The Penn English Program in London for 2019-2020
Welcome to the Penn English Program in London! I’m excited to meet you in September if not sooner and to spend the semester in London with a great group of English majors. London is--and has been for centuries--a vibrant and diverse global city and a center of literary culture, publishing, and performance, so it is an ideal place to study Anglophone literature past and present.
For those of you I haven’t met yet, I research and teach nineteenth-century British literature at Penn, and I am always glad to chat about what you are reading and about any interests you might have in pursuing research for an honors thesis. You’ll also get to meet our fantastic PEPL Graduate Assistant Zach Fruit, a Ph.D. candidate in English (who also works on and teaches Victorian fiction). He will be helping to organize outings and events and will be a great resource especially for those of you interested in visual art. Zach knows the city well and can offer advice on things like transportation, phone and data plans, and good and affordable dining options. Both of us will be here to support you and help you adjust both to London life and to your coursework at King’s College London. I am also here for any academic advising you need, and I will be glad to discuss what you are working on in your classes and to help you resolve any issues that arise. I will be in the UK starting August 20, so feel free to get in touch if you arrive early, and please send me your London contact information as soon as you have it.
One of the unique and exciting features of the program is the Theatre in London course, which all of the PEPL students take together (in addition to your three KCL modules). Taught this year by the distinguished theatre and performance studies scholar Alan Read, who has a background running an experimental London theatre himself, the course will take you to a wide variety of fascinating new plays at theatres around London. The schedule of productions will be determined by availability but will mostly be Tuesday or Wednesday evenings at 7:30pm. Zach and I will accompany you and will provide the tickets. On Thursdays from 2-4pm (location TBA) our Theatre in London seminar will meet, and Professor Read will lead us in discussion of these works. (Please note that this course will not appear on your KCL timetables, as it is run independently of King’s; if a schedule conflict arises, please use the Module Amendment Form that King’s will be sending, and contact the Office of Global Mobility with any issues.)
Outside of class, our planned PEPL outings and excursions will give you good opportunities to explore London and connect with the group. These events are funded by the program, with no out-of-pocket cost to you for tickets or meals. Over the semester we will visit museums, gardens, historic sites, and of course the theatre. We will go to the Globe Theatre to see a Shakespeare play, in addition to the weekly contemporary productions we will be seeing together for the Theatre in London course, and we have planned trips to Hampstead Heath (with tours of Keats House and Kenwood House and lunch at a historic pub frequented by Byron and Shelley), the Tate Modern, the Victoria & Albert Museum, and a special exhibition of William Blake’s work at the Tate Britain. We will also take a walking tour of Dickens’s London to see some key locations that figure in his novels and his life. Our group will also venture beyond the city, taking excursions to Stonehenge and to Bath, known both for its extraordinary Roman baths and as a fashionable Regency-era resort (most famously inhabited by Jane Austen toward the end of her life). In addition, we’ll have a couple of festive meals out together at London restaurants, and I will host you at my flat for a Thanksgiving dinner (family and friends welcome with RSVP). All of these events are optional, but you are certainly encouraged to attend.
Our orientation weekend will be September 20-22, and we’ll have multiple opportunities that weekend to get to know each other, compare notes, get our geographical bearings, and do a bit of sightseeing. Please mark your calendars for the following events:
Fri., September 20, 4:30pm: PEPL Happy Hour / Meet-and-Greet
We’ll gather at my place on Friday 9/20 for a casual meet-and-greet so that we can all get to know each other a bit over some afternoon snacks. (The Stables, less than a block away, offer a lot of good and cheap supper options if you’d like to head out and explore after that.)
Sat., September 21, 2pm: First PEPL Outing: London Eye and the Tate Modern
On Saturday 9/21 we’ll have our first group outing in London: we'll head to the London Eye for a ride and a sweeping view of the city. Please meet us at 1:45 in front of Alexander’s Jubilee Oracle sculpture, at 30 The Queen's Walk, Lambeth, London SE1 7NA. The nearest tube stop will be either Embankment or Waterloo. We’ll gather and walk over to the London Eye together at 2 sharp. After the ride, we’ll wander over to the Tate Modern (a scenic walk along the banks of the Thames, not more than 20 minutes), stop for tea at the café, and you can check out the Tate’s fantastic collection at your leisure after that.
Sun., September 22, 3pm: Cornell/Brown/Penn UK orientation
On Sunday 9/22 Bianca Leggett will lead an orientation to London for the combined Cornell/Brown/Penn UK programs that she coordinates. She is the organizer of that event and has sent you the details (99 Great Russell St, 3pm). That will be well worth going to, since you can sign up for free tickets to various things and get useful local tips as well as guidance on what to do should an emergency arise.
Zach and I will be in touch with details about additional PEPL outings and excursions. For now, please let us know if for any reason you won’t be able to make it to our initial meet-ups. While we want you to have space to experience the city independently as the semester moves forward, it is essential for us to make sure everyone arrives safely and is settling in well at the start of the program (so we will be concerned if you don’t show up to the orientation weekend events and we haven’t heard from you).
Looking forward to seeing you there, and in the meantime please don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions!
All the best,
Emily Steinlight, 2019 PEPL Faculty Director