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63 AVictorian Study-Abroad Course for Undergraduates J u li a n n e Smith • Study-abroad opportunities are an important part of the undergraduate experience at my university. More than half of our students take advantage of one or more study-abroad programs before graduation.Almost all report that these experiences are among the most formative of their undergraduate years. In summer 2007, the English department launched a London program for English majors, and I was asked to take the first group.As I was conceiving the course I would teach, I knew I wanted to expose our majors to as many of London’sVictorian resources as possible. My course plan called for each student to choose a particular decade in the nineteenth century, from which she must narrow down her research interests to a specific year and ultimately a specific literary text. (I ended up calling the course Literary London in the Long Nineteenth Century since I had eleven students enrolled and needed an extra decade!) I asked students to browse through two or three runs of periodicals for their chosen year and to follow up on their interests with other more traditional research sources. My goal was to instill a sense of—and hopefully a taste for— independent research by giving students the freedom to browse around, follow their instincts, and develop a project out of their own interests. Before the class began, I arranged for student access to the University of London’s Senate House Library—chiefly for its open stacks ofVictorian periodicals .The Senate House Library allows visitors to purchase short-term memberships at a reasonable price and was quite willing to negotiate an individual rate that allowed students reference access for the entire seven weeks of the course. (The library webpage at http://www.ull.ac.uk/library/membership.shtml outlines the fee schedule and provides additional contact information.) I was particularly determined to expose students to periodical research for a number of reasons. The first has to do with my own research experiences . When I was an undergraduate in the late 1970s, research meant dragging down and opening successive volumes of the MLA Bibliography to collect secondary sources. In 1995, I enrolled in my first graduate school seminar. The topic was Elizabeth Gaskell and the seminar was taught by Linda Hughes. Besides reading Gaskell’s novels, we were expected to situate our research and victorian review • Volume 34 Number 2 64 discussion within the framework provided byVictorian periodicals.This was a completely new idea to me—and I still regard it as a revelation. Since that time, I’ve found it difficult to approach anyVictorian topic without consulting the range of writing, illustrations, jokes, ideas, and observations to be found amongVictorian periodicals. Furthermore, periodicals are not only more digitally accessible these days but also form an increasingly important and high-profile part ofVictorian studies in general.As editorTeresa Mangum reminds us in a recent special pedagogy issue of Victorian Periodicals Review,“Periodical culture itself is … a marketplace collective of writers, illustrators, editors, printers, advertisers, publishers, and a host of workers in related professions and trades.The more we learn of periodical consumers, the more complex our sense of literacy, class connections, reading communities, and the spaces of reading” (307). Periodical research also offers students a unique experience since it asks them to read and make their own connections within an extended textual framework.A recent article making the rounds in education circles raises concerns about students“cherry-picking” research sources because search engines now allow them to go directly to the sentences containing their search terms. Consequently, they don’t have to read an entire work and lose the “sense of tone” as well as“the rhythm and flow” of the argument or context (Schackner). Asking students to browse through Victorian periodicals addresses some of these issues while allowing them to develop a sense of cultural voice as they examine public discourse in a very specific time period. Besides providing a sustained reading experience and important insights intoVictorian literature and culture, periodical research is fun. In my experience, it is not unusual for students to come rushing up to share their excitement (and...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1923-3280
Print ISSN
0848-1512
Pages
pp. 63-69
Launched on MUSE
2015-10-07
Open Access
No
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