Unreal City? London in Literature, from 1800 to today

Ref: C2226119

From William Blake's apocalyptic Lambeth to Zadie Smith's post-colonial northwestern suburbs, from Dickens's bustling panoramas to Patrick Hamilton's hangover-ridden 1940s Earls Court -- our capital has inspired authors to create powerful visions of the planet's most complex city. Among the topics we'll explore are the birth of modern policing and detection; mass migration / 'multiculturalism' across two centuries; the friction between the social classes; being a woman in the city; solitude versus conviviality in the heart of the metropolis. Learning will be by lecture and group discussion/seminar.

Course aim

Unreal City: London in Literature from 1800 to Today A 6-week introductory survey of fictional representations of the city, to introduce learners to the rich literary history of London and setting these works in the context of the city's history

Do I need any particular skills or experience?

  • No skills or experience needed

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

  • Identify key themes that fiction writers focused on, from 1800 to today
  • Understand the key moments in London's history across two centuries
  • Identify not just the major fiction writers but learn about many less well-known authors who wrote about London
  • Distinguish between historical fact and urban legend / historical fact and authorial opinion. Identify bias and inconsistency in the latter
  • Pursue further in-depth reading with a detailed set of reading lists/bibliographies

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

What kind of feedback can I expect?

  • There is no formal assessment for this course, but the tutor will carry out ongoing informal assessment to check that all learners are being catered for intellectually and remain engaged by the topic

What else do I need to know?

  • No prior reading is required, though reading lists will be sent out by email in advance for those who wish to check what books and authors will be covered and perhaps make a start on those works that intrigue them most.

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

What can I do next?

  • Progress to another WEA course

Download full course information sheet

Unreal City? London in Literature, from 1800 to today


As a registered charity, and to meet our funders’ requirements, we need to check a few things with you before you book. Please could we ask that you check the list below to ensure you meet our basic criteria:

  • You are paying the standard fee (with a credit or debit card) or you are on any of the qualifying benefits
  • You have a valid email address so that you can receive confirmation of your booking
  • You have been resident in the UK, EU or EEA for the last 3 years
  • You are aged 19 years or older on 1st September 2018
  • You have read and accept our standard terms and conditions

Not sure or have further questions? Contact courseenquiries@wea.org.uk

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