In recent years, the National School of Arts has significantly expanded its international profile with an outstanding suite of new overseas study options for its students.
The most recent international unit to be run by the School is HUMA318: The Literature and Drama of New York City, in January, 2018. Led by Associate Professor Michael Griffith and Dr James Marland from Arts and Ms Annelisa Sipos, the Arts liaison librarian from Strathfield, the unit blends literature and drama and provides students with the opportunity to explore the key literary sites of New York, analyse Broadway shows and visit world class art galleries and museums.
Prior to departure, the students studied a series of literary and dramatic texts, attended live cross-campus video-conference tutorials and were provided with interdisciplinary study guides and recorded lectures. Once they arrived in New York, these texts came to life as the students were surrounded by American culture and the physical environments that helped to create these novels, poems and plays. A key element of this unit was the inclusion of American literary and dramatic experts so that students could gain American perspectives on the texts they were studying. In addition, a series of American literary guides led the students around locations such as Washington Square, Greenwich Village, Central Park, Brooklyn Bridge and Harlem, all of which linked directly to the texts being studied in the unit.
Students spent a series of nights on Broadway, viewing and analysing performances as well as critiquing the intent and purpose of contemporary American theatre. They attended a Gospel service in Harlem and studied the literature of African-Americans at the world famous Schomburg Centre for Research in Black Culture. Students toured the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) and the Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET) and observed first-hand the articulation between poetry, prose and art. The feedback from students about their experience has been exceptional. As one student commented in New York, echoing the sentiments of others before her, “this is amazing, standing here in this location, I now have a deeper understanding of what it was that drove these writers’ imaginations”.
The students were engaged and enthusiastic from the outset and the travel not only provided them the opportunity to develop stronger bonds with fellow students, but also gave them critical insights into the literature and culture of this great global city. The city itself became the classroom and the students emerged with a deeper appreciation of how works of art in all genres are shaped by the spirit of place, and its geographical, political, social and religious history.