Westmont in ENGLAND 2016

Whitby abbey in North Yorkshire.

During fall semester of even-numbered years, Westmont students explore the terrain where British and Irish literature was written. Led by English Department faculty, England Semester actually begins in Scotland amid the wor'd largest arts festival, the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, where students scurry from venue to venure witnessing theatre, comedy, dance, music and street performers from all over the world. From Edinburgh, students trek to the Lake District of the Romantic poets, the howling moors of the Brontë sisters, and the walled medieval city of York, before arriving in Stratford-upon-Avon where the Royal Shakespeare Company offers stunningly professional productions on their nw thrust stage. The program includes substantial periods of residential study at one or more Christian conference centers. Students spend several weeks in London and travel to Canterbury, to Northern Ireland, to Dublin (during the Dublin Theatre Festival), and o Galway in the west of Ireland where poet W. B. Yeats lived in a 15th-century tower. The program often visits Oxford, Cambridge, and sites associated with Thomas Hardy (in southern England) or with the poet T. S. Eliot (in London and East Anglia). England emester is open to any students (regardless of major) interested in studying British literature and theatre. Upper-division English and interdisciplinary studies credit is offered.

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Do you like literature and creative writing? Would you relish the opportunity for your reading and writing to come alove in new ways as you experience the places and ideas around the United Kingdom that have given rise to some of the best writing in English? Are you eager to broaden your cultural horizons as you consider the role literature can play in shaping national and cultural identities? How about spending a semester buildling lasting memories and relationships with other Westmont students equally passionate about the written work while thinking about what it means to be travelers -- pilgrims, really -- across the UK and throughout our lives? If this sounds exciting to you, welcome to England Semester 2014.

Academic Courses

Required Orientation Course, taken Spring 2014

British and Irish Culture and Politics (2 units) – required, Spring 2014; fulfills GE: Communicating Cross Culturally. Instructor: Jamie Friedman

In this course, we will trace the history of the British Isles in broad terms, from earliest records to the present. We will seek to understand British-ness as distinct from American-ness while also learning about how "British" is itself a complicated term. We will learn about the shape of contemporary British politics and faith, both forms and major current debates. And, we will begin to articulate frameworks for cross-cultural experience that will shape our expectations and awareness (and sensitivites) in advance of the program. In practical terms, this couse will also serve as a place to begin to build relationships with each other before we travel as a unit, and it will also serve as the location for the dissemination of important travel planning and lessons in good travel citizenship.

Courses Offered During the Program, Fall 2014

Chaucer and Medieval Lit (4 units) – fulfills Pre-1800 or Major Author requirement for English majors. Instructor: Jamie Friedman

In this course, we will get to know the author commonly known as the father of English literature: Geoffrey Chaucer. In addition to reading arguably his best romance, Troilus and Criseyde, and certainly his most famous work, The Canterbury Tales; we’ll spend time with hiscontemporaries, including John Gower, Margery Kempe, Julian of Norwich, and the anonymous Pearl-Poet. We’ll examine how each of these authors creates literature both within and in reaction to their own cultural, historical, political, and ideological landscape. And we’ll enhance our readings and discussions by visiting key sites in that landscape: including Rochester Cathedral and Castle; Lincoln Cathedral; York; Oxford; Norwich; many locations around London; and, of course, Canterbury. We will also enjoy retracing the steps of Chaucer’s pilgrims on the medieval South Downs Way, where we may even tell stories of our own to pass the time. As a result, my hope is that students will not only come away from this course with a fuller sense of the complex literature of the late fourteenth century, but they will also engage in vibrant dialogue with the voices contained on these pages while walking in the places where our texts were written.

Topics in World Literature: Postcolonial British Isles: National Identities and the Literature of Place (4 units) – fulfills Post-1800 requirement for English majors, fulfills GE: Thinking Globally. Instructors Jamie Friedman and Apricot Irving.

This course will allow us to focus on the national identities represented in the literatures of Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales as well as modern global, multicultural, and diaspora British voices. Along the way, we’ll consider how Britain’s colonial past still leaves its mark on its postcolonial present by reading Anglophone literature that particularly addresses exile, belonging, and identity from within a variety of (inter)cultural and (inter) national perspectives. We’ll take advantage of our presence in Edinburgh, Northern Ireland, Wales, London, and elsewhere to see how the landscape of these regions affects the literature written there. Further, alongside our reading of several London-based texts, our extended stay in London will give us ample time to get to know the multicultural terrain that London represents, considering both how London is a new global center while also challenging the notions of center and margin upon which colonialism relies.

Creative Writing Workshop: Travel Writing and Memoir (4 units) – provides credits toward the English major, fulfills GE: Integrating the Major Discipline. Instructor: Apricot Irving.

Travel writing and memoir, at their best, afford not only the opportunity to explore new landscapes but also to turn inward and reflect. In this course we will enjoy close readings of masters of the form: essays on landscape and belonging by the contemporary Scottish poet Kathleen Jamie; memoirs by the Welsh poet and priest R. S. Thomas; as well as works by other noted British writers (including Michael Ondaatje,Alexandra Fuller and Zadie Smith). Apprenticeship, however, is the springboard; honing our own skills as writers will be the primary focus of the class. Drawing from our transformational encounters with the landscape and people of Ireland, Wales, Scotland and England, students will craft personal essays that reflect a deep engagement with what it means to be a traveler. By the end of the semester, each student should be ready to place a work of creative nonfiction into the hands of an editor—which, as any writer knows, is not the end of the writing process but merely the beginning of another journey.

Shakespeare in Performance (2 units) – required; provides credits towards the English major. Instructors: Jamie Friedman and Apricot Irving.

In this course we will experience theater attending as an active intellectual and social adventure as we take advantage of world-class theater offerings in London, Stratford-upon-Avon, and more. Expect to read and attend several plays, respond thoughtfully to what you’ve seen, and to engage in lively dialogue with your classmates about your theater experiences. Putting on our own Shakespeare performances will allow us to understand our texts anew, as we experience how theatrical texts come alive when we incarnate them.

Literary Pilgrimage (2 units) – required; provides credits toward the English major. Instructors: Jamie Friedman and Apricot Irving.

What does it mean to be a traveler, and how can we travel well? What are the forms that pilgrimage takes? At the very least, pilgrimage involves a journey towards an illuminating site, a journey that can itself be as enriching as the destination. In this course, we’ll consider together how traveling as pilgrims, rather than as tourists, changes how we encounter the spaces in which we move, effects how we organize our time, how we engage with each other, and how we grow as individuals. And we’ll be involved in a variety of pilgrimages. Literary pilgrimages to important literary sites (Wordsworth’s house, Shakespeare’s hometown, among many others) will enrich and challenge our literary interpretations. Pilgrimage as an intellectual, social, and spiritual group experience will ask us what it means to think and live in diverse intentional community. Spiritual pilgrimage will invite us to enter into sacred spaces anew and to discover the sacred in the everyday, and within. Overall, we’ll learn to see ourselves as travelers: as we visit Eliot’s Little Gidding Church, as we walk in the footsteps of medieval (and modern) pilgrims along centuries-old pilgrimage routes, as we spend time in the sacred spaces of Julian of Norwich’s cell and Canterbury Cathedral, as we trace the journey of immigrants and émigrés across Britain, and as we makeour way through our own wild and precious life.

Faculty Leaders, Fall 2014:Friedman

  • Dr. Jamie Friedman, PhD, is Assistant Professor of English at Westmont. She has lived and studied in England and France and has previously led a study abroad program to the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe. She specializes in medieval English literature and its historical and cultural contexts and is particularly interested in helping students make connections across time, perspectives, and cultures. She is enthusiastic about leading Westmont students through the UK, where she hopes the literature of the past and the present will come alive as students encounter the places and the cultures that have shaped the British literature we'll read.
  • Apricot Irving, MA, is a writer, educator, audio producer and 1994 England Semester alum who has spent more than a decade abroad, including two years in London. Her work has been featured on This American Life and in Best Women's Travel Writing 2013. She was selected as a 2014 Writer in the Schools with Literary Arts and has taught literature and drama in Indonesia, as well as documentary oral history in Portland (www. boisevoices.com). She is the recipient of a Rona Jaffe Writing Award and a Literary Nonfiction Fellowship and her memoir, The Gospel of Trees, is under contract with Simon & Schuster.

QUESTIONS: Contact Dr. Jamie Friedman

Fall 2014 Itinerary

York: stay for 2 weeks in the center of town, just outside the Roman/medieval town

wall. This location will provide an excellent start to our study of medieval literature

and Northern English writers. A side trip to Edinburgh will enliven our discussion

of Scots writers and contemporary Scots politics. We’ll also spend time in the Lake

District.

 

Rostrevor, Northern Ireland: stay for 4 weeks in group cottages. The beautiful

rural landscape will frame our engagement with Irish literature, and we’ll take

advantage of our location near a Benedictine monastery and Irish holy sites to think

about pilgrimage as outer and inner spiritual journey. Side trips: Donegal, Irish

coast, Dublin, Belfast.

 

Woodbrooke Quaker Study Centre, near Birmingham, England: our 4-week

stay in this bucolic retreat center will provide a setting for reading, writing, and

reflection. From this base, we’ll visit Stratford-upon-Avon for Shakespeare

performances and Wales for individual or small group pilgrimages and Welsh

literature. Expect additional side trips to King’s Lynn, Norwich, and more.

 

London: we’ll stay for 4 weeks in a vibrant and diverse neighborhood right in

the center of the city, with world-class theater at our doorstep. We’ll also spend

time among the sights and the people who we’ll also encounter in our reading of

literature written by and about Londoners, from Chaucer to Zadie Smith. Trips to

Oxford, Winchester, Canterbury, and Salisbury will enrich our literary studies.

Cost:

Westmont Fall 2014 tuition, room, and board, roundtrip airfare, and a program fee

that will not exceed $2500.