously envisioned a new role for the poet as that of a “man speaking to men” who could make “incidents and situations from common life” the proper matter of literature. As he did so, Wordsworth was confronting both the disappointed hope of the “blissful dawn” of the French Revolution and a cultural milieu reshaped by the emergence of institutions like the British Museum (1753), the Royal Academy of Art (1768), and the National Gallery (1824)—all of which continue to define British national culture. In the second part of the course, we will consider analogous developments of the present moment, including the institutionalization of new arts like fashion, to consider where (in what scenes, and in what forms of writing and media) we might look for Lyrical Ballads of our own time.

BLAST: Avant-Garde London, 1912-1920 (Bill Brown)

BLAST (1914-15) sought to distinguish London as a new center of radical innovation in the literary and visual arts. Edited by Wyndham Lewis—the controversial painter, novelist, and polemicist—the magazine introduced Vorticism as a movement that sought to galvanize a cultural revolution. (“Curse with expletive of whirlwind the Britannic aesthete cream of the snobbish earth.”) This course will concentrate on the two issues of the magazine itself, attending to its literary and graphic experiments in the context of other modernist magazines. We will also engage related work by the artists and writers who contributed to the journal (Ezra Pound, Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, Jacob Epstein, Jessica Dismoor, Helen Saunders, El Lissitsky, Rebecca West, Ford Madox Ford, Dorothy Shakespeare); and we will situate Vorticism in relation to the modernist contexts against which it emerged (including Cubism, Imagism, Futurism, and the Bloomsbury Group). Moreover we will examine the brief history of Blast against the backdrop of the Great War. In London we will take particular advantage of the collections at the Tate.

Money, Migration, and the Metropole: Shaping Novels, Imagining Cities (Kenneth Warren)

By focusing on a set of novels—one from the late 19th century, and several from the early 21st century—this course will explore how movement within and between great cities, particularly but not exclusively, London, challenges our capacity to imagine social value, social change, and literary form. The novels we read will include, Henry James, The Princess Casamassima, Mohsin Hamid, How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia, Colm Tóibín, The Master, John Lanchester, Capital, Caryl Phillips, The Atlantic Sound & Higher Ground, Rachel Cusk, Outline & Transit.


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, History 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 non-refundable study abroad administrative fee. The tuition and program fee are paid in conformity with the home campus payment schedule, and the non-refundable study abroad administrative fee is submitted when accepting a place in a program. Precise figures for the London program during the 2017-18 year are listed below:

Autumn tuition: as set by the Bursar’s Office

Study abroad administrative fee: $650

London program fee: $4,700

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
  personal entertainment and travel
  communications (most students bring or buy a cell phone)
emergency travel insurance (ISOS) 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 history and with some coursework in these areas. It is not required that English or History 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, History, and Culture program and the possibility of participating in it, please contact Dana Currier.

What you’ll see: 

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