In addition to University of Exeter courses, Kenyon students take two seminars (one each semester) with the Kenyon-Exeter Program’s resident director.
These courses are usually organized to allow students to take advantage of the opportunity to see exceptionally good British theater productions and to link their study of literature with an appreciation of the landscapes (both urban and rural) about which many British authors have written. Because students are able to meet frequently as a group and to work closely with the Kenyon Resident Director, they have an opportunity to experience what they enjoy most about their Kenyon classes while at the same time working toward becoming independent scholars in their other courses.
In the first semester of the Kenyon Seminar we offer the course Plays and Productions, and it is likely that the opportunity to attend theater productions will extend throughout the year. This course was first introduced in 1976-77 and subsequently was made an integral part of program and budget.
What makes the Kenyon-Exeter Program unique among off-campus study programs for English majors is the extent to which students have an opportunity to immerse themselves in a nation’s theatrical culture and history. We study and then see as many as twenty-five excellent plays a year, ranging from Original Practices Shakespearean productions at the Globe Theatre to cutting-edge work being written by hot new playwrights and put on by boundary-defying companies. We spend a good deal of time in (and learning about the histories of) established venues like the Royal Shakespeare Company’s theaters in Stratford-upon-Avon and the National Theatre in London. We also get a chance to experience productions and companies at the vanguard of modern British theater--and to study the ways contemporary performers, directors, and companies are reshaping theater itself.
In the second semester, the Kenyon Seminar will usually focus on "literature and landscape," balancing continuing literary study with travel throughout England and the British Isles.
Students have truly memorable experiences associated with the texts that they study in this course. For example, we read William and Dorothy Wordsworth with greater appreciation and understanding not only because we have visited Tintern Abbey and Exmoor but also because we have explored the fells and the mountains of the Lake District. We no longer quickly pass over the long descriptions of landscape in Hardy after having visited Dorset. After visiting Chatsworth and Stourhead we can better comprehend the country-house tradition and issues of property in Jane Austen's novels. The landscape of memory in Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse feels all the more textured after we have explored St. Ives in Cornwall. The urban landscape of London becomes increasingly legible as we prowl through writings by William Blake, Charles Dickens, Zadie Smith and John Lanchester. And reading about Devon in the works of poets like Ted Hughes and Alice Oswald makes the experience of living in this particular landscape all the more vivid.
A crucial part of this course is a one or two-week group trip to some area of Britain and/or Ireland. Some groups have explored the Western Islands of Scotland; some have roamed through Ireland; and others have toured Wales. All groups make their way to northern England’s Lake District at some point during the year and most visit Haworth and Brontë country in Yorkshire, as well.