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The London English Study Group

Director Spring 2019: Morgan Davies, Professor 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.
Two students survey the landscape from the top of a castle wall


This study group offers students the opportunity to live and study for a full semester in one of the world’s great cities.  In fact, London will be a central “text” of the study group, which is designed to immerse students in the culture, history, and life of the city.  Through a study of London novels, including several focusing on immigrants experiencing the dizzying complexity of the city for the first time, students will develop a sense of the physical and historical contexts of British fiction.  The impact of World War I on all aspects of English life and culture will be the special topic of a course in modern British literature, in which students will study a wide range of materials and visit museums, monuments, and other memorial sites in London.  In a course on the contemporary London theater, students will study with an acclaimed playwright and attend a play each week.  Finally, through a course on the history of London, which will include walking tours of all parts of the city, students will gain a further appreciation of its 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.  

Required Courses

Students participating in the English study group may satisfy the Core Global Engagements requirement by taking English 332Y (pending GE approval). English 324Y fulfills one of the pre-1800 requirements for the major in English.

English 324Y: Periods in British Literature: The Literary Topography of Medieval Britain (M. Davies)  What do we mean when we speak of British literature?  To ask this question is to enter into the current debate over what constitutes British identity—a debate that has generated a good deal of controversy among contemporary British historians and intellectuals, and that has been raised to a new level of urgency by developments in the nationalist movements of Scotland, Wales, and even Cornwall—and, of course, by Brexit.  The roots of this debate extend deep into the Middle Ages, when Britain (and “British” literature) was a patchwork of different nations, cultures, and languages.  In this course, we’ll consider the literary topography of medieval Britain, with special attention to the intersection of nation, language, and identity, and with a view to 19th and 20th century appropriations of medieval Britain through Medievalism, Celticism, and the heritage industry.  Readings will include the work of English, Welsh, and Scottish authors.

English 331Y, Survey of British Fiction (M. Davies)  In this course we’ll be exploring the place of London in fiction written between the middle of the nineteenth century and the present day, with an emphasis on more recent works.  We’ll be concerned with the city both as a creation of the literary imagination and as its source, as the city that is imagined in fictional representations and the historical city that stands behind those representations.   We will also consider how the place of London in its larger contexts—as the metropolis of Britain, as a global city of empire—has helped to determine its literary representations.

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 2019.  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 249: History of the City of London (K. Layton-Jones)  A course in the social and cultural history of England’s greatest city.  Students will meet every week for one session in the classroom and one session in the form of a walking tour.

Field Trips

We’ll be taking a week-long trip in April to southwestern England and Wales, where we will tour a variety of historically and archaeologically important sites—castles, monasteries, hill-forts, and megalithic monuments—which form the backdrop, and at times the source, for much of the literature we’ll be reading in English 324Y. This trip will give us the opportunity to consider the relationship between literature and place, and to arrive at a richer understanding of some of the cultural differences (and tensions) that have helped to define the British experience right from the beginning.  It will also give us the opportunity to take a break from London’s crowded urban scene and experience some of the most glorious open country in the entire island.  In addition, we will make occasional day trips to sites of cultural, historical, or natural importance (with possibilities including Bath, Stonehenge, Canterbury, Battle Abbey, Oxford, Cambridge, and Winchester).  Needless to say, London itself has an especially prominent place in the academic program of this study group; in addition to our regular attendance at London theater productions, we will also be visiting together as a part of our coursework a number of sites of historical, cultural, and literary significance in and around the city.     

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 in Bloomsbury.  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 nearby in five- to six-person furnished flats in Bloomsbury. Each flat has a bathroom, kitchen, and common room. 

Living Arrangements

Students will reside in five- to six-person furnished flats in Bloomsbury, a five-minute walk from the FSU Centre. Each flat has a bathroom, kitchen, and common room.


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

Prerequisites and Selection Criteria

Priority will go to declared and prospective English and English/Creative Writing concentrators in the class of 2020.  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 2019 London English Study Group is Wednesday, November 15, 2017.   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 2019.  All students participating on the Spring 2019 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

From late January to early May 2019

Informational Sessions

Tuesday, October 24 at 4:30pm and
Thursday, October 26 at 11:30am 

Both informational sessions will be held in the English department’s student lounge, Lathrop Hall

More Information

For more information, contact Professor Davies at