Literature: The Self Portrait

Ref: C2223748

A Rembrandt self-portrait, Van Gogh's letters, Sir John Soane's house and John Clare's poems are varieties of the maker's portrait. In this course we will study the many faces of the self-portrait and what they mean to us.

Course aim

Explore the many forms and meanings of the self-portrait, including artworks, poetic and fictional portrayals, autobiographical writings and even houses which reveal their makers. From Durer to Woolf.

Who is the course for?

This course is for anyone interested in art, literature or history. You do not need specific study skills or prior knowledge, just a willingness to discuss your opinion, develop your interpretative skills and consider alternative views.

What topics will this course cover

In this course we will study aspects of identity from diverse periods and cultures. Some examples of self-portraits we could include are: - Artist's self-portraits, including Durer, Rembrandt, Van Eyck, Vigee-Lebrun, Frida Kahlo, Shirin Neshat, Chuck Close. - Autobiographical writing: Virginia Woolf, the Bronte diary papers, Van Gogh's letters. - Poetic and fictional portrayals: John Clare, Emily Dickinson, Mary Shelley, James Joyce. - Houses as self-portraits: Sir John Soane's house and Kettle's Yard.

What will it be like?

WEA classes are friendly and supportive. You will be encouraged to work together with your fellow students and tutor. You will be asked to share your ideas and views in the class and work with the group to give and accept feedback in a supportive environment. The WEA tutor will use a range of different teaching and learning methods and encourage you to be actively involved in your learning. You may be asked to undertake work to support your course outside of your class.

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

1. Identify and compare a variety of self-portraits. 2. Examine texts and artworks and comment upon them. 3. Relate the self-portraits studied to the makers' lives and times. 4. Develop your own interpretations of the works studied and consider alternative views. 5. Apply the interpretative skills developed during this course to other artistic and literary works.

How will I know I'm making progress?

There will be opportunities for you to discuss your progress and achievement with each other and the tutor during the course. You should find your confidence increases as you develop skills of evaluation and appreciation. You will be able to assess your own achievements at the beginning, the middle and the end of the course through the Learning Record form and the tutor will respond to your progress or concerns accordingly.

What else do I need to know, do or bring?

There are no additional expenses planned for this course.

Reading and information sources

The following list is for background reading and browsing. The Self-Portrait. James Hall A Face to the World. Laura Cumming 500 Self-Portraits. Phaidon publishers The Book of Life edited by Eve Claxton

What could the course lead to?

This course could be a springboard to further study in art, literature, history or biography with any adult education provider. You may want to visit Sir John Soane's Museum, the National Portrait Gallery or other museums with collections of self-portraits. These and other opportunities will be discussed during the course.

Download full course outline

Literature: The Self Portrait Course Outline


You can if you meet all of the following requirements:

  • are paying the standard fee or are on any of the qualifying benefits
  • are paying with a credit/debit card or are not paying a fee because of a qualifying benefit
  • have a valid email address
  • have been resident in the UK, EU or EEA for the last 3 years
  • are aged 19 years or older on 1st September 2016
  • have read and accept the standard terms and conditions
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