Arnold Bennett: Old Wives Tales

Ref: C3528858

Read and discuss a novel that charts the changes of the nineteenth century through the lives of Constance and Sophia Baines. Bennett’s aim was realism and naturalism. Some critics call this novel a forgotten masterpiece, what will you think? We will be reading at home in comfortable stages so that we can share our ideas and reactions to the story developments, and investigate the historical and literary context for this novel. We will look in detail at selected passages, and think about the overall shape and scope of the story. Please read to the end of chapter 2, ‘The Tooth’, for discussion at the first meeting.

Course aim

To discuss this novel of provincial life, and consider how it reflects its period and what it says to ours. We shall be looking for key themes and at the impact the novel had on other writers.

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 my responses to the situations of Sophia and Constance, and consider the ways the narrator directs our reactions.
  • Examine the way Bennett presents time and place, and consider the proposition that with this novel, Bennett created a literary style for provincial lives.
  • Identify common and contrasting themes, and assess how they operate e.g. How the ideals of 'provincial' and 'metropolitan' are portrayed.

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
  • There will be a reading schedule, and it would be useful to read the given sections prior to each session.

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

What else do I need to know?

  • Please bring an unabridged copy of Arnold Bennett's, The Old Wives Tale. Tutor will be using a Vintage Classic copy, ISBN 7980099595359 - it is not imperative that you have the same copy.

Pre-course work, reading and information sources

  • Please read to the end of chapter 2, ‘The Tooth’, for discussion at the first meeting.

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

Arnold Bennett: Old Wives Tales


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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