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British Life & Culture Course

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Course Outline

Students coming to London on AIFS study programs are given the opportunity to learn about British life and culture not only by living in the capital and experiencing the excitement and diversity of one of the oldest cities in Europe but by travelling around the British Isles to compare and contrast conditions and lifestyles. The compulsory British Life and Culture course is presented in a constructive way to offer lectures and supporting visits on a wide range of issues. These inter-related elements can be used enterprisingly to build up a coherent frame of reference about what life is like in Britain.

Each student is expected to develop a personal agenda for learning about Britain so that, with an earnest degree of application, albeit it tempered with the practical pleasures of discovery, there lies a prospect of rewarding study. This can be either wide ranging across disciplines at an introductory level, or specialised according to individual inclination. Course work and assessment is determined by the home faculty.

Course Objectives

To portray British Life and Culture:

  1. in a historical, geographical, cultural and political context
  2. by examining some of the main institutions and making comparisons with those in the USA
  3. by exploring aspects of its social fabric, theatre and the creative arts and undertaking related visits
  4. by demonstrating and developing the ability to articulate the questions that underpin the experience of living in another culture

A provisional program of lectures and visits with a brief review of what each entails is detailed below:

Lecture 1

Lecture 1: Introduction to the United Kingdom - the country and its people
This class will focus on some of the "myths and realities" of life in the UK and draw on students' first impressions as they settle into their host country.
We will look at the make-up of the UK and examine some of its identity issues and compare nationalism and patriotism in the UK and USA

Lecture 2

The history of London and London "exceptionalism"
In this class, we will explore London's unique position within the UK, economically, politically and socially, looking at both London's strengths and weaknesses and the relationship between the capital city and the rest of the country.

Related Fieldtrip: Guided walking tour of the Old City of London

Lecture 3

Social Class
Is Britain still a class-ridden nation? The class will examine the historical roots on the social class system in Britain and the longevity and impact of these on present day modern Britain.

Lecture 4

British Theatre
Russell Grant is a working actor and has featured in numerous theatre productions and films over the past twenty years. He will discuss the theatre as an integral part of Britain's cultural heritage, making London a mecca for theatre lovers from all over the world and a vital component of Britain's tourist industry. Yet the theatre has a much greater value than being a potentially profitable source of entertainment. Throughout human history the kind of entertainment that people have been attracted to has reflected the preoccupations of the day. This lecture not only examines the manner in which the British theatre has been shaped by the social, religious, political and economic developments over the last 2,000 years, but the way in which it has mirrored and in many cases, actually influenced those events. The history of the British theatre is nothing less than the history of this country.

Related Fieldtrip: Guided tour and talk at Shakespeare's Globe Theatre

Lecture 5

The British Education System
This class will introduce students to the English education system, from pre-school to University level. It will make direct comparisons with the American system and set recent changes to the education system into a wider social-cultural context.

Lecture 6

The Power of British Media
The class will look at first-hand examples of tabloid and quality newspapers and explore their role in the political process and in setting values in society.
We will also examine the role of the BBC, and look both at the advantages and disadvantages of "Auntie Beeb."

Lecture 7

The Monarchy, its role and its future
As we embark on exposing the British political system, our focus begins on the monarchy, on their actual role in present day society and level of political involvement. We will be discussing the pros and cons of having a monarchy, as well as looking more closely at the lives of the current royal family.

Lecture 8

Britain and International Relations
Which way - Europe or the USA? The class will examine the international position of the UK and the historical underpinnings of a reluctance to take on a greater role in Europe. We will explore the "Euroscepticism" debate and the "Special relationship" with the USA.

Lecture 9

Leisure, sports and national habits
In this class, we will examine both the roots and flavour of British humour, the obsession with sports including the upcoming 2012 Olympics, and the notions of "high" and "pop" culture in British art.

Related Fieldtrip: Walking tour of the site of the 2012 Olympics

Lecture 10

Final review of course, 2:45 p.m. - 4:15 p.m.
The course aims to convey a sense of "Britishness" that is greater than the sum of its parts. In this final class, we review the learning outcomes of the course and the impact that a greater understanding of British life and culture will have to students returning home to the USA

Please Note: These are subject to change and a final schedule will be sent in Fall 2011.