Reading Between the Lines: Wheaton in England

May 21, 2019

Wheaton College students and professors cross the pond to study literature in context through the Wheaton in England program. 

Wheaton in England Stratford Upon AvonImagine reciting the lyric poem “Dover Beach” on Dover Beach, touring Jane Austen’s home after reading Pride and Prejudice, or conversing with Wheaton College English professors while strolling the streets of London. For students participating in the six-week-long Wheaton in England trip, this summer will be a chance to go on a literary and spiritual pilgrimage alongside Wheaton faculty members Dr. Tiffany Eberle Kriner and Dr. Benjamin Weber and a community of fellow-Wheaton-student pilgrims.  

“We believe that the student of literature is immeasurably enriched by reading literature in place—that the text gathers to itself meanings from the landscapes in which it was planted and in which it continues to grow,” Kriner said. 

All Wheaton in England participants will take a course titled “Literature and Place,” which emphasizes the connection between the written word and the significance of location. Students will visit iconic sites, such as the Tower of London, the Globe Theater, Stratford-upon-Avon, Dover Beach, and more. Additionally, students will visit locations where renowned authors resided, worked, and found inspiration. 

In addition to the Literature and Place course, students will choose between survey courses focusing on Victorian Literature and Medieval Literature, as well as author courses on T.S. Eliot and Geoffrey Chaucer. For young bibliophiles like rising junior Eliana Chow, who is participating in the program this summer—these courses provide the framework for a deeper immersion and connection to the authors being studied. 

“When studying literary works, it is important to practice empathy by taking the time to listen and be still in the literature, like having a cup of tea with the author, so to speak,” Chow said. “Treading in their physical footsteps is a kind of communion with the author that we can learn from.”

The educational experience and community cultivated throughout Wheaton in England proves to be a highlight in the Wheaton years of many students and English Department faculty members. 

For Margaret Ryken Beaird ’93, the Wheaton in England experience began long before her college years. As a child, Beaird accompanied her father, Professor of English Emeritus Dr. Leland Ryken on the Wheaton in England trip. She later participated in the program as a student, saying that it had a significant impact on her educational and spiritual journey.

“Besides being a wonderful way to spend a childhood, visiting England with 30 some literary students, full of passion and energy for hijinks and literary fun every other year, it was an entre for me into the world of Sacramental Christian faith,” Beaird said. “I well remember the dreaming and passion of celebrating Christ in visceral ways in an ancient future church, and the love for the Sacrament of Eucharist dawned on me first in England. I also got to hear some of the best Anglican preaching of the 20th century, from John Stott and Michael Green, and that had a big impact on me. Any anglophile understands this, but finding Jesus in England is a beautiful gift.”

This summer, participants like Chow hope to experience a taste of that same connectivity between history, faith, and themselves.  

“I look forward to cultivating my relationships with fellow students, the professors, literature, and God. Finding myself on a pilgrimage in England will challenge me to see God in ways I can't begin to predict. In the intersection between faith and art, I hope to learn the most about what it means to endure as both a Christian and an artist, and to be able to share what I discover along the way,” Chow said.  --Lyndi Tsering