Living London: Writing City, Creating Self

London is a global center for literary arts, theater, music, and visual arts. The goal of the program is to immerse students in the culture and cultural history of this vibrant metropolis—from Shakespeare to punk, from Dickens to ska—so that we will be able to write in-depth, thought-provoking creative essays, short stories and poetry with confidence. We will attend a wide variety of theater performances and visit places as varied as the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Africa Centre, as well as taking guided and unguided walking tours.

Message from Faculty Director

Greg Hewett

I have taught a wide range of courses in both creative writing and literature, including Reading London, Writing London, the Writings of Virginia Woolf, Creative Writing in Ireland, and Modernism. I am the author of five volumes of poetry and a forthcoming novel. This will be my third time directing the London Program.

Exploring London has been something of a preoccupation of mine since I was nineteen, when, by complete happenstance, I wound up spending August in a bed-and-breakfast run by one formidable Mrs. B in Surrey. Mrs. B’s place was also the residence of a group of RAF helicopter pilots-in-training my age who took me under their wings, as it were, and showed this Yank their London, giving me everything from a birds-eye- to a pub’s-eye-view of the great metropolis. Since then, I’ve spent many days and nights “street haunting” in the spirit of Virginia Woolf, from Mayfair to Camden Town, from Chelsea to Marylebone. It will be our project to wander London as writers, meeting its residents and learning its history, culture, and politics as we go.

Greg Hewett, Professor of English


Learning Goals

  • To understand how London is and has been imagined and constructed as metropolis, national capital, and center of Empire in literature, art, museums, and architecture
  • To understand aspects of theater by seeing several plays each week in a wide range of venues, styles, and historical periods, and writing brief reviews
  • To write creatively about London
  • 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

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 281: Reading London, Writing London (6 credits)

This is a creative writing course about writing and place, specifically London. Students will have the opportunity to write short stories, poetry, and non-academic essays (also referred to as creative nonfiction). We will be reading select examples in these genres by contemporary writers and poets based in the United Kingdom, some of whom will visit our class. The primary mode of
instruction will be the workshop, which involves large and small-group critique and discussion.
Instructor: Greg Hewett

ENGL 279: Urban Field Studies (6 credits, S/CR/NC)

A combination of short, focused background readings, guided site visits, and individual exploration will give students tools for understanding the history of multicultural London. Starting with the city’s early history and moving to the present, students will gain an understanding of how the city has been defined and transformed over time, and of the complex cultural narratives that shape its standing as a global metropolis. There will be a few short written assignments and group presentations.

Instructor: Local Faculty, Greg Hewett

Program Features


Students will stay in fully-equipped apartments in South Kensington and in small hotels and hostels while on overnight excursions. 


Field trips within London will include the British Museum, the National Observatory at Greenwich, the Tower of London, Brixton (the center of Caribbean culture) and Spitalfields/Brick Lane (the heart of the Bengali community). Group excursions will include trips to Stratford-upon-Avon, Bath, and Stonehenge.

The Great Court, British Museum