Literary London

By Margee Plass Published: Mar 04, 2012

Traveling abroad at Taylor seems as common as attending chapel. It’s not required but students seize the opportunity. The destinations seem endless and some are more popular than others. Started by Professor of English Dr. William Fry in 1979, the Literary London trip has held student’s interest for 33 years and offers students a cross-cultural experience that is hard to forget.

The trip fulfills a general education requirement, and any student from any program or major may attend, including incoming freshmen. Students spend the entire January term (J-term) traveling to destinations like York, Edinburgh, Stratford-upon-Avon, Oxford and many others. The class focuses on British literature by authors like Shakespeare, Jane Austin, T.S. Eliot, C.S. Lewis and Virginia Woolf. Students visit the places where these authors were inspired and where they compiled their written work. By visiting these places, students have the opportunity to connect with the authors on a deeper level. 

Dr. Beulah Baker, Professor of English, is nothing shy of an expert on the trip and shared her insight. She has led the trip 14 times, rotating the responsibility with other English professors.

“The trip is unique because we are blending past literature with London’s current culture,” said Baker.  

“Understanding the authors and their works gives the group an advantage as they interact with present-day culture. For example, studying T.S. Eliot’s poetry while participating in English liturgical worship at St. Paul’s Cathedral or Westminster Abbey helps students comprehend both worship and Eliot better.”

In between visits to the authors’ homes where some of the most famous works of literature have been written, the group sometimes performs scenes from plays in the physical space the scenes were set. This provides a more tangible aspect and brings the works to life.

Gaining Cross-Cultural Awareness

As students gain educational experience, they also gain cross-cultural awareness. What made the trip so unforgettable is not only experiencing the city and history behind a particular piece of literature, but also acquiring the confidence of discovering a new city.

“I'm much more independent than I thought I was. Gradually learning how to maneuver the underground tube system or having to meet up with the rest of the group on the other side of London became much easier as I grew more confident,” said Lyndsey Gammage, a sophomore Professional Writing major.

Learning how to interact with a different culture can be eye-opening:

“Even looking at newspapers in London can change your perspective of situations happening in the world,” said Baker.

Together, the group is able to share unique experiences and become familiar with a city they would have never known before. The lens with which Taylor students are able to analyze situations, see where Christ is present or needed, and extend support to one another is incredible. 

“This trip helped the students and myself better understand the atmosphere of a culture that is slipping into spiritual apathy, like London. A reminder that the need for Christ is everywhere,” said Gammage.

If you are interested in learning more about the 2013 Literary London J-term trip, please contact Dr. Coleen Warren at clwarren@taylor.edu or 765.998.5250.

Written by Margee Plass