Interested in learning more about a particular course? Who better to talk to than the tutor in charge! This week, Jason Luger, course tutor for London and the British City – Past and Present, tells us a little more about his course and the city it features…
One of the very best things about King’s College London is that in addition to being a top Global University, it is part of London’s historic riverfront and an ideal ‘window’ on the very heart of the British capital.
Therefore, King’s serves as an ideal launching point for a Summer School Course such as ‘London and the British City: Past and Present’. One only has to turn the corner to be surrounded by world-famous landmarks and historically important buildings and sites. In fact, King’s itself is part of the historical story – its chapel was designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott – who also designed the Palace of Westminster (Parliament House) and iconic St. Pancras Station! This course’s urban exploration ‘begins’, as it were, beneath King’s – at the site of a Roman Bath, hidden away from the street, indicating that King’s is literally built upon an ancient version of London.
But King’s is just the launching point for this course, which uses London and indeed Britain as an urban laboratory. British cities are so steeped in symbolism and reminders of key global cultural, political, scientific, and historical moments – this course will serve as a ‘guide’ to read London and British cities like books, to take in the sights, sounds, smells, and texture, using them as museums without walls and textbooks without pages. Students will come to see these cities, and hopefully all cities, not just as collections of bricks and mortar, but as embodiments of stories, symbols, dreams, and layers.
For example: What is it about flying pigs, and the hulking Battersea Power Plant, that delight fans of rock music? What does ‘Rocking down to Electric Avenue’, in Brixton, reveal about the power of urban change – and the loud, lovely, jarring, sometimes difficult clash of cultures? What were the social and cultural conditions of the sooty Victorian days that inspired both Charles Dickens and Karl Marx to write their powerful texts – texts that have had lasting impacts on the globe as a whole, with their crucial critiques on society?
London is just one of many British cities that have had, and still have, huge roles to play in global trends. This course will go beyond London, to familiarize students with other key cities such as Manchester and Liverpool. We’ll ask (and find out), why a ‘Manchester’ can still be bought in department stores around the world. What the Beatles’ ‘Penny Lane’ looks like – and what are its current economic and social challenges. And how the DJ – that hero of the party, of the dance club – helped breathe life back into cities struggling with industrial decline.
Shakespeare’s Caliban, in ‘The Tempest’, remarked that ‘The Isle is Full of Noises.’ In ‘London and the British City: Past and Present’, we’ll put on our noise-cancelling headphones, and listen.