This article is part of the CGIS Blog's Faculty Feature highlight, where we bring you the voices of faculty who have teamed up with CGIS to provide excellent faculty-led study abroad opportunities for U-M students. CGIS helps professors bring unique experiences to life through these programs based on current campus interests and needs. We hope you enjoy this faculty perspective!

Monsters in London builds on the literary and historical explorations of our Winter course (Literary Monsters: Power, Culture, & the Meanings of Monstrosity) by inviting students to explore less well-known, but enthralling, corners of the United Kingdom’s capital city. 

With London as our classroom, students discover a web of fascinating connections – to the fictional “monsters” we study (Frankenstein's creature, Dracula, and Jekyll & Hyde, to name a few), the writers who invented them, the folklore and politics that inform them, as well as histories of science and medicine, art and architecture, empire and resistance, religious persecution and rebellion, and more.

In other words, our topics are wide-ranging and capacious. Wondering if they might connect to your interests? Check out some of the highlights below.   


Highgate Cemetery 

Highgate Cemetery, Photo: Christopher Matthews, 2023

Highgate Cemetery, in northern London, is an absolute wonder of Gothic architecture and probably the epitome of what you picture when you think “eerie old London cemetery with a vampire or two.” It’s a fantastic site for learning about Victorian culture’s spiritual and economic relationship to death, as well as a site of grim stories of grave robbing and exhumation – real-world corollaries to, and perhaps inspirations for, the fears that populate novels like Frankenstein and Dracula.


The Old Operating Theatre

The Old Operating Theatre, Photo: Michael Reeve, 2004 (Wikimedia Commons)

The Old Operating Theatre is a rare find: a perfectly preserved early nineteenth-century surgical theatre (where surgeries were performed in front of medical students and other spectators), now serving as a fascinating museum of the era’s medical practices, anatomical science, the study of disease, and apothecary arts. 


Whitby & York

Whitby Abbey ruins, Photo: Christopher Matthews, 2023

One of the centerpieces of our adventure: an overnight trip to the gorgeous medieval city of York and, from there, a day trip to the charming coastal village of Whitby, with its stunning cliffside ruins. Bram Stoker chose Whitby – already known as a site of Viking invasion in centuries past – as the location of Dracula’s first arrival in England…

The Monsters on Hampstead Heath, Photo: Christopher Matthews, 2023


Shakespeare’s Globe

Shakespeare’s Globe, Photo: Christopher Matthews, 2023

Each year we aim to experience London’s vibrant theatre scene in at least a couple of different ways, and usually Shakespeare’s Globe plays an important role: in 2023, their excellent production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream (with its dangerous forest, journey into the night, mischievous fairies, and much confusion around identity and desire) dovetailed in intriguing ways with several of our “monster” themes.


Sir John Soane’s Museum

Sir John Soane’s Museum (reliquaries in the basement), Photo: Christopher Matthews, 2023

A hidden gem among London museums, Soane’s is preserved as it was in the 1830s, the house of a wealthy gentleman-architect and collector of funereal artifacts and ancient art, a place where we can ponder ancient culture, feel we’ve stepped into the nineteenth century, and ponder historical British practices of collection, appropriation, and categorization. 


Is this program right for you?

Quite possibly! Past students have found rewarding connections to a broad range of academic and personal interests – not only literature, folklore, and creative writing but also art, architecture, gender studies, political science, psychology, history, biology, museum studies, and theatre, to name a few. You don't need any particular background or major, just an interest in and curiosity about our range of themes and topics.

As you adjust to life in London, you’ll also be supported by Ryan Lorenz, our on-the-ground expert, and me; together, Ryan and I will offer plenty of guidance on making your way around the city, using The Tube, adapting to cultural differences, and more.

In the Winter semester course, our methods are analytical and interpretive (resembling most humanities coursework) as well as creative, with students investigating monster stories of their own creation. In London, students are also tasked with writing thoughtfully from both analytical and creative angles, about their own experiences as travelers, their growing understanding of multifaceted British culture and history, and their evolving thinking about the relevance of “monster stories” in this new context.


About Me

By training I am a creative writer and a scholar of nineteenth-century British literature and culture, and I first started spending substantial chunks of time in London and the UK over twenty years ago. Recently, I have taught with U-M in London in 2018, 2022, and 2023.

This course is near and dear to my heart, an outgrowth of my long connection and devotion to London and the rich intellectual, social, and literary history found across the city.

Questions for Professor Christopher Matthews about his GCC experience? Contact him at

Are you a U-M faculty member interested in leading a study abroad program with CGIS? Find more information on our Faculty & Partners page.