Culture: Exploring Raymond Williams' Key Words

Ref: C3530108

This course is inspired by cultural theorist and ex-WEA tutor Raymond Williams’ book ‘Key Words’ (1976) in which he explores the changed meaning of 131 words which reflect changes in society over the last few hundred years. For example, once ‘society’ described a few people who were part of an elite upper class; society ladies and cultured gentlemen. Now everyone is part of society, and anyone can claim a culture of their own. Each session will examine aspects of Williams work including his novel's and political views. We will also examine one or more of his original key-words and then add our own. To participate, you need not be widely read, nor possess specialist knowledge. All you need is a willingness to examine your own experience and use of language in the company of others, the wider the range of experiences and backgrounds within the group the more meanings we can discover and examine.

Course aim

To apply the methods of analysing language introduced by Raymond Williams in his book ‘Key Words’ so revealing their hidden power over lives and thinking. To explore William's use of fiction to explore people's lives, culture and politics.

Do I need any particular skills or experience?

  • No skills or experience needed
  • No previous knowledge of language or the work of Raymond Williams is required. This course is not about spelling or grammar (both areas in which the tutor is no expert). It is not about learning a ‘correct’ definition of unfamiliar words.

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

  • outline what is meant by a key-word and give examples.
  • examine the ways in which key-words are used to limit thought and action.
  • feel confident enough to take part in discussions about meanings and contribute to a group project online
  • grasp a sense of the role of language in thinking and in constructing experience, including my own.
  • recognise the political power of language and feel more prepared to challenge when words are used to limit diversity of thought and expression.

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
  • Those student who wish to can contribute to an online source which summaries the groups ideas regarding the words discussed.

What kind of feedback can I expect?

  • 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
  • You will be encouraged to consider other students work and give your opinions and suggestions

What else do I need to know?

  • Nothing else is needed

Pre-course work, reading and information sources

  • No pre reading or pre course work is required
  • None required, however the following books will be referred to - Keywords: a vocabulary of culture & society. Raymond Williams (First published in 1976) Border Country - a semi-autobiography novel by Raymond Williams (first published in 1960)

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
  • You could progress to Higher Education courses. Follow link to the PEARL website for information
  • Students could use participation in the course as evidence of recent learning for various FE and HE programmes. Particularly useful for media studies, psychology, sociology etc

Download full course information sheet

Culture: Exploring Raymond Williams' Key Words


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  • 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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