Unions and Strike Actions: Literary Representations

Ref: C2224260

In this course, we will explore literary representations of unions and strike action. Although the main focus will be on literature produced in the United Kingdom, the course will include a number of examples of literature written in English from other countries. We will refer to texts such as Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South (1855), John Steinbeck’s novel The Grapes of Wrath (1939), Walter Greenwood’s Love on the Dole (1933), and extracts from The Diary of Virginia Woolf. There will be a wide range of references to other literary works as well as other forms of writing, such as journalism and academic commentary, and we will supplement our study of literature with discussions about pertinent films, such as Made in Dagenham (2010) about the sewing machinists’ strike of 1968, and Brassed Off which refers to the 1984–85 Coal miners’ strike. These works reveal a range of attitudes towards unions and strike action, and we will explore how these attitudes vary according to context.

Course aim

We will explore how a range of authors from very different contexts, such as John Steinbeck and Virginia Woolf, have represented unions and strike action in their writing.

Do I need any particular skills or experience?

  • This course is for anyone interested in literature, unions and strike action. You will need to be comfortable reading and communicating in English, and open to discussing new ideas. You do not need specific study skills or prior knowledge.

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

  • Identify and discuss some depictions of unions and strike actions from different periods.
  • Discuss the contexts that determine various attitudes towards unions and strike action, as displayed in certain examples of literature, journalism and academic commentary.
  • Analyse sample extracts of writing on unions and strike action.
  • Formulate and argue considered opinions, and listen to and take into account alternative viewpoints.
  • Apply the interpretive skills developed in the course to other literary subjects and works.

How will I be taught?

  • The WEA tutor will use a range of different teaching and learning methods and encourage you and the group to be actively involved in your learning
  • You may be asked to undertake additional work in your own time to support your learning

What kind of feedback can I expect?

  • A range of informal activities will be used by the tutor to see what you are learning which may include quizzes, question and answer, small projects and discussion
  • You will be encouraged to share your work with the group and discuss your learning
  • You will be encouraged to consider other students work and give your opinions and suggestions
  • There will be a number of tasks, such as written work or presentations, which will be given feedback in a constructive environment.

What else do I need to know?

  • You will need to bring a notebook and something to write with. If you have internet access at home (or at a library, etc.) this would be useful, but not essential. It would be useful to be a member of your local library.

Pre-course work, reading and information sources

  • It is not essential, but to derive maximum benefit from the course it is advised that participants read, or watch, the following books and films beforehand: North and South The Grapes of Wrath Love on the Dole Made in Dagenham Brassed Off

What can I do next?

  • Progress to another WEA course
  • Progress to a course with another provider
  • Become involved with the WEA in a range of voluntary work and other activities including campaigning as a WEA member
  • Become involved as a volunteer for a WEA partner or another organisation
  • Access the WEA What Next? booklet here http://www.wea.org.uk/learn-wea/what-can-i-do-next
  • This course could be a springboard to further study in literature. A hand-out will be provided at the end of the course with a list of relevant texts and websites that will be useful for those who wish to continue to explore the subject.

Download full Course information sheet

Unions and Strike Actions: Literary Representations


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  • are paying the standard fee or are on any of the qualifying benefits
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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 2017
  • have read and accept the standard terms and conditions
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