Studying Shakespeare in the heart of London: students explore England though summer program
Published: Sunday, July 1, 2012
Updated: Sunday, July 1, 2012 23:07
All eyes will be on London this summer with the 2012 Olympics just around the corner but a group of Miami University students had the opportunity to explore the city before the games.
For many Miami students, the chance to study abroad while in college is one too great to pass up. In fact Miami has declared that half of all students will study abroad by the time they graduate.
The Miami University John E. Dolibois Center (MUDEC) in Luxembourg is one of the more popular study abroad programs with roughly 120-130 students choosing to study abroad each semester, however there are multiple programs students can choose from as an alternative, including Miami’s Literary London summer study abroad program.
Miami English Associate Professor Kaara Peterson launched the program in 2006 after researching how to create the study abroad trip.
“I got to Miami in 2004 as an assistant professor of English and I realized that the department didn’t have a humanities study abroad program in London,” Peterson said. “I thought it was a gap that needed to be filled.”
Peterson worked with Miami’s Lifelong Learning Department, which offers various credit and non-credit programs at Miami to allow students to take courses in places outside of the classroom, in order to create the six-week summer study abroad course. The course is available to all Miami students, not just English majors, and focuses on aspects of Shakespearean work and other literature, according to Peterson.
“Shakespeare is always offered … but we do teach a variety depending on what fits with the program and what may be going on in London too,” Peterson said. “I basically develop the idea and then line up how I want it all to work.”
According to Peterson, throughout the program students have the opportunity to see various sites around London including museums, galleries, and other famous areas on the various day trips provided during the week.
“We usually do a few consistent things,” Peterson said. “We always visit the Tower of London and the London Eye. We’ve also started doing a big afternoon during the first week.”
The courses are rigorous and students attend class twice a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays with a day trip provided on Wednesdays. The rest of the time is given for students to study, travel and tour London on their own and students are asked to pick two out of three classes that are offered, according to Peterson.
“They are real academic classes,” Peterson said, “It is not simply an expensive vacation. It is integrated with academic work and the sites that are seen.”
According to Peterson, the program usually sees an average of 20 students per trip and the students’ majors vary, with usually about half of the students declared as some type of English major and the other half as non-English majors.
Miami English Assistant Professor James Bromley has taught in the program for multiple summers and said the program is a great one especially for students looking to study Shakespeare in the heart of London.
“One thing the program allows me to do is teach a little more about performance than I get a chance to in Oxford,” Bromley said.
Students are given the opportunity to see a number of Shakespearean shows performed throughout their trip as a part of the study abroad experience.
“Getting to go to the shows and talking about how the shows take the text from page to stage is not possible to do with every play in Oxford, Ohio so it opens up Shakespeare in a different way,” Bromley said.
Miami English Associate Professor Anita Mannur taught a course in Literary London for the first time this year and enjoyed all aspects of it.
“I’ve been wanting to teach in the program for a few years but one of the main reasons for wanting to teach is to connect more with the culture,” Mannur said. “I teach contemporary issues and sometimes at Miami the texts come to life in a certain way but there can be limitations.”
Mannur said it is helpful to be able to do more than simply read the texts in the classroom.
“It’s nice to not just read about books and imagine the lives of the people but to really have the opportunity to see the culture and see the city as a text and see the world,” she said.
Mannur recommends the program for all students slightly interested in the courses.
“I would recommend it for many reasons, the foremost is that you aren’t just taking one class, plus you’re getting one perspective and it’s important because coming to London gives you a contemporary feel of where the city is going,” Mannur said.
Junior Lauren Jones attended the 2012 Literary London Study Abroad Program because she said it would be a great opportunity to take advantage of in college.
“I decided to do Literary London because it’s interactive and it also fits very well with my major and my goals of traveling while I’m young,” Jones said.
According to Jones one of the best parts of participating in the program was being able to see so many various parts of London. Literary Londoners were able to visit The Tower of London, Westminister Abbey, Buckingham Palace, The London Eye and many other attractions that would have been difficult to fit into one trip had it not been with the study abroad program.
“I really liked being able to do stuff on my own on the weekends too,” Jones said, “I really wanted to see Abbey Road, which I was able to do. I was also able to go to Dublin, Paris, Berlin and Prague on the other weekends I had off. It was seriously the trip of a lifetime and I learned a lot about traveling on my own since this was the first time I had really ever experienced that.”