Family Matters: Literature and the family

Ref: C3679928

“Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” This is how Leo Tolstoy begins his novel, Anna Karenina. Is he right? And, what is a family? Through reading a range of fiction and poetry, we will explore how the theme of the family is by no means straightforward. Family is not limited to blood relations. As the OED tells us, family first came into English from the French meaning “servants,” and referred to a group living together under the same roof. The family provides us the chance to see the diverse factors that contribute to happiness or unhappiness in our close relations with others. In this course, we will contemplate how literary conventions can shape how writers invoke the family, a key thread in our wider social fabric, especially now during a pandemic when those threads may be strained and worn in new ways. Through reading how writers like Mansfield, O'Connor, Munro convey the imagined lives of other families, we can learn more about our own.

Course aim

This course offers students the opportunity to read and discuss a wide range of fiction and poetry about the complex relationships produced by families. As everyone has a family, and no family is the same, literature about family matters to us all.

Do I need any particular skills or experience?

  • This course is for beginners and improvers
  • being open to new ideas

By the end of the course I should be able to:

  • discuss some key literary conventions of fiction about family
  • discuss some key formal conventions of poetry about family
  • demonstrate how literary texts can enrich my understanding of the world around me
  • share with others a new poem or short story that the course has helped illuminate

How will I be taught?

What kind of feedback can I expect?

What else do I need to know?

The course texts come from a wide range of collections and anthologies. You may well have books with some of the stories or poems already. But for the sake of convenience, all course texts will be available through the Canvas online learning platform.

Pre-course work, reading and information sources

What can I do next?

View full course information sheet

Family Matters: Literature and the family

Is this course right for me? Request more information

This course has been cancelled.


This course is funded by the West Yorkshire Combined Authority and only applicable postcode areas are permitted to enrol.

As a registered charity, and to meet our funders’ requirements, we need to check a few things with you before you enrol. Please check the details below to ensure you meet the basic eligibility critiera:

  • You are paying the standard fee (with a credit or debit card) or you are on any of the qualifying benefits
  • You have a valid email address so that you can receive confirmation of your booking
  • You have been resident in the UK, EU or EEA for the last 3 years
  • You are aged 19 years or older on 1st September 2021
  • You declare that the address you provide is correct and that you will provide evidence of this and your eligibility to live and work in the UK
  • You have read and accept our standard terms and conditions

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