Dickinson College Humanities Program in Norwich

Entries from September 2009

UEA Days (an update on my life since London)

September 30th, 2009 · 1 Comment

Well hello, family, friends, Qualls, and anyone else who chances to read this brief update on my days at uni.


Here at UEA I have each of my two UEA classes for two hours once a week, my Dickinson Humanities course once a week, and Art Society once a week for two hours. Here is a brief layout of my days:

Monday: Revisioning the Norwich School of Painters art history course, 1pm-4pm in town at the Castle Museum. We spend most of our time in the two main galleries, Crome and Cotman looking at the original works by the NSP and discussing the ‘genre’ of landscape art, its development, relevance, and current state. There are a total of eight students in this seminar course, and I am the ONLY international student, and the only student who was not in the course with these seven other students last term.

Wednesday: Cultural Theory and Analysis English literature course, 12pm-2pm in the main arts building. This course is about 15-20 students, all second year lit, philosophy, or art history majors. I am one of MANY Americans in the class. It seems like this course will look at various literary theorists (YAY!) and work towards answering the question, what is culture?

one of my still life drawings from Art Soc

One of my still life drawings from Art Soc

Somewhere else during the week my 310 Dickinson Humanities course will meet for about two hours. And on various days Art Society (Art Soc) meets for two hours of open studio to work on various projects the club has set up. The first week we met we did telephone with drawing where two students drew the still life and the the rest of the students lined up behind them and drew another student’s drawing and so on and so on. After that we broke up into pairs and drew each others’ portraits. This week we was Life Drawing where we had a nude model. I worked with charcoal. She did various poses (which I thought could have been better) for increments of 5, 10, and 15 minutes while we all drew her.


Me after the Rubix Cube Social posing near The Village sign

Me after the Rubix Cube Social posing near The Village sign

I live in Courtyard A which is one of several dorm style buildings in University Village. My flat is a long hallway which branches off into a kitchen/common space, and six single bedrooms. I live with two other girls, and three other boys.

The bed nook of my room

The bed nook of my room

There is one other international student in my flat and he is from Kazakhstan. I cook myself and several other of my friends dinner every night. We eat out very infrequently to save money. We get our stipends once a week and usually food shop that same day.


Our program provides us with a year long bus pass. I take full advantage of that and ride the bus for about 20 minutes at least 4 times a week into the city center of town. There I can find several Starbucks, thank goodness, shopping malls, grocery stores, and various other cosmopolitain things.

Thus ends the update. Enjoy!

Tags: Megan


September 25th, 2009 · No Comments

**Like Andrew Russell I have had this post lying around since my last day in London, but I had no internet so was unable to post. I’m not sure if anyone will read this but I wanted to post it anyway.**
We have now been in London for 27 days. Why then in the last week were we all struggling to rush around and make sure we had written 14 blog posts? It wasn’t for lack of things to write about. We explored the city high and low during these 27 days, visiting museums, churches, parks, and theaters (and a few other things along the way). We were even given prompts of sorts for the majority of the blogs we needed to write. However we all find ourselves locked up in the Arran House during our remaining days and evenings here.

As a note, this post is not intended to simply complain about the blog, but it is to look at why we all find ourselves frustrated with it as this moment.

When I think about my time here I remember the initial fear and excitement I felt.  I was walking around a foreign country, by myself, and seeing sights that I secretly thought were only in movies and could not possibly exist in real life.  As the weeks moved on I was finding that I enjoyed spending time by myself—wandering around a museum, going over to Watch this Space to see a performance, even going for a run down towards SoHo and ending up in Camden—I loved it all. When I would arrive back at my home sweet home, Room 27, I would discuss my day with my peers.  We would argue, debate, and discuss things that we had seen throughout the day and I must be honest, some of the discussions I had were more valuable and educational than actually visiting some of the sights during our visit.  After discussion we would figure out how we were going to spend our evenings, sometimes at a pub, a club, or just staying in to cook—but we were always doing something. They have been long days, but always full of something to share.  So why have we all been struggling with these posts?

I think it is because we were constantly trying to make the most of our time in London we packed our days full with things to do, barely taking a break to eat sometimes.  The best time for us to post blogs would have been in the evening after we finished our activities for the day (and sometimes that’s exactly what we did). But seeing London during the day is one thing, and experiencing it at night is a completely different thing, and we did not want to miss out on this education.  As a result blogging was postponed.  As we all went through our checklist to make sure we had all of the required posts completed, and began reading our classmates blogs we began to run into a problem—because we had previously discussed these topics with each other someone beat me to writing about that! Nobody wanted to repeat what someone else had said, and so we would then sit around trying to come up a new spin on the same topic.  We ended up with some amazing blogs and great reads because of it, so in the end it is really hard to complain, but the process leading to the final masterpiece was sometimes quite the journey.

I think the concept of blog posting is excellent (I have my own personal blog because of it) however, even that blog was not updated as regularly as I thought it would be.  I thought that everyday I would go online write a quick update for my family and friends back home and be set.  Instead I would jot a few lines in my journal by my bed “Good day went to the V&A”, “Explored Southwark some more”, and then crash out of pure exhaustion.  I think that we were all able to take advantage of everything the city had to offer, and as a result some of our posting was delayed.  But now we can all look back at our blog and remember the amazing month we spent living in London.

Tags: Amanda

VA vs. John Soane Museum

September 24th, 2009 · 1 Comment

 Firstly, I realize that blogs have become old hat and that many (if not all of you) no longer read them. However, this has been sitting in my Gmail draft box for a dreadfully long time and if only out of annoyance for the Draft(1) icon, I am going to post it. I took to comparing the two last museums I went to. Are they comparable? Maybe not, but I thought they were trying to impart the same message to the viewer, which makes them comparable in my book.

What was it they were trying to show? I think as all museums do, they were trying to capture as much history as possible. But what is different about these two museums is the breathe. In a way it seems they tried to find the essence of beauty, and they tried to find it in many forms. But more importantly, they were both museums dedicated to the lives of those people who sought out that beauty and tried to make it accessible to us all.

Everyone seemed to have gotten hung up on the fashion section, and maybe it’s because I’m a guy who doesn’t really care for wedding dresses, but I didn’t think it was that offensive. The wedding dress is a big deal in English culture, and I imagine for Victoria and Albert it was a big deal too. Queen Victoria became severely depressed after her husband died, marriage was important in those days (a confusing thought in our modern society). But what gets me, is there were so many other fashion exhibits to look at; so many stranger ones. Namely the future fashion stuff, which I pray is not the future of fashion.  I particularly liked the stuff of The Porter Gallery though. I really like when artists play with the concepts of what art is. I’m not some high brow art snob but if I’m going to stare at something for ten minutes, I’d like it to challenge my perception, make me think, make me question. Telling-tales did just that. They also have a really good website, which i provided a hyperlink above to. I also really liked the Leighton Room with the paintings and sketches of gardens. How wonderful the English landscape is!

When you talk about the John Soane’s Museum, you must of course first talk about the building itself, for it is as much an item on display as any book or statue. The museum is mostly top-lit, with a similar feeling as another building he designed: the Bank of England. (the Bank of England isn’t worth going to just for the architecture) Other than that, however, the place feels like a labyrinth. There are folding panels, mirrors and strangely placed doors. It is also as eclectically put together as the objects it holds. You go from Roman to Gothic with a step through a doorway and then right back into neo-classical with another. The body of work itself is quite extraordinary. The thing that kept running through my head was that each of these pieces had been sought after, hand selected and cherished. The building was Soane’s soul materialized; he sunk every ounce of his being into collecting and creating. I wonder if with the same resources he had, I would have followed the same path. What dedication he had. And yet I felt almost saddened: the place was absolutely cluttered at some points, and I couldn’t help but feel like he was attempting to fill a void in his life with statues and paintings. When I asked a clerk about John Soane’s personal life I found it to be, indeed, quite depressing. John Soane died a widower and estranged from his only surviving son. So at the end of both the museums we are left with the why. Why did each of these two museums begin to tell a narrative, and why are they the way they are now? For Victoria and Albert, I think they were trying to bring beauty to the masses. This seems to go along with other projects they did including welfare programs and The Great Exhibition. On the other hand, I look at Soane’s collection, and I see loneliness. With his death he handed over everything he had ever worked to collect, almost as an attempt for people to remember him.

Tags: Andrew R · Museums

English Pubs and Biker Bars

September 19th, 2009 · 1 Comment

From the limited experience I have with American bars, or even American bars in the style of English pubs, I would have to say that they are extremely different from their English equivalent.  Physically, and atmospherically, the two were at one time mutually exclusive.  Now however, with the advent of a global community, influences from the other are creeping into various establishments, both here and at home.  Despite these changes the basic feel and idea behind British pubs is far different than in America and, I find, is an altogether more enjoyable experience.  

To start, the atmosphere caters to an entirely different crowd.  Pubs allow for anyone to come in and have a pint with a friend, be it businessmen just off work, old men with canes and dogs, or college students just wanting to hang out with friends.  In the U.S. it seems that every type of person has their own seperate bar, and god forbid if you go into the wrong one.   Granted, most of my experience with bars has been in the far north of the midwest, where bars are mostly frequented by loggers and bikers.  Thus, the se bars are a bit more rough and tumble than others, and my judgement may be skewed a little.

Physically, I’ve found that traditional English pubs are quite different from their American counterparts.  Due to lack of space, the buildings are often smaller, and the bars themselves are quite different.  In the U.S. we are used to the catwalk-sized bars that take up the whole room.  They often have seating along them.  Here the bars are smaller with no seating.  Customers are supposed to take their drinks and move, or if they must, stand at the bar. 

The general mentality behind visiting pubs doesn’t seem to be to just get drunk.  Often times back home I would see people downing beer after beer (or something harder) in a blatent attempt to get smashed.  Here, however, a person goes to a pub with friends, and if after a few drinks one begins to feel a little bit differently it wasn’t a result of trying.  Rather, people enjoy having fun with friends and if it happens, it happens. 

I know other people have written about this place, but one of the pubs that I found most enjoyable was The Court.  Located a few blocks from our hotel, most of its customers were college students.  It had cheap drinks and food, and the bartenders were our age and enjoyed having fun.  It had a great atmosphere and was the perfect place to spend the evenings.  Now perhaps I just haven’t found the right place yet, but I have yet to find a bar in the U.S. that appealed to me as much as The Court. 

If American bars are your thing, that’s great, but I prefer the atmosphere elicited by pubs here.  The attitudes are more friendly and the beer is better.  I’d take a pub over a biker bar any day.

Tags: Campbell

Personal Space in Public Parks

September 19th, 2009 · No Comments

   Perfect space. Invasion of perfect space. Straight alleys, grass cut to the perfect inch, clean fountains with not even a leaf floating in sight, trees planted in a straight row with carefully calculated distance. Regent’s Park is one of the most perfect parks in existence, so are the Green and Hyde Parks. Coincidently they are all located in London, England. After spending a month in London and visiting the parks as well as having a few class sessions held in Regent’s Park I have learned to appreciate the high mannerism of English parks. After all, I am used to Central and Prospect Parks in New York City, where every couple of steps you will find young adults on blankets, playing music from their speakers on the highest volume possible, dogs running freely, and tramps, as the English like to say, trying to find a spot to spend a night. In London parks it seems that all of the above would be considered as poor behavior in a park. William Pitt said “The parks are the lungs of London,” therefore, I believe that the parks that we have explored are  great representations of the London culture and its society. 

   I want to begin by discussing Green Park and Hyde Park which are both part of Royal Parks of London. Both are of great size; however, Hyde Park wins with 350 acres of space. Upon entering the parks, I was overwhelmed, by not only the perfection of the parks but also the beauty. In the busy and crowded London, it is surprising to find that such large, green spaces that provide a sense of escape. Escape. Throughout centuries, parks seem to do just that, provide leisure and relaxation for Londoners, no matter what their background or social class. With fountains, lakes, and open space for exercising,  parks provide the “personal space” for every individual. Although Regent’s Park as well as the other two have a sense of perfection, it seemed that the London residents are comfortable using the park for their daily escape for jogging, laying on the grass, walking their dogs, or just getting their daily dose of fresh air. 

   As I have mentioned before, the care that goes into maintaining the beauty of London parks is of great task. It reflects the importance that parks have on the society, as well as the importance of order for the English. Parks are also the representation of London’s history. Green Park, besides being currently connected to the Buckingham Palace and its gardens, is said to have originally served as a swampy burial ground for lepers from the nearby hospital at St. James’s. Henry VIII enclosed it in 16th Century, after which the area was surrendered to Charles II who made it into a Royal Park. At the present time, there are government offices and corridors, linking the nearby Royal palaces, beneath the east side of Green Park and continue to run to the south. 

   Although at first I was uncomfortable with the perfection of the London parks and its well groomed grounds, I learned to appreciate the care and the history of each park. Residents of London have made parks as spaces of their own. I still prefer the smaller squares around Bloomsbury area that provide more intimate feeling, but I can say that there are no parks in the world like the ones here in London.

Tags: Jeyla

Simple Beauty in Greenspace

September 19th, 2009 · No Comments

Like much of London, many of the parks in London range in appearance. This might come as a shock seeing as how parks mainly serve as green spaces. Yet, each park has a unique characteristic, appearance or vibe the moment you walk into it. Walking into Regents Park to have class was one experience I will never forget. Since Mrs. Dalloway was sent in the park it gave me more of a connection to how the characters lived, and interacted with each other. But as we sat down to have class and I observed the park, I felt as if we weren’t supposed to be there. Everything was so neatly placed that I literally felt rude for invading the space. The tone of the park gave off a “poche” vibe, making me feel even worse for sitting on the green neatly cut grass.

I can say that I felt completely opposite when I entered Green Park. Green Park felt like any other park, being noticeably smaller than Regents Park. I felt as if I entered a regular communal park in Los Angeles, until I saw Buckingham palace. Serving as the center piece for the area Buckingham palace, took all of Green Parks dignity. It made sense to me that Green Park was so small, simply because the purpose of the park was not to draw attention from the surrounding area like Regents Park but simply serve as a modest green space.

Hyde Park however, was the most beautiful parks I have ever witnessed. Regardless on which entrance you walk through the park will immediately leave you speechless. Housing over seven major sights, and a beautiful lake the park is one of the most spectacular symbols of London’s history one could see. The Diana memorial alone gave me chills. It really opened my eyes to how much she meant to the United Kingdom and emphasized her impact on not only the Uk but the world. Going from the lake, to the July 7th memorial one could get lost in the beauty of Hyde Park, as well as Hyde Park itself.

The point of the parks in London, are to illustrate the ever changing beauty that is London. Not only through the parks can you see the diversity of London’s appearance, but also the importance of its history.

Tags: Anthony

The Sir John Soane Museum in Comparison to other London Museums

September 19th, 2009 · 4 Comments

The Sir John Soane Museum was the last thing I was able to squeeze in before leaving for Norwich. The museum was interesting, however I do not think it was very educational. It was essentially just peering in on Sir John’s house and his collection, but there were very few signs telling the museumgoer about the relics that were scattered around the house. The architecture was amazing as was the collection, and like most of my classmates I would love to live there if it were not so narrow in parts of the house. However, I do not see its relevance to the course. Why Professor Qualls did you choose to throw it onto our list? I am having a hard time saying anything about the museum because I do not see how it fits into the theme for this class. Honestly, I have learned more from the museum’s website than I did in the actual museum. The website has the entire collection on it with blurbs about the history of each piece. However, unlike most other museums the website does not display a mission statement or any of the museums goals. I believe that every museum should have a mission statement. This makes helps the curators organize exhibits, artifacts, and information panels. With out a strong goal relics are just crammed together, like in the V&A, or there is very minimal educational material, like the Sir John Soane Museum.
I never thought of myself as particularly interested in museum studies, but after visiting all these museums I can see what foundations need to be there for a museum to work. Out of all the museums we visited I feel that the Docklands museum did the best job in presenting and preserving its artifacts and its history while doing a great job educating its visitors. The museum has a clear goal: to educate the public on the history of the docklands. It also has a clear pathway that one can choose to fallow at their own pace, while the British museum had no path way and tended to get very congested at various parts of the exhibits. These large crowds of people greatly affect the safety of the artifacts that the museum is trying to preserve. People should not be allowed to touch, feel, hug, and take pictures of ancient Egyptian sculptures. These crowds are also not good for the safety and education of the museumgoer. Old women or men should not have to be pushed around to have a glance at the mommies, and one should be able to easily see and read the information panels next to the relics if they choose to do so. At least The Sir John Soane museum limited the number of people in the museum at one time in order to protect the artifacts and the people (as it would probably be a fire hazard for too many people to crowd into that building). Maybe the British museum can look to the Soane museum for advice and limit the number of people in the mummy room at one time and increase security. While perhaps the Sir John Soane museum can fallow the British museum’s model and provide more information on the artifacts within the house.

Tags: Rebecca

Classical leisure: pubs and plays.

September 19th, 2009 · 1 Comment

   Nights out in London have been proven to be interesting. Whether going out dancing in Metra, seeing a Shakespeare play at the Globe, grabbing a drink at a random pub, or walking through Thames River at night and enjoying a festival, London has a variety of entertainments for those looking to get out of their “residence” spaces aka the Arran House. The choice is behind a Londoner on what to do for “a night out.” For a typical night out in London, one can expect to pay a visit to at least one pub to grab a drink or two, to chat with “drunk locals who seem as much part of the building as the rafters that support the roof,” staying until the closing time and then heading back to the locations of “residence.” Although pubs have been the source of entertainment in England for centuries and one can not find anything similar in other parts of the world, I have not been particularly impressed by the pub culture in England, but that maybe also be because I rather dance the night away than sit around drinking Ale. Luckily, I was able to find several locations in trendy London where they play music that I, an American, recognized and I had great friends with me who are amazing dancers and are willing to “break it down” on any dance floor. In comparison to the American night life culture, it seems that the Brits are laid back, satisfied with socializing and more focused on chit-chating the night away. While experiencing the actual night life in London, I was more interested in “classical leisure.” 


   Always being a fan of plays, musicals, theater and anything involving a plot , I was that one individual who was excited before every show we were going to see during our time in London.  Some were more disappointing than others  (shall I say…Marilyn Monroe in Blood Brothers) while others brought on tears, laughter, compassion and love. With watching two Shakespeare plays, As You Like It and Troilus and Cressida in the actual Globe Theater, seeing the creativity behind the staging and lighting of All’s Well That Ends Well, and an interesting idea of Arcadia which compares two different families in two different centuries yet again there are ways in which their lives are interconnected. Being that this was the first time that I had ever seen Shakespeare plays, I want to focus on the characters presented by the writer in Troilus and Cressida,As You LIke It  and All’s Well That Ends Well. 


   Although Shakespeare has written plots from dramatical pieces to comedy, his comedian side seems to always pay a visit. In all of the three Shakespearean plays that we have seen, we have had a character who one might say is not only entertaining but is also the representation of truth and class differences. In Troilus and Cressida a character by the name of Thersites can be described as “a deformed and scurrilous low class fool.” Although throughout the play, the plot of the story does not focus on him, he provides the audience a laugh as well as a different outlook on the war that is going on between the Trojans and the Greeks as well as on the love triangle that is continuos throughout the play. In Shakespeare’s As You Like It, there is a more obvious character who we know will serve the comedic role. A character Touchstone, whose first scene involves a joker costume was an instant hit and a constant laugh. Hands down he has been my favorite character in all of the plays we have seen. 


   Shakespeare’s focus on his characters and his plots show realistic situations of actual people. His emphasize on the interrelationship between characters, most of the times very complicated relationships, Shakespeare was able to focus on history, love, and passion and make his plays educational in every sense possible. I was also very surprised that the plays that we have viewed all had recurring themes of sexuality. It is clear that Shakespeare was ahead of his times. And of course, the theme of love did not escape me. Shakespeare’s ideas of unconditional love, jealousy, and desire were clearly displayed by the actors who were lucky to be performing on the stages of the National Theater as well as the Globe Theater (although it is not the original!). 


original design of The Globe


   I have greatly enjoyed the varieties of the performances we have seen in London over this past month. I can not express how grateful I am for everything that I was able to witness. These experiences will stay with me forever. Thank You everyone and Professor Qualls! 

Tags: Jeyla · Pubs · Theatre

London Pubs and Pub Culture

September 18th, 2009 · 2 Comments

Being that I was a part of the group responsible for doing the Pubs walking tour, I got to see a lot of pubs while in London. Some of them were big some of them small, some new and some old. However, all of them had a large and often loyal clientele.
One of the things that I feel makes the pub culture so strong in the U.K., in comparison to the U.S. and many other countries is the fact that EVERYTHING except the pubs close before 8 pm (6 pm in Norwich). Nightclubs are also open past 8 pm, however since coming here I have learned that most Brits cannot dance. What does one do after 8 pm if they are bored and wanting to socialize with friends? The only thing there is to do: go to the local pub. If one is craving a bite to eat past 8 pm, pubs are some of the few places still left open. From a visitor’s perspective I often find myself wondering why things cannot be open later. Yet, I can see why this might be nice from a resident’s perspective. If I lived in London I would be very happy to never have to work the late shift at work, and to be able to leave work by 8 and head off to meet my friends at the local pub so I could grab a meal and unwind after a day at work. The real truth is that Americans work too much, are too uptight, and need to live their lives more like the Brits or the Europeans. This maybe far fetched, but I believe that drinking in bars and pubs is looked down upon in the states partially because it is associated with laziness and carelessness. No matter how much it annoys me that nothing in Great Britain is open late I realize that it is better for the welfare of the people. In fact, many of the pubs I visited were filled with people who had just left work and walked to the nearest pubs with their coworkers and friends. The Viaduct Tavern, on Viaduct Holburn, was always filled to the brim with the bankers and lawyers that worked in the area, so that when you approach the pub after 5 pm all you can see is a huge crowd of people all wearing suits.
Another thing I found interesting was how the selection of drinks and how the selection was displayed varied from pub to pub depending on their clientele. Pubs that were in tourist areas tended to have more mixed drinks like with names like “Sex on the Beach” and “The Slow Kiss”. These pubs also had the lists of their drinks in a menu or written on the wall. The tourist’s pub also has music, a jukebox, pool tables, and/or electronic games. The more traditional pub and those that severed the locals more than tourists had ales, lagers, ciders, and liqueur but no drink menu and no mixed drinks. In pubs like these the price of the drink you are buying is always a surprise until they ring you up. Also, some of the older traditional pubs have no music, no pool tables, and no games. These differences show how tourism has influenced the London pub culture. I hope to explore the more authentic British Pub more while I am in Norwich.

Tags: Rebecca

Myth vs Legend, Does Pub Culture Still Exist?

September 16th, 2009 · 2 Comments

What is there to say, really, that has not already been said? More than anything else I was told before coming here, I was told that pubs were ingrained into the English culture, often known as pub culture. Now having been to a pubs myself, including a few busts that were propagated largely by older men, I am still not sure that I can pin-point just what “pub culture” is. I guess in that way, pub culture is much like the British identity, elusive and complex.

However, there are a few keys things I can note about  the drinking, or pub culture I have been so often encouraged to look out for. Perhaps I can sort out a little of the truth from the myth pub culture has really grown to be. Yes, it is true that English drink more, more often, and earlier than seems to be the practice in the US. At 4 o’clock in the afternoon, if you walk by a pub you will encounter a large crowd of people, often in business suits, standing outside the pub drinking. Another thing, people stand outside. Most pubs, perhaps for lack of standing or sitting room inside the pub, or maybe so people can smoke, or even just because they want fresh air, tend to have large crowds standing in front of the pub often under an awning. Yes it is true, people seem to be relatively friendly in these pubs, but, they still come with a group and tend to stay with a group.

This brings us to the bog winner question: do pubs and pub culture act as a window into the British culture? I would say more often than not, no. While pubs of course demonstrate the key difference  between the late night drinking of America and the all day drinking of England, beyond that they illustrate little more. In my time spent there I have interacted with little to no “Brits” and found few pubs that even held my age group. Once we arrive at UEA, I look forward to see how this will change as we will more back into the college town setting we are used to in Carlisle. But even still, the mainly older crowds in pubs forces me to wonder, is pub culture a thing of the past. Are younger people simply going there and getting drunk and somehow closing the curtains on this “window” we Americans eagerly attempt to look through?

Tags: Megan · Pubs