Food and Fiction from Chaucer to Dickens

Ref: C2340046

Chaucer's monk loves to eat roast swan, Shakespeare's Toby Belch prefers 'cakes and ale', and a Dickens concludes 'A Christmas Carol' with a glass of smoking Bishop shared by Scrooge and Bob Cratchitt. Food can be a key to character, part of the atmosphere, even an essential plot device, and social history comes alive in these descriptions of how people obtained, prepared, and relished their meals. This is a course for anyone who loves reading or eating - or both.

Course aim

The course introduces students to food history up to the late nineteenth century, as mirrored in the work of great writers.

Do I need any particular skills or experience?

  • This course is suitable for beginners and improvers

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

  • Give an outline in broad terms of some changes in eating patterns between 1400 and 1900.
  • Give examples of the ways in which writers use food for literary effect, e.g. to create atmosphere, character or humour.
  • Suggest examples of the above from my own reading or viewing of filmed classics.
  • (Optional) Research and prepare a dish from a pre-1900 recipe.

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

What else do I need to know?

  • All materials will be provided
  • A selection of materials and basic equipment will be provided but you are welcome to bring additional materials with you
  • Suggestions of extracts from classic literature are always welcome.

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
  • Progress to a course with another provider

Download full course information sheet

Food and Fiction from Chaucer to Dickens


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

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