Course overview

Reading short texts is an excellent introduction to the works of some of the greatest writers of the western canon. Each week we focus on a classic work of fiction, reading and discussing key passages. The texts include short stories, novellas and novels and span over two centuries, from the 18th century to modern times. We begin with Jane Austen’s Lady Susan and end with Carson McCullers’ The Ballad of the Sad Cafe. We’ll share and debate interpretations, sharpen our critical and appreciative faculties, understand what fiction can tell us about the society and culture that produced it, and, hopefully, be inspired to read other works by the writers featured on the course.

Course description

Over the six weeks of the course, you’ll take part in lively discussions, analysing and interpreting great works of fiction. To understand literature, we need to engage with it on three levels: our own personal response to it as a work of art; an attempt to understand the preoccupations, aims and agenda of the writer, as illuminated by their biography; and an enquiry into what it can tell us the wider culture and society that produced it. Each class starts with a short lecture from the tutor, putting the work in its historical and cultural context; we then read selected passages and explore all three levels. Be prepared for plenty of (good-natured) disagreement. The texts under discussion are: Lady Susan by Jane Austen; Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll; First Love by Ivan Turgenev; Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad; Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger; and The Ballad of the Sad Café by Carson McCullers. Many of these texts are available free online, and selected passages will be posted on Canvas before each session. A course for everyone who loves literature and talking about literature. And of course tea and biscuits feature in every class.

What financial support is available?

We don't want anything to stand in your way when it comes to bringing Adult learning within reach so if you need anything to support you to achieve your goals then speak to one of our education experts during your enrolment journey. Most of our courses are government funded but if you don't qualify or need alternative financial help to access them then let us know.

What other support is available?

All of our digital content, teaching and learning activities and assessments are designed to be accessible so if you need any additional support you can discuss this with the education experts during your enrolment journey and we will do all we can to make sure you have optimal access.

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