Course overview

This course focuses on J.B. Priestley’s (1894-1984) journey around England in the 1930s, which was published as a book English Journey in 1934. At the time Priestley was a well-known novelist, playwright, screenwriter, social commentator and perhaps the most popular English writer of his day. Sponsored by his publisher Victor Gollancz and the Daily Mail , Priestley set out to travel the length and breadth of 1930s England from Southampton to the Black Country, the North East and Newcastle, Lincoln, Norfolk and Norwich. In doing so he revealed the condition of the English people, their society and their culture.

Course description

By the 1930s, J.B. Priestley had emerged as a popular novelist, playwright, screenwriter, broadcaster and social commentator and perhaps the most widely-read writer of his day. He was a prolific best-selling author at a time when novels attracted a mass market. Priestley’s Yorkshire background was reflected in much of his fiction, notably in The Good Companions (1929), and Bright Day (1949). His output as an author and a playwright produced a continual flow of essays, reviews, biographies, film-scripts that attracted a broadly-based audience and Priestley’s series of radio talks on the BBC during the summer of 1940 were credited with strengthening civilian morale at a time of great crisis. Priestley’s brief career as a travel-writer and commentator was highlighted in his book English Journey (1934) which explored the diversity of regions and people across England, documenting economic and social diversity across the country at a time of great and fundamental shifts in English society, culture and attitudes. Priestley’s ‘English Journey’, is a personal account of his travels across the country in the 1930s and, as such, the aim of this course is to address the condition of England and English society and culture using Priestley’s book as our guide.

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