Childhoods in Literature: Behind the Scenes at the Museum & What Maisie Knew

Ref: C3528472

We will be considering, in detail, two novels about growing up in a dysfunctional family. Read them in comfortable stages at home, then join us to discuss characters and developments, as we put into historical and literary context, these two intriguing novels. From the 1890s to the 1990s, how have the dynamics of childhood changed? James’s novel has been described as 'a comic masterpeice', Atkinson’s as 'witty'. What will you think? We will begin with Henry James, so please read chapters 1 - 19 of 'What Maisie Knew', for discussion at the first session.

Course aim

To compare and contrast the novels 'What Maisie Knew' by Henry James and 'Behind the Scenes at the Museum' by Kate Atkinson and think about how they reflect their eras in terms of content and style.

Do I need any particular skills or experience?

  • No skills or experience needed
  • This course is suitable for beginners and improvers

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

  • Discuss our responses to the situations portrayed in the two given novels, and identify common and contrasting themes, e.g. 'What constitutes 'home'?'
  • Assess the ways in which parental figures are presented in the two novels, and how they reflect contemporary concerns about the roles, eg. 'As models for the nuclear family.'
  • Compare and contrast how Atkinson arranges plot and how the narration works in What Maisie Knew.

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 will be given a reading schedule for the course, so that we can discuss set sections of the novels each week.

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

What else do I need to know?

  • Please bring a copy of What Maisie Knew, by Henry James, and Behind the Scenes at The Museum, by Kate Atkinson.

Pre-course work, reading and information sources

  • Please read chapters 1 - 19 of What Maisie Knew.

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
  • You could progress to Higher Education courses. Follow link to the PEARL website for information
  • Access the WEA What Next? booklet here

Download full Course information sheet

Childhoods in Literature: Behind the Scenes at the Museum & What Maisie Knew


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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