Literature: Husbands, Wives and Lovers

Ref: C3739969

Themes of love, marriage, infidelity, suicide and adultery stalk the pages of the novels studied on this course. We examine their relevance to social and cultural change, attitudes to the role of women, and social mobility in nineteenth century Europe.

Additional information about this course

Any paper editions but preferably no kindles.

Course aim

This course provides an introduction to a selection of classic European novels of the nineteenth century and an overview of the social and cultural conditions that produced them.

Who is the course for?

What topics will this course cover

We shall locate the novels within their cultural, political and historical contexts, particularly with regard to questions of class, gender, social mobility and marriage. In addition, we will explore the formal and narrative characteristics of the Realist and Naturalist novels of the period.

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 some key cultural and historical features of the period. 2. Locate the novels within a broad literary context. 3. Define recurring thematic material, and understand key formal concepts, e.g. realism, naturalism. 4. Describe some formal and narrative characteristics of the texts studied.

How will I know I'm making progress?

Assessment is ongoing through tutor observation, group work, whole group discussion, question and answer. Short individual presentations are part of course-based reading tasks and happen on a regular basis.

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

Texts to be studied are; Theodore Fontane 'Effie Briest' Gustave Flaubert 'Madame Bovary' Emile Zola 'Therese Raquin' Leo Tolstoy 'The Kreutzer Sonata'

Reading and information sources

It is expected that students will have read the first text, 'Effie Briest', before the start of the course if possible.

What could the course lead to?

Students may wish to continue their studies with further WEA courses, or more formally through certified courses such as those run by the Oxford University Department of Continuing Education, etc.

Download full course outline

Literature: Husbands, Wives and Lovers Course Outline


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  • 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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