Discovery Profiles: English Major Leslie Pitman Learns from London and its Literary Giants
In the spring of 2010, Leslie Pitman stood at the monument of English poet John Donne at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, inspired in ways that weren’t possible through English literature textbooks and lectures.
“Having the opportunity to go there,” the 22-year-old Florida native says. “I just stood there for a long time.”
Fittingly, it was Donne who in the 17th Century wrote, “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main,” in his Meditation XVII.
Donne most certainly couldn’t have envisioned that almost 400 years later, his life and poetry would inspire a young woman from the United States to discover British literature in new ways. But that is how it transpired for Pitman, whose passion for British literature deepened as she studied abroad for a semester in 2010 at Kingston University.
“As an English major with a specific interest in British literature, England was the natural place for me to study abroad,” she says, “and I am certain that I resembled a kid in a candy store while I was choosing which literature courses to take at Kingston.”
While in London, Pitman took British literature classes from British professors and was surprised to find herself in a Shakespearean drama class learning about the Bard from three Shakespearean actors who encouraged her to perform a few lines as Richard III.
“It was just incredible to learn from those people,” Pitman says. “I was looking forward to it, but I had no idea how awesome it would be.”
Her time in London also taught Pitman about studying more intensely, managing time better and becoming more self-reliant. “Although I knew that there was a great deal of emphasis placed on independent learning in the U.K., it was not until I got my syllabi, and calculated that I would be reading more than 15 texts that semester, that I realized how much of my time I would actually need to manage,” she says.
But she did much more than study words on the page. She visited the monuments and historical sites of British literary giants, including the Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey and Stratford-upon-Avon, the birthplace of Shakespeare. In doing so, she added layers of experience to her book knowledge and uncovered new information about the writers’ lives, works and creative intentions.
Before she finished her time abroad, Pitman, who went on to graduate in 2011 from Queens University of Charlotte in North Carolina with a degree in English literature, was determined not to have any regrets.
“I had heard that a number one regret of study abroad students upon return was that they had not spent enough time getting to know their host country,” she says. “I was determined to not have such a regret, and I can say with confidence that I learned London—I learned the streets, I learned the tube stops, but most importantly, I learned the people.”