English teacher Kathleen Schultheis is traveling abroad to study English Literature at Oxford University this summer. The program is invitation only and lasts three and a half weeks.
“It is called English Literature Summer School and it is run through Oxford University at Exeter College,” Schultheis said.
She described the structure of classes as being different from those of an American university.
“You take two seminars, one in the morning, one in the afternoon. You have a mid-day section where you have the classic British lunch. We did that before when I was in Oxford in 2008. It’s very elegant,” Schultheis said. “It’s sort of like being in their world, it’s very formal.”
Oxford offers shorter courses like “Philosophy and the Horror Aesthetic” and “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight,” but few as comprehensive as its English Literature Summer School program.
“I know their track record at Oxford is wonderful,” Schultheis said. “I think primarily it is just very different, when I was there before, it was interesting being the only American in the class. For the most part, it’s Europeans or British people. I might conceivably be the only American there.”
She described her expectations of the course.
“They try to maintain the British traditions: you have a tutor, a British professor who meets with you privately, and will evaluate your work one on one, which is what they do at Oxford, so that’s an amazing experience,” Schultheis said. “In the evening they have talks by professors, so you can go attend those on different writers, so that would be delightful.”
According to their website, the summer program offers “seminars on Anglo-Saxon literature and culture, Shakespeare, the English Romantic poets, Jane Austen, Victorian fiction, Modernist fiction and contemporary literature.”
Schultheis is one of many different instructors attending with a particular author in mind.
“It’s not just high school teachers, it’s college professors who want to deepen their understanding of specific people, for instance, I’ll be taking a course in Jane Austen along with [Percy] Shelley.”
Schultheis is also looking forward to learning about authors she is unfamiliar with.
“I don’t know enough about Jane Austen to be honest, I read her in college. She’s huge right now,” Schultheis said. “I’m woefully inadequate on her and don’t know nearly enough. If I do this I shouldn’t just confine myself to the British Romantics I know and love, but to the people that preceded them.“
Schultheis is excited to continue her study of Percy Bysshe Shelley, a world-renowned English poet who authored classic poems such as “Ozymandias” and “Ode to the West Wind.”
She attributed her love of Shelley to his determined, yet romantic nature.
“It’s probably the joining of politics with lyricism. He’s a great lyric poet, a great poet of love, emotion. But he’s also ferociously political. He had a crazy adolescence. He managed to get himself kicked out of Oxford when he was 16, not for drinking or gambling but for writing ‘The Necessity of Atheism,’ because he was very much a free thinker and wrote against the Church of England. Oxford dons gave him a chance to recant, he didn’t, they bounced him out.”
English department chair, Kathy Bowman, is excited for Schultheis to have this opportunity.
“It’s going to be a great experience for her, with an added benefit of bringing what she learns back to the school and enhancing the learning of her students.”
Altogether, her main focus is expanding her passion for literature.
“For the most part you’re there to read, study and write, which is delightful because I don’t get the chance to really do that,” Schultheis said.
Schultheis T.A. Anish Natarajan believes teachers continuing their education is just as important as a student’s drive to learn.
“I think that it’s great that teachers in Oak Park are looking for new ways to expand their current reserve of knowledge and think that it’s important for the faculty to be as willing to learn as the students are.”
This story was originally published on The Oak Park Talon on January 30, 2019.