Spring 2018


London is one of the most historic, diverse, and culturally rich cities in the world. Using London itself as a text, as well as literature, theater, art, architecture and cultural history, students will combine, reading, classroom discussion, group excursions in and outside the city, and individual exploration to understand London as a place today as well as ways the city has been imagined in the past — particularly in the 19th century. The program will include: 

  • Seeing 2–3 theater performances per week;
  • Examining the roles that London played — and the way the city was represented — in 19th century literature and museum displays: in contrast to the historic English countryside; as rapidly growing metropolitan center of commerce, law, and culture; as cosmopolitan focus of national and world culture; as capital of nation and Empire.
  • Exploring themes of class and gender, ideas of nationhood, nature and industry, civilization and society, art and life as they manifested in literature and museum displays.
  • Discovering continuities and contrasts with present-day London.

Learning Goals

  • To understand how London was imagined and constructed as metropolis, national capital, and center of Empire in 19th century literature, art, museums, and architecture
  • To appreciate and understand all aspects of theater by seeing several plays each week in a wide range of venues, styles, and historical periods
  • To understand the historic and global role of the urban city by exploring London and designing an independent project
  • To develop visual literacy by observing and interpreting material culture throughout the city
  • To challenge and expand our cultural, aesthetic, and personal values through exposure to new ideas and environments


The seminar is open to Carleton students of any major. Participants are urged, prior to the start of the program, to take a 100-level English course.

Course of Study

18 Credits

ENGL 281: Imagining 19th century London (6 Credits)

Focusing on nineteenth century fiction and descriptive literature, we will examine visual as well as verbal images of London that informed writers’ sense of its place as urban metropolis, national capital, and center of the British Empire. Themes will include city and country, place and class, the impact of technology, identity and alienation, art and life, colonial and cosmopolitan viewpoints. In addition to major British writers (who may include Austen, Dickens, Thackeray, Stevenson, and Forster), we will read a few works by Americans in England (such as Irving, Poe, Emerson, and Henry James) and examine paintings by Constable, Turner, and Whistler. Field trips will include visits to the British Museum, the Tate Britain, the Victoria and Albert Museum, and other museums and historic houses in and around London.
Instructor: Elizabeth McKinsey

ENGL 282: London Theater (6 credits)

Students will attend productions (at least two per week) of classic and contemporary plays in a range of London venues both on and off the West End, and will do related reading.  We will also travel to Stratford-upon-Avon for a 3-day theater trip. Class discussions will focus on dramatic genres and themes, dramaturgy, acting styles, and design. Guest speakers may include actors, critics, and directors. Students will keep a theater journal and write several full reviews of plays.
Instructor: Jane Edwardes, former Theater editor for Time Out [London]

ENGL 279: Urban Field Studies (3 Credits, S/CR/NC)

A combination of background readings, guided site visits, and personal exploration will give students tools for seeing London itself as a multilayered text under constant expansion and revision. Starting from the city’s pre-urban geology and the still visible structures of its Roman past, students will study evidence of Victorian London at the height of the British Empire and the city’s current status as a major artistic and financial center facing contemporary urban issues.
Instructor:  Local Faculty

ENGL 277:  London Studies Project (3 Credits, S/CR/NC)

Students will develop and demonstrate their knowledge of London through the design and production of an independent project, based on a particular London site of the student’s choice. This can be a creative or analytic project and will be shared with the group at the end of the term.
Instructor: Elizabeth McKinsey 

Language of Instruction


Faculty Director

Elizabeth McKinseyElizabeth McKinsey, Professor of American Studies and English

With a joint appointment in English and American Studies, Elizabeth McKinsey’s teaching interests include American literature, art history, and cultural history, with particular focus on landscape, place, and ideas of regional or national identity. Courses she teaches include “Placing American Identities,” “The Midwest in the American Imagination,” “Writing about America and Globalization,” “Literature of the American South,” and “The American Sublime.” Her research has been primarily on 19th century America; she is the author of Niagara Falls: Icon of the American Sublime and articles and reviews on Transcendentalism, Southern literature, American landscape painting, and tourism. She came to Carleton in 1989 as Dean of the College, after holding faculty and administrative positions at Harvard University and Bryn Mawr College; she’s been a full-time faculty member here since 2003.


Students will stay at Pickwick Hall hostel in central London and other hotels.


In addition to enjoying 20-plus theater performances, students will visit Stratford-upon-Avon, Oxford, and Bath. The program also includes a student-designed London-based project.


Program dates roughly correspond to the Carleton academic term. Specific dates will be communicated to program participants.


All Carleton-sponsored 10-week off-campus study programs charge the Carleton comprehensive fee, which includes instruction, room and board, group excursions, public transportation, medical and evacuation insurance, travel assistance, and most cultural events.

Students are responsible for books and supplies, passports and visas (when required), transportation to and from the program sites, and personal expenses and travel during the seminar. Students will receive a program-specific Additional Cost Estimate at the time of acceptance.

Student financial aid is applicable as on campus. See the Off-Campus Studies website for further information on billing, financial aid, and scholarships.

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Application Deadline for Spring Term 2019:
Monday, April 22, 2019

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