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The London English Study Group

Director Spring 2018: Professor Deborah Knuth Klenck, Department of English 

The History of the London English Study Group

In 1966, the English Department joined the Economics and the History Department in a modus vivendi, under the supervision of three Colgate faculty, one from each department. Professor Russell Speirs was the English Study Group first director. Similar to the other groups, the professor would teach three courses and supervise a special “intern” experience representing an independent study designed to take full advantage of the English environment. The English Study Group was required to take two or three courses offered by the department and one or two electives from the other departments. The courses depended on the leadership but every academic year, students (English concentrators: juniors and seniors) were required to take the Independent Project based on contemporary English work, such as contemporary English Theater. The courses would be offered simultaneously from September until November when all students would embark upon their Independent Study Project. Until recent years, housing used to be a challenge, students had to make their own travel and living arrangements, which took a long time to find fairly decent housing. After the January Term was no longer continued, the English Study Group in London was moved to the Spring Term. In the spring of 1979, the English Department expanded their study group so that it began operating on a full-year basis. Today, the English Study Group in London continues to operate in the spring semester opened to all students interested, but priority is given to declared/prospective English and English/Creative Writing concentrators.


This study group offers students the opportunity to live and study for the spring term in one of the world’s great cities.  London will be a central “text” of the study group, a semester that immerses students in the culture, history, and life of the city.  “The Female Protagonist” studies London novels by and about women, some focusing on the immigrant experience of the dizzying complexity of this city. “Restoration and Eighteenth-Century Literature and Culture” uses an interdisciplinary approach to the poetry, drama, painting, music, and architecture of the long eighteenth century.  In the course on the contemporary London theater, students will study with an acclaimed playwright and attend at least a play each week.  And a course on the history of London, which will include walking tours of all parts of the city, will afford students further appreciation of the city’s central place in Britain and its former empire, a magnet for immigrants who have transformed it into one of the most vibrant and multicultural cities in the world.  

Course of Study and Calendar:
All students accepted into the group will take English 290, an introduction to study in London, 0.25-credit on-campus course in the fall of 2017; and four courses in London.  Three of those courses will offer credit in the English Department: English 305Y and English 313Y, both taught by the director, and English 332Y, taught by a resident theater specialist in London.  The fourth course, History 348, is taught by another London specialist. With minor adjustments, the program will hew to Colgate’s academic calendar for the spring semester of 2018.

Students participating in the English study group will satisfy the Core Global Engagements requirement by taking English 305Y (pending GE approval), a course that is also cross-listed in the Women’s Studies Department. English 313Y fulfills one of the pre-1800 requirements for the major in English.

Students explore ancient building on London English Study Group

Required Courses

English 305Y: The Female Protagonist (D. Knuth Klenck) In this course, we will explore how lives of women in London have been represented by fiction writers from Daniel Defoe in the eighteenth century through to Zadie Smith in twenty-first century, postcolonial London.  Using a feminist approach, we will examine a series of interrelated topics, including the roles of wealth, class, ethnicity, and race in the social dynamics of London life. (Michael Apted’s “Seven Up” documentaries [1964-present] that focus on a shift—albeit slight shift—in British class divisions is also on the syllabus.) We will come to understand the evolving self-images of “Englishness” and “England,” and how they led to the “Brexit” vote of 2016. Each student will design, in collaboration with the director, a final project that examines one or more of our novels in a post-colonial context, focusing on crossing borders.

This course has been approved for Global Engagements credit.

English 313Y: Restoration and Eighteenth-Century Literature and Culture (D. Knuth Klenck). This course traces the impact on poetry, art, music, and architecture of the rapid changes in politics and religion from the Puritan Revolution through the Restoration of the Monarchy, the 1665 Plague, the 1666 Great Fire of London, the Glorious Revolution, through the first half of the eighteenth century, when the extension of Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey marked poets’ and sculptors’ growing understanding that British literature is a long, cohesive national tradition. Each student will prepare as an oral report on a favorite topic, which may take the form of a guided tour of a museum or a walking tour of a section of the City of London. 
can we add: The City of London (now the financial district) was once London's central residential area. It was devastated by the Great Fire, exactly 350 years ago, after which the architect Sir Christopher Wren transformed the cityscape, a process we will study. 
In observance of the anniversary, a scale model of the city was recently constructed and brought down in flames: 

English 332Y: Contemporary London Theater and Culture (M. Punter)
A study of drama, both classic and modern, as represented by plays in production in London during the spring of 2018.  Students will see, study, and write about roughly ten plays, focusing on theoretical and technical aspects of drama, as well as on what specific productions reveal about British culture or contemporary London.

History 349: History of the City of London (K. Layton-Jones)
A course in the social and cultural history of England’s greatest city. Every week, students will meet for one session in the classroom and one session in the form of a walking tour.

Field Trips

On the January 28, 2018, the English Civil War Society, a “living history” association, will hold a solemn march, to commemorate the Execution of Charles I, following the route the King took from St. James’s Palace to the Banqueting House in Whitehall, the site of his beheading on January 30, 1649: street theater that sets out issues in English 313Y. There will be one or two day trips to sites of cultural importance, including, for example, the Jane Austen House Museum in Chawton; we will also take part in local traditions, like the “pancake race” on Mardi Gras (February 13). The group will also attend Handel’s Messiah at the Royal Albert Hall on Good Friday afternoon, March 30, as part of English 313Y.      

Classrooms, Libraries, and Other Facilities

Classes will be held at the Accent Study Centre, in Bedford Square, just a couple of blocks west of the British Museum.  The complex houses a modest library and computer facility, which will be available to students. Students will become members of the University College London student union.  Students will reside in five- to six-person furnished flats in Bloomsbury, nearby. Each flat has a bathroom, kitchen, and common room.


For details of student expenses on this study group, please see Student Cost Estimate Sheets.

Prerequisites and Selection Criteria

Priority will go to declared/prospective English and English/Creative Writing concentrators in the class of 2019.  But there are no formal prerequisites for the program, and all Colgate students may apply, regardless of their concentration.   

Calendar and Deadlines

The deadline for applications to the Spring 2018 London English Study Group is Friday November 4, 2016.   All applications are on the Off-Campus Study/International Programs website and are submitted online.  The director will arrange interviews of applicants by email.  Student notification of selections will take place in late December.

Passports and Visas

You must confirm that your passport is valid through December 2018.  All students participating on the Spring 2018 London English Study Group will be required to obtain a U.K. visa.  With participation on this study group comes the responsibility of understanding and complying with U.K. visa requirements. If you will not be traveling on a U.S. passport, it is imperative that you contact an adviser in Off Campus Study, 101 McGregory Hall, to learn as much as you can about the visa requirements.  For some students, there can be significant requirements to be met that take time, advance planning, and incur extra costs.

Program Dates

January 19th - May 11th, 2018

Informational Sessions

Thursday, October 27, 2016 at 11:15 a.m. in the English Department’s Fager Lounge, Lathrop Hall, but Professor Knuth Klenck is available before and after that date to speak with interested members of the class of 2019, at her office, Lathrop 306.

More Information

For more information, contact Prof. Deborah Knuth Klenck by e-mail at