Literature - Spies, Subterfuge and Secret Agents

Ref: C2524562

The course will give students a good understanding of literary spy and espionage fiction as a genre. It will touch on French revolutionary intrigue and espionage via Orczy's Scarlet Pimpernel, look at the real life of agent Somerset Maugham and consider Graham Green's send up of cloak and dagger in sultry Havana before ending with John Le Carre's seminal Little Drummer Girl. Students will also discover more about the authors and the worlds they reflected and created.

Course aim

To give students an understanding of literary fiction associated with espionage and double agents from Orczy to Le Carre

Do I need any particular skills or experience?

  • No skills or experience needed

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

  • Confidently hold my own in a discussion about at least one of the authors
  • Identify the key characteristics of the genre
  • Be able to distinguish the voices of different authors whose books we have covered.

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 have opportunities to discuss your progress with your tutor
  • You will be encouraged to share your work with the group and discuss your learning

What else do I need to know?

  • It would be helpful if you had access to the internet (Mobile phone, tablet or computer at home or through a library etc.)
  • Students should buy or borrow: The Scarlet Pimpernel by Orczy Our Man in Havana by Graham Greene The Little Drummer Girl by John Le Carre and (if possible) any biography of Somerset Maugham referring to his time as a secret agent.

Pre-course work, reading and information sources

  • No pre reading or pre course work is required
  • Students don't have to do any pre reading but it is helpful for them if they do read at least one of the books before the course starts.

What can I do next?

  • Progress to another WEA course
  • Progress to a course with another provider

Download full course information sheet

Literature - Spies, Subterfuge and Secret Agents


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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