On July 29 I fly to England to attend the University of Cambridge International Summer School. For two weeks I'll be living at Selwyn College, Ann's Court, and taking three courses. For the past several weeks I've been preparing for studying with people from all over the world.
The British Empire in Literature and Film.
So far I've watched Four Feathers (the Heath Ledger 2002 version...couldn't get the original from Netflix), and the first three episodes of The Jewel in the Crown. Later today I'll watch David Lean's A Passage to India. I've read a biography of Kipling, Forster's A Passage to India, and Zadie Smith's White Teeth. Today I'm reading H. Rider Haggard's King Solomon's Mines.I still have to read John Buchan's Mr. Standfast and Greenmantle, Paul Scott's sequel to the Raj Quartet, Staying On and Kipling's Kim.
Criminals and Gentlemen: The Victorian Underworld in Dicken's Oliver Twist and Great Expectations.
I've reread Oliver Twist and will begin Great Expectations Wednesday while waiting for the plane to take me to Seattle for the Medical Commission meeting. Hope to finish it by the weekend. I've also read portions of Going Astray: Dickens and London, a street by street synopsis of the settings of each of Dickens' novels.
The Victorians and Their World.
So far I've read all 620 pages of A.N. Wilson's monumental study, The Victorians. I've got three books more to finish, which might not happen until I'm actually in England. I've dipped into Marriage and Morals among the Victorians and Inventing the Victorians. I may finish Victoria R.I. before I leave.
The University maintains an online student forum. Through that I've hooked up with a group that will meet Sunday night, August 1, for drinks at the Anchor Pub, on the River Cam.
Additionally, I've learned which evening lectures will be given. So many of these sound appealing. I plan to attend as many as I have energy for:
Cambridge Ancient and Modern: The Architecture of the University
A View of England: John Betjeman, a Very English Poet Laureate
The Victorian Garden - The Quest for the Best
From Lapis Lazuli to Laundry Powder: The Alchemy of Colour
An Introduction to Julius Caesar
New Meanings, New Colours: Painting the Thames
Undertanding the British Hero Figure: from Boudica to Bond, and Beyond
Engineers and Alchemists: The Accidental Makers of Modern Science
Although there's an excursion to Oxford and one to Stratford for Julius Caesar scheduled for Saturday, August 7, I decided to stay in town and take a walking tour of Cambridge. I'd learned that the Cambridge Shakespeare Festival runs in July and August. So I booked a ticket for Twelfth Night, which will be staged in the gardens of nearby Robinson College. I inquired on the Student Forum if anybody else would like to go to this with me, and so far two women have indicated interest, a secondary school teacher from France and an undergrad from India.
When I leave Cambridge on Saturday, August 14, I'll take the train to London, and stay at a little hotel near Victoria Station. My friend, Heather Bird, plans to come up from Weston-super-Mare (near Bristol) and we may see a play together. Her timetable is uncertain, contingent on a couple of jobs she's applied for, so I'm leaving my days open for now, in case she can stay a few additional days beyond the weekend. I do plan to see the Grace Kelly exhibit at the Victoria and Albert, and booked a ticket for the matinee performance of Oliver! at the Royal Drury Lane Theatre for Wednesday, August 18. I fly back on the 19th.
With this immersion in Victoriana I've recognized that:
- Dickens indeed was a champion for the underclass and alternated horror with hilarity.
- I'm appalled by the overarching theme of British racial superiority and entitlement.
- Victoria herself wasn't nearly so Victorian as her peers.