Victorian Crime Ficiton – London Study Abroad

My signature project was a study abroad trip given through the English department. The program was Crime Fiction in the Victorian Era, where the class went to London to study some of the iconic pieces of detective fiction that helped shape the genre while also learning how they helped shape the British culture.

My view of what effects literature has on society as a whole changed completely. While studying detective fiction, I learned how impactful the genre really was on British society. Because of the genre, policing all throughout the United Kingdom changed, going from a militant style to a governmental style, and again changing to include detectives as an actual profession. It just showed me that things that may not seem very connected, like crime fiction and society, can come together in unsuspecting ways. It also showed me the weight that literature carries, how it can work to change views and shape societies.

There were two important assignments during the class that deeply affected how I saw literature and its power over society. These helped to shape my views because during the course of them, I was asked to think about impacts, both of literature and culture, on space and place, themes central to the class. While doing these projects, I saw that changes we want to see must be manifested in our own work, be it literature or anything else. I think this a lessen that can apply to anyone, in any subject, and has help foster my motivation to carry on in the medical field, because I know now that whatever changes I want to see, I must make myself.

The Sherlock Holmes Statue outside the Baker Street tube stop

The first of these assignments was a blog post in which we were asked to discuss the impact that a piece of detective fiction had on spaces and places. I chose to talk about the Scotland yard detective series and talked about how they shaped perceptions of countries and areas that the general Victorian public didn’t have access to. Again, this served to show how a change, in this case a shift in societal perception, came to be. The story I read was about the American “wild west” and was full of stereotypes about the American culture. The people reading them had no other way to contradict the information they were given, so the view that all Americans were brash, lawless cowboys was upheld.

The second assignment was again a blog post, but this time on the impact that a space or place has on the British culture. I talked about London’s “green lung”, or the series of parks smack dab in the center of the city. Essentially, these parks influenced the way British culture experienced leisure. The assignment showed how it was peoples changes and the way they manifested such changes, that made them permanent.

The Prince Albert memorial in Kensington Park

It’s important to note how change comes to be in societies and starting with literature helped me because it was tangible evidence of how thought process can be altered, and through thought process, actions, then norms. My plans are to join the medical field and create changes in the way we treat patients and produce new treatments. This trip helped me realize that change can be manifested in many different ways, but that it must first be created and pushed onto the public.