From TikTok fangirling over Movie Darcy’s hand flex to modern movies like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Jane Austen’s works are still extremely relevant to modern pop culture. In the far distant United Kingdom, in a very different time, Jane Austen wrote uniquely about the lives and struggles of women from a woman’s perspective. To Honors College Professor Beth Dalton, Austen’s writings are compelling, so much so that she led a Spring 2023 Colloquium trip to the UK.

“To me,” Dalton says, “Austen’s work as a writer is really compelling- she knows what to withhold and what to tell the reader, and she has a keen sense of her audience. As a writer, I find her very admirable and witty, and the films often lack the wit and humor she had in her books.” Professor Dalton has had a long love of Austen’s work, reading them since childhood, before being asked to take over the colloquium class by its former professor, Joanna Edmonds, in 2017. But why travel to London? Why is seeing the culture and society which Austen lived in so important to learning the nuances of her novels?

Student Experience

Senior BFA Musical Theatre student Mitchell Takeda answers this question, saying, “I was able to see the environment that Austen was able to paint in all of her novels. Because of this opportunity, I was able to see a bigger picture as to why her characters were written with their specific strengths, flaws, and how their roles in society were painted to be true to the world around them.”

Professor Dalton also agreed with that sentiment, citing the idea that British culture, society, and landscape are so different from our own that even the distance between townships is easily overlooked. Austen’s novels, particularly Pride and Prejudice, often mention characters walking from town to town, such as main heroine Lizzie, much to the shock of Mr. Bingley. It is nearly impossible to understand the societal expectations of women to take a carriage unless you are in that society yourself, which only serves to highlight Austen’s references to the poverty gap between the families of the city, such as the Bingleys, and those of rural areas like the Bennett family. Only seeing the landscape and interacting with that culture and society can truly impact one’s learning of Austen.

As a part of the Jane Austen Colloquium trip, students had the opportunity to see many of Austen’s previous haunts, including her childhood home and the adulthood home where she wrote many of her works, which helps students understand her life and the influence it had on her stories. Professor Dalton says, “England has done a great job in preserving what they can, preserving her childhood house and the church her father and brother worked in, including the table she wrote on. We think of these women in the gentry living in these glamorous circumstances, but she didn’t. She lived in comfort by our standards, but it’s important for students to see the scale of her life.”

Then-senior, now-graduate student Brenna Haley concurred with Professor Dalton’s reasonings for the trip and its importance, saying of her experience, “Seeing the landscape that she [Austen] saw helped a lot, and hearing personal anecdotes from things she’d written down or put in letters to her sister provided more clear ideas on who she was and why she wrote the way she did. She would write while sitting in the garden in Bath, and sitting in that garden myself provided a lot of context in her motivations and storytelling. The trip provided a lot of information on Jane Austen, her family, their situation, and their financial situation was amazing, and kept us in the modern mindset while still relating to- and focusing on- her.”

Favorite Sights

The class also had the ability to go sight-seeing while abroad. For many students in the class, this was their first time abroad, so Dalton wanted students to get the full English experience, with the trip taking place over the week of spring break. Some destinations of the study abroad include the town of Bath, the Winchester Cathedral, Cobb, and Lyme-Regis.  Bath still celebrates Jane Austen for her use of it in many of her most famous works. Austen is interred at Winchester Cathedral, which is also a historic landmark and final resting place for many famous icons. Another location visited over the trip was Lyme-Regis, a coastal city on the Jurassic Coast, which is beautiful and scenic.

Junior Cole Schoen said their favorite experience of the trip was Lyme-Regis, where students were able to go out to a wall in the ocean, which is featured in one of Austen’s books, and discuss how she used it as a setting and plot point in her book. As well as this, students had the opportunity to explore the town and its local business and restaurants. Graduate student Brenna Haley’s favorite part of the trip, however, was Bath. She says, and I quote, “I dream of Bath,” and is already planning to bring her family there on vacation.

Senior Mitchell Takeda says his favorite destination was, “The Royal Crescent in Bath. Many of Austen’s characters had the privilege of visiting and even living at the Royal Crescent, and many of us have seen it when watching the Bridgestone series on Netflix. But getting to experience sitting out on a bench, overlooking the great green lawn, was truly remarkable. Being out there made me feel like I was one with the Bathonians, and the Royal Crescent has inspired me to visit the UK as soon as possible.”

Honors Colloquium and Studying Abroad

The opportunity for studying abroad through class is unique to the Honors College, and Professor Dalton used her class time prior to the trip to have the class read Austen’s works in chronological order, as well as work on helping students apply for passports and other travel documents. Students enjoy these colloq trips especially because they are low-commitment, allowing them to not have to miss class, extracurriculars, theater rehearsals, and work. Cole Schoen agrees, saying, “I liked the idea of going abroad for only a week. Studying abroad for a whole semester was daunting to me, and I didn’t know if I could commit to the entire semester. This gave me the opportunity to dip my toes into studying abroad.”

Students who want to stay on campus, however, are not required to travel during their colloquia. Many Honors College Colloquium, such as the Music & the Holocaust Colloquia class, provided a learning experience that did not include a trip. In fact, there were many members of the Jane Austen Colloq who did not leave the country, and were still able to participate in a multitude of discussions. The bond between peers in this class became stronger as the semester drew to a close, and members celebrated the end of the semester with a Tea Party at Professor Dalton’s home, complete with high tea, music, and British etiquette.

Understanding the work of one of history’s most successful women writers is no easy feat, and is made even more difficult by the geographic, culture, and time differences from modern American and historic England. Students participating in the Honors College’s Jane Austen Colloquium trip were able to expand their horizons and dive deeper into Austen’s works, paving the way to also gaining a deeper understanding of both Austen’s historic prominence and more modern pop culture references.



Two students stand on the banks in LondonThree students pose outside a London CathedralStudents enjoy an authentic afternoon teaAfter the semester, all students in the Jane Austen class, whether they traveled to the UK or not, gathered together for a fun night with more English tea