Writers of the Victorian Age

Ref: C2224664

In this course we will study a selection of George Eliot’s major novels: Adam Bede (1859), The Mill on the Floss (1860), Silas Marner (1861), and Middlemarch (1871–72). Our analysis will involve examining the social, political and philosophical contexts of the novels, alongside biographical material. We will also explore Eliot’s distinctive narrative voice, her realist style, and her complex characterisations. We will place her in relation to other novels in the literary canon, by considering earlier works which influenced her, and by considering her own influence, and the reception of her novels. In our analysis of her work we will apply a variety of techniques and approaches from literary criticism and literary theory. Eliot’s novels present us with great depth of psychological insight, and deal with a wide range of moral themes, such as humanism and the plight of the outsider, which continue to concern us, and offer potential for interpretation and discussion.

Course aim

In this course we explore the themes and contexts of Eliot’s major novels, making use of various literary theoretical approaches in our analysis of the works of this eminent Victorian.

Do I need any particular skills or experience?

  • This course is for anyone interested in literature, and who is comfortable reading and communicating in English. You do not need specific study skills or prior knowledge, just a willingness to discuss your opinion and consider alternative views.

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

  • Identify and discuss contextual factors pertinent to George Eliot’s novels.
  • Discuss Eliot’s place in the English literary canon.
  • Analyse Eliot’s writing using some approaches of literary criticism and literary theory.
  • 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, in order to derive maximum benefit from the course it is advised that participants read the following works by George Eliot beforehand: Adam Bede The Mill on the Floss Silas Marner Middlemarch

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

Writers of the Victorian Age


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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