True Fiction or False History

Ref: C3741511

The study of history is often motivated by the quest to find meaning in the past. Factual accounts often fail to provide the shape and coherence which enable us to find patterns and sequences, causes and consequences. This course looks at the ways in which writers use fictional forms to widen our historical understanding, in narratives that combine past events with coherent plots and satisfactory resolutions. Texts studied will include: Hilary Mantel, Wolf Hall; Sarah Waters, Fingersmith, and Markus Zusak, The Book Thief.

Course aim

To provide an introduction to the study of historical fiction as a distinctive genre.

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:

  • Perceive historical fiction as a distinctive genre and understand some of the factors surrounding its production,
  • Interrogate the concepts of historical fact and fiction and develop an understanding of philosophical approaches to history.
  • Identify and understand the ways in which the study of historical fiction can help us engage with current political and sociological concerns.
  • Demonstrate my knowledge through the construction of critical arguments and defend those arguments confidently amongst my peers.
  • Analyse literary works in detail through the development of close reading skills.

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
  • Students will be expected to read the primary texts before the class and encouraged to conduct individual research if they wish to expand their understanding further.

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

What else do I need to know?

  • Please bring the primary text to class - these may be available from the library. Some students like to take notes so do bring pen and paper!

Pre-course work, reading and information sources

  • Week 1&2 Hilary Mantel, Wolf Hall Week 3&4 Sarah Waters, Fingersmith Week 5 Markus Zusak, The Book Thief

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

Download full Course information sheet

True Fiction or False History

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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
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