Course overview

In this course we will read and discuss books by an author who excelled at comic writing and whose books have mostly been overlooked in recent years. Angela Thirkell’s novels, set in Anthony Trollope’s fictional county of Barsetshire, offer a gently satirical take on social mores and pretensions in upper and middle-class society of the 1930s and 1940s. We will be focusing on two comic novels: High Rising (1933) and Northbridge Rectory (1941). Through friendly and accessible discussions of both texts, we will learn more about their stories, characters and themes, and consider the nature of their author’s distinctive comic voice.

Course description

In this course we will read and discuss two books by an author who excelled at comic writing and whose books have mostly been overlooked in recent years. Angela Thirkell’s novels, set in Anthony Trollope’s fictional county of Barsetshire, offer a gently satirical take on social mores and pretensions in upper and middle-class society of the 1930s and 1940s.

We will be focusing on two comic novels: High Rising (1933) and Northbridge Rectory (1941). High Rising is the first of Thirkell’s Barsetshire novels, introducing characters and settings which would recur through a total of 28 connected books; Northbridge Rectory sets its cast in a Barsetshire village in wartime. In both books, Thirkell takes a sideways comic glance at a range of characters from the English upper middle classes.

Through friendly and accessible discussions of both texts, we will learn more about their stories, characters and themes, and consider the nature of their author’s distinctive comic voice. While you will get the most from the course by reading the books in their entirety, short extracts for discussion will be downloadable from Canvas, where links to further reading will also be provided for those who wish to extend their learning.

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