Charles Dickens

Ref: C2224656

This course will introduce students to the life and writings of Charles Dickens. We will start by considering biographical options, exploring ways in which Dickens’ life experiences feed into the themes of his novels. I plan to focus upon two novels specifically chosen by Members: Nicholas Nickleby and Hard Times. As well as being an example of an early novel, Nicholas Nickleby’s picaresque, episodic style demonstrates its close association with 18th Century writers, such as Fielding and Smollett. The exuberant cast of characters brilliantly demonstrates the theatricality of Dickens’ writing, but this is placed alongside his excoriation of contemporary social evils such as Yorkshire Schools and nefarious money making. Hard Times, from his middle period, also focuses on education, as well as exposing another of Dickens’ major concerns, that of industrialisation and conditions in the factories. Both novels passionately defend the necessity of creativity and entertainment.

Course aim

To introduce students to the life and writings of Charles Dickens. To focus upon two novels, in order to consider Dickens' narrative style and deep concern with contemporary social issues.

Do I need any particular skills or experience?

  • This course is suitable for beginners and improvers
  • This course is for readers with an interest in 19th C literature, especially the novels and other writings of Charles Dickens

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

  • Discuss and explore a variety of Charles Dickens' novels, journalism and other writings
  • Compare two major novels: Nicholas Nickleby and Hard Times, paying attention to structure and plot development
  • Identify key aspects of Charles Dickens, and place him in order within his historical context
  • List a number of Dickens's output of other writings, such as his essays, plays, speeches and public readings
  • Compare the theatricality of Dickens's writing and it's interaction with his life

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
  • Main teaching method will be group discussion, interwoven with relevant information and ideas provided by the tutor. Additional work will be reading ahead of each class, in order to gain maximum benefit from each session.

What kind of feedback can I expect?

  • 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

What else do I need to know?

  • It will be desirable to have read (or dipped into) suggested biographies of Charles Dickens. Copies of the two chosen novels: Nicholas Nickleby and Hard Times, ideally the edition selected by the tutor.

Pre-course work, reading and information sources

  • No pre reading is required but research on the subject on the internet or in the library may be helpful
  • Ideally, students will have read the two selected novels.

What can I do next?

  • Progress to another WEA course
  • You could progress to Higher Education courses. Follow link to the PEARL website for information

Download full Course information sheet

Charles Dickens

Is this course right for me? Request more information

This course has been cancelled.


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
Visa Credit payments supported by RBS WorldPay Visa Debit payments supported by RBS WorldPay Visa Electron payments supported by RBS WorldPay Mastercard payments supported by RBS WorldPay Maestro payments supported by RBS WorldPay JCB payments supported by RBS WorldPay Solo payments supported by RBS WorldPay
RBS WorldPay Payments Processing