Last Day in London

•June 2, 2013 • 1 Comment

Our last full day in London began with with a trip to Down House, the home of Charles Darwin,
in the lovely village of Downe. We took the tube, the train, and the bus and finally arrived. Dr. Firenze read to us from Darwin’s autobiography. Below are some pictures from our trip.

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After we returned from Downe, we went to “The Plough”, a traditional British pub in our Bloomsbury neighborhood. We enjoyed a dinner party together to celebrate our last night in London.

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It was a very nice time together!
As our time in London draws to a close, Dr. Saraceno and Dr. Firenze wanted to leave the students with one final demonstration. As much as they try to focus on the academic nature of the course, it is often the “fun” parts of London that the students remember. To celebrate this spirit, they decided to commemorate the one thing that the students will remember from our visit: that Johnny Depp regularly visits the hospital in our Bloomsbury neighborhood.

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And tomorrow we sail (fly) for home!

Cheers from London!

Exploring Victorian London

•June 1, 2013 • 2 Comments

Once again we had a busy but exciting day in London. We began with a morning class where Sarah, Kim, Jordan, Austin and Stephanie presented their theses ideas and we had a great discussion.

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After a couple of hours, when we were all getting really hungry, we took the tube to London Bridge and walked across it to Borough Market. Although the Market cannot be compared to Canterbury Cathedral, it is equally hard to describe and pictures cannot really capture the amazing atmosphere. Below are some pictures from this part of our day.

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After we had eaten at the market (I am too ashamed to include a list of everything I ate, but I will say I wish I had found the grilled cheese stall before I ate the lamb and mint burger and the chocolate cake), we walked to Temple Garden for another hour or so of class.

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Chris, Elaine, Amanda and Amelia presented their theses ideas and we had another lively discussion (as lively as you can be after consuming everything from kangaroo burgers to wheatgrass smoothies). After that, we got back on the tube and headed to Monument to meet our guide, Paul. Paul took us on the “Darkest Victorian London” walk where he described what London was like during Victorian times. He did a wonderful job making this time period come alive for us and pointing out Victorian era structures around the Southwark region of London. Below are some pictures from our walk.

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After walking with Paul for a couple of hours, we ended up at “The George”, a pub and inn that was around for Chaucer, Shakespeare and Dickens! So, as you can see, it was a busy day and we are all tired (and some of us are still full).
Before we went our separate ways, Dr. Firenze and Dr. Saraceno revisited a theme that came up a couple of times during our class discussions today: the conflict that sometimes arises between the emotional brain and the logical brain. After discussing what modern media example might best illustrate the difference between these two brain areas, they agreed to boldly go where no man has gone before….

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Cheers from London!

Fun in the Sun in London

•May 31, 2013 • 2 Comments

Well, the sun finally came out and it was a beautiful day in London. We met first thing in the morning and headed out to the British Museum of Natural History. We toured the Darwin Center (sorry no pictures allowed) and experienced flesh-eating Beatles, a giant squid and some specimens collected by Charles Darwin himself.

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Yes, we were wearing matching t-shirts in London.
After we visited the Darwin Center, the students had the opportunity to tour the rest of the museum. The rest of the day was a free day for the class. Some students planned to visit Westminster Abbey, Big Ben and the London Eye, while others planned to see a show in Covent Garden. We will be meeting first thing tomorrow for class, a trip to Borough Market, and our second London Walk: Darkest Victorian London.
Before dismissing the students for the day, Dr. Firenze and Dr. Saraceno decided to embody an example of kin selection. What better example than that of the scary twins from “The Shining”. You can almost hear them beckoning, “Come play with us, forever and ever and ever…….” You can also kind of understand why none of the students invited Dr. Firenze and Dr. Saraceno to join them for the afternoon (or maybe it was the matching t-shirts).

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Cheers from London!

Our Canterbury Tale

•May 30, 2013 • 1 Comment

We began our day with a class meeting in our flat. Unfortunately, it is still raining. During our morning class we discussed our reactions to ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ and what it was like to see a play performed at the Globe Theater. In addition, Emalee, Kailyn, and Leslie presented their theses ideas and we had a spirited discussion.

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After class we headed to St. Pancras Station to take the highspeed rail to Canterbury.

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As you can see, St. Pancras is an incredible bulding! We found our train and after a bit of an initial “Who’s on First” discussion with the conductor, we were off.

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We walked through the village of Canterbury towards the Cathedral. In 597AD, Pope Gregory the Great sent a monk, Augustine, to England. Augustine established a monastery in Canterbury and became England’s first Archbishop. In 1170, Archbishop Thomas Becket was murdered in the Cathedral and, when soon afterwards miracles were said to take place, the Cathedral became one of Europe’s most important pilgrimage centers. It is hard to describe the beauty and majesty of the Cathedral. Below are some pictures of our walk to the Cathedral and from the parts of the Cathedral where I was able to take pictures.

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We visited the Cathedral because it was connected to our reading of Chaucer’s ‘Canterbury Tales’, but it turned out to be an extraordinary experience all on its own. After touring the Cathedral, the students were able to enjoy the medieval village of Canterbury and had some time to shop and eat. We assembled in the evening to take the train back to London. It was a great day, but as you can see from the pictures of our journey home, a tiring one.

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As part of our tour of the Cathedral, we learned about how in 1538 Henry VIII ordered that St. Thomas’ shrine, which had been housed in the Cathedral’s Trinity Chapel from 1220, be demolished. To help to bring this history to life for the students, Dr. Firenze and Dr. Saraceno decided to re-enact a scene from ‘The Tudors”, with Dr. Firenze bringing an impish yet clerical air to the role of Cardinal Woolsey. Dr. Saraceno digs deep to convey the foppish arrogance of the much maligned George Boleyn.

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Tomorrow we plan to visit the British Museum of Natural History and tour the Darwin Center. After that, the students have a free afternoon and evening to see some of the London sites that are not part of our class activities.
Cheers from London!

London, Shakespeare and a Cold Midsummer Night’s Dream

•May 29, 2013 • 1 Comment

Well, there was not as much rain today as yesterday….but we were a little worried about snow! Our day began with a brief class in Russell Square. Mark and Gabby presented their theses ideas and we discussed how they might proceed with their essays.

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After about an hour of discussion, we assembled to head over to Shakespeare’s globe. We took the tube to St. Paul’s and then crossed the Thames River by walking over the Millennium Bridge. We had a nice view on Tower Bridge, London Bridge and Southwark Bridge as well as Bankside and The Globe.

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We arrived at The Globe and met Colin, our guide for the tour. There was a rehearsal going on inside the globe and although we had to be quiet and could not take pictures, it was very interesting to see the director interact with the cast. Outside the theater, Colin told us about Elizabethan Theater and the restoration of the Globe. It is the only thatched roof that has been allowed in London since the great fire of 1666.

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Although we were cold, we were all very happy to have seats because it began to rain about half way through the performance and the “groundlings” were cold and really, really wet.

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After the play, we were able to attend a question and answer session with two of the cast members. It was a great behind the scenes look at the performance.

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So it was a great Shakespeare-y day, but we have to wonder: London, when doth thy weather improve?
Before we went our separate ways for fish and chips and steak and ale pies, Dr. Firenze and Dr. Saraceno decided to build on the theme of kin selection that Mark introduced at our morning class. Dr. Firenze asked the question, “How far is a mild-mannered science teacher willing to go to provide for his family?” Dr. Saraceno asked, “Where the heck is Dr. Firenze getting all that extra cash?”

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That is all for today, check back tomorrow for tale’s of our pilgrimage to Canterbury.
Cheers from London!

A Dickens of a Day

•May 28, 2013 • 1 Comment

Day 2 in London was cold and rainy, but we had a great day! The weather did not cooperate with an outdoor class in Russell Square, so we met in our flat. Chelsea presented her idea for a thesis and we spent a couple of hours discussing Chaucer.

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After class, we had a brief break and then ventured out into the streets for our first walking tour of
London. Dr. Firenze presented some history of London in the tube station, out of the rain. On our way to meet our guide, Dr. David Tucker, we visited St. Paul’s Cathedral. We sought shelter from the rain inside the cathedral (sorry, no pictures allowed inside).

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After visiting the cathedral, we met Dr. Tucker for a walk through Shakespeare’s and Dickens’s London. Below are some images from our journey.

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After finishing our walk, we had a bit of time to change into dry clothes and head out for our private tour of The Dickens House Museum. At the museum, we enjoyed a glass of wine in the cafe before the tour. The students had to take the tour of the recently renovated museum without us because of the size of our group. However, after the students were finished, we were allowed to take a quick look around. Below are some pictures from our time at the museum.

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After touring the museum, we headed our separate ways for the evening. Despite the cold and rainy weather, it was a great day.
Dr. Saraceno, Dr. Musa and Dr. Firenze are very impressed with the group of students we have this year. Even though the weather conditions were far from optimal today, the students did a great job and both of the guides we worked with commented on how attentive, engaged and pleasant our group was.

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Tomorrow we will have our morning class and then head to Shakespeare’s Globe for a tour and to see a performance of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”. We will also have a chance to meet the actors after the play.
Dr. Firenze and Dr. Saraceno decided that today’s modern media example would involve the evolutionary theme of male-male competition. They re-enacted some famous scenes illustrating the techniques that can be used to ensure reproductive success.

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Of course even the best competitor is no match for a massive ice berg.
Cheers from London!

London. We have arrived.

•May 27, 2013 • 2 Comments

The 2013 LIT 296: Darwin, London and Literature Class, ready to travel to Newark Airport in the Biology Vans.

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The charging stations were popular in the Newark Airport.

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Ready to board the plane (with the other 330 passengers).

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Making our way across the UK Border.

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Baggage claim at Heathrow.

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Getting ready to take the London Underground from Heathrow to central London.

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Riding the tube.

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Finally, we resurface at Holborn and have only a short walk to our flats.

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After settling into our flats and having a brief rest, we met up outside and headed to the British Museum.

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Before entering the museum, Dr. Firenze gave some history of the architecture and the museum collection.

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Pairs of students were given an object from The Enlightenment Wing to research for a brief presentation. The students spent some time locating their objects and then took turns discussing the significance of “their” objects and how the object might fit into the themes of our course. Despite being tired, they did an outstanding job.

After entering the great hall, we went into The Enlightenment Wing.

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After our time in The Enlightenment Wing, we left the museum for a brief walking tour of our Bloomsbury neighborhood. We ended our walk at “The Queen’s Larder”, a wonderful pre-Victorian pub. It was a great end to an exciting day!

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Drs. Saraceno, Firenze and Musa are really excited about the spring 2013 LIT 296 class. We have added some new literature to the course (Chaucer and Shakespeare) and are looking forward to a deeper exploration of Darwinian Themes. Inspired by this, and the great job our students did relating objects from the Enlightenment to our course, Dr. Saraceno and Dr. Firenze decided to take our analyses one step further and incorporate some modern media into the course. They began with a delightful reenactment of the parent-offspring conflict that can arise when a child tries to hide an extraterrestrial from his parents.

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Cheers from London! Tomorrow begins with class in Russell Square. In the afternoon we will enjoy a Dickens and Shakespeare walk and in the evening experience a private tour of the Dickens Museum.

 
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