Published on January 25, 2016 by Sean Flynt  
london map1
Map of London: Samford students learn to appreciate the "city as text"
Select groups of Samford students are getting the chance to study the core texts of western culture in unique English settings. Launched in 2014, the Core Texts in London initiative is a summer travel and study experience for rising sophomores nominated by their Cultural Perspectives course professors. Twenty participants for the 2015 experience in May were chosen from a field of more than 60 nominees.

Core Texts in London enlarges upon the intellectual narrative begun in the two-semester freshman Core Texts Program by immersing students in an intense course of reading and discussion. “Our hope is that they will gain a deeper understanding of the relationship between texts, history, and place,” said history professor Jason Wallace, director of the Core Texts Program.

Wallace said he also conceived the London experience as a way to expand the availability of overseas study for talented freshmen. The discount and academic credit available as part of the honor meant a great deal to student Jess Merkle. Without them, she said, “I might not have been able to study abroad during college because of the tight schedule for nursing majors and other monetary limitations.”

This year’s students began their cultural journey in Roman Britain and concluded in the post-colonial period of the 20th century. Along the way, they read and discussed more than two-dozen texts by authors ranging from Cassius Dio to Gandhi.

The students also visited key sites associated with the texts, from the British Library and British Museum to the Tower of London and Westminster Abbey, Canterbury and Greenwich to Churchill’s subterranean war rooms. Wallace said program co-director and geography professor Jennifer Speights-Binet helps students understand the connection between those historic places and the ideas associated with them. “Her talent for explaining the city as text has enriched the entire experience," Wallace said.

Music major Whitney Garrison’s experience was typical of many. She said Core Texts in London opened her eyes to not only the value of other disciplines, but also to the ways they are connected. She was well acquainted with musical masterpieces but had not previously taken much interest in literature. “On our second day we visited the British Library and I was able to see the works of my favorite composers right next to Leonardo DaVinci's sketches and Jane Austen's raw scratches for her most famous novels,” Garrison said. “There was something about seeing music, literature, science, and art–all so incredibly rich–in their original form and compiled in one room, that helped me appreciate it all so much more.”