Stage, Page and College: UNC-Chapel Hill students spend July at the Hall studying Shakespeare

27 Jul 2018

Prof. Chris Armitage with Claire Kenan and Charlotte Lutz
Prof. Chris Armitage with Claire (left) and Charlotte

Every summer for over 40 years, Professor Chris Armitage has been a familiar face around St Edmund Hall, accompanied by an enthusiastic group of students from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, here to study ‘Shakespeare in Performance’.

This year was no different, although for the first time, the 13 participants were all female. Interestingly, the cohort also included two students, Charlotte Lutz and Claire Kenan, whose fathers – Tom Lutz and Laine Kenan – had taken part in the same programme some 30 years earlier, demonstrating the enduring appeal of the course!

Prof. Armitage is a St Edmund Fellow and an alumnus of the College (1950, English) – where he was taught by the distinguished pairing of Reggie Alton and Graham Midgley. He joined the faculty of UNC-Chapel Hill in 1967 and first began to return to the Hall in the summers of the early 1970s, initially bringing with him just three or four students. From those beginnings, the programme quickly developed into a residential course, initially for two weeks but soon expanding to five weeks by the 1980s.

UNC-Chapel Hill acquired a London property, next to the British Museum, and asked Prof. Armitage to direct a summer six-week Honors programme based there. He, however, did not want to give up the benefits for UNC in maintaining the connection with Oxford University through St Edmund Hall. A compromise was worked out whereby the programme begins with three weeks in London, followed by three weeks at the Hall. The students have at least two hours of class every morning from Mondays to Thursdays, followed by a three-day weekend in which they are encouraged to explore further afield in the UK and Europe and engage in independent travel. They have a variety of assignments to write and a final exam. Prof. Armitage delivers all the teaching, as well as undertaking all the grading. As its name suggests, the programme also includes frequent theatre trips. This year, the group saw ten plays and their favourite performances were The Tempest at St Paul’s Church in Covent Garden, and The Duchess of Malfi at the RSC in Stratford.

The students returned home last weekend, having received the course as positively as ever, and with the added bonus of timing their stay to coincide with the UK heatwave. Alumni of the programme often call in to catch up with Prof. Armitage during his annual visit, and he met five this summer alone, so they clearly have fond memories of their time here and his teaching. We look forward to welcoming him back, along with more UNC-Chapel Hill students again at the same time next year.

Update, August 2018

Since this article’s publication, two more parent-child continuum of UNC students attending the programme at St Edmund Hall have been brought to light: Daniel Garner, who attended the programme himself, was followed by his two sons Ben and Jonathan some years later; while Laura Dover and her daughter Ella have also both taken part.

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