Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know

Ref: C2224501

'Mad, bad and dangerous to know', Lady Caroline Lamb's description of her sometime lover, Lord Byron, could be applied, loosely, to many writers across the centuries, (especially if the word 'mad' is used in its old -fashioned sense). We will explore the work of a wide variety of authors deemed in their lifetimes, and beyond, to have been, mad, bad or dangerous to know (or sometimes all three!) and how their scandalous or troubled and troubling lives impacted upon their writings. The texts to be studied will be: A selection of poetry from King Henry VIII to John Clare Novels Evelyn Waugh The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold Colin MacInnes Absolute Beginners Julian MacLaren- Ross Of Love and Hunger Short stories to be decided

Course aim

The course aims to consider how the colourful and often difficult lives of a variety poets and novelists, from the 16th to 21st centuries, informs and is reflected in their work.

Do I need any particular skills or experience?

  • No skills or experience needed

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

  • approach texts with an enhanced critical understanding
  • express opinions and responses to specific texts with increased confidence
  • appreciate the relationship between writers' lives and their work
  • contextualise the writers within the eras in which they lived and wrote

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

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 have opportunities to discuss your progress with your tutor
  • 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

What else do I need to know?

  • Nothing else is needed
  • All materials will be provided

Pre-course work, reading and information sources

  • No pre reading or pre course work is required

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

Download full course outline

Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know 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 2017
  • have read and accept the standard terms and conditions
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