Jun 29, 2005 — Classes may have just ended for most Yeshiva University students, but not for seven Stern College students who traveled to London May 29 to June 9 for an intensive S. Daniel Abraham Honors Program course on British literature.
Taught by English professor Nora Nachumi, “Literary London” explored the relationship between literature and the city of London between 1600 and 1900. Students studied works by British authors including William Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, Samuel Pepys, Frances Burney, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and learned about the cultural, political, and historical context in which the works were written, read, or experienced.
Prof. Nachumi, who specializes in 18th- and 19th-century British literature, said the idea for the course’s topic came about after attending a conference in London last summer on the city’s representation in literature.
“I wondered what it would be like to teach British literature to American students in the context of the city where they’re actually located,” she said. “And I wanted them to envision what was being described in the literature.”
Mornings were dedicated to seminars led by either Prof. Nachumi or guest lecturers from Kingston University, University College London, and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. Students spent the afternoons taking tours around the city that focused on Shakespeare’s London, London in the 18th Century, the London of Sherlock Holmes, and Jewish London, as well as visiting museums and attractions such as the Tower of London, the British Library, and the Tate Museum. Evenings were spent enjoying performances at the Globe Theatre, the Open Air Theatre at Regent’s Park, and the Royal Shakespeare Theater at Stratford-upon-Avon.
“I wanted students to see several styles of playing Shakespeare, ranging from innovative productions like ‘Pericles’ to more traditional versions,” Prof. Nachumi said.
Students received three English credits and were required to write two reviews of plays, keep a journal, and submit a research paper on the interrelationship of the city and a selected text. In addition to Prof. Nachumi, Hadassah Bienenfeld, member of the SCW Board of Directors, and Miriam Schecter, director of Stern’s academic advisement center, went on the trip.
Aliza Forman, 19, an English major from Teaneck, NJ, said she went on the trip to see her favorite texts “spring to life in the land of their origins.”
“Seeing the manuscript of Jane Austen’s novel Persuasion on her actual writing desk was inspiring,” she said. “It’s my favorite novel and to see it in its creator’s hand, with cross-outs and smudges, gave me a newfound appreciation for both the novel and the author.”