A winter of content in literary London

Ginsberg in London
Ginsberg in London

King’s Cross Station, where Harry Potter and Dumbledore have their last conversation; the Globe, Shakespeare’s reconstructed playhouse; the British Museum; the National Gallery; the Tate and the Tate Modern; Westminster Abbey; the Houses of Parliament; the Strand; Covent Garden; Soho.

London may be the most cosmopolitan city in the world and last winter, a small group of UO students got to experience its mix of old and new by participating in the English Department’s “London Program.”

At the AHA London Centre, a stately Georgian house built in 1727, students could take classes on “Tudor History”; “Victorian Art and Architecture”; “Contemporary Theatre”; and “London Culture.”

In addition, Professor Warren Ginsberg taught courses on his two favorite English writers. “Chaucer and Shakespeare,” he said, savoring their names as he pronounced them. “Both were London poets. Getting to teach them ‘in situ’ was tremendously exciting. It’s hard to put into words how much it adds to stand in the same hall where ‘Twelfth Night’ was first performed, or to walk down Tabard street, where Harry Bailly’s inn once stood; the Tabard was the place in which Chaucer’s pilgrims lodged the night before they set out for Canterbury.”

In addition to their classes, the students made day trips to Canterbury, Oxford, and Bath. They also spent three days in the city of York — one of the most ancient and architecturally splendid settlements in the British Isles, and home to York Minster, the largest Gothic church in Northern Europe.

Other highlights included weekly trips to plays at theaters both famous (The National, the Old Vic) and less well known. Students saw a "Hamlet" set in a mental institution and a rollicking "Comedy of Errors"; they also saw "Bingo," a play by Edward Bond, in which Patrick Stewart played a deflated Shakespeare who had retired to Stratford to die.

The students also accompanied Martin Upham, the Director of the London Centre, to Parliament to hear David Cameron and his political opponents square off during a session of the Prime Minister’s Questions. They also went to City Hall to witness Boris Johnson, the newly re-elected Mayor of London, take on his critics at a weekly session of the Mayor’s Questions.

They also went on walking tours around the various neighborhoods and sites in London.

This was the third year of the English Department’s London Program. The program is open to all students; if you know any who might be interested, have them contact Professor Mark Quigley.