Fiction: Historical Crime

Ref: C3673753

We will read, analyse and discuss two historical works of fiction set in different time periods. Both novels are based on true events. The first novel is The Passion of Artemisia by Susan Vreeland (Pubd. Penguin books 2002). It is based on the life of the post-Renaissance artist, Artemisia Gentileschi who lived in Italy in the early seventeenth century and was the victim of a crime and the social standards of the time. The second novel, Alias Grace by Canadian author, Margaret Atwood (pubd. Virago 1996) is a highly regarded fictional retelling of the true story of a notorious woman in Canada in the 1840's.

Course aim

To read, analyse and discuss two works of fiction in the category of Historical true crime. The novels are fictional versions of true events, set in different countries and at different times in history.

Do I need any particular skills or experience?

  • All students interested in discussing literature are welcome.

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

  • Demonstrate an understanding of the historical, social and cultural backgrounds of the two novels.
  • Identify the variety of narrative techniques used by writers of prose fiction.
  • Compare the use of historical setting and plot development in the two novels.
  • Examine and evaluate the techiques used to create credible fictional characters based on the lives of real people.
  • Compare and contrast the styles of writing of prose fiction.

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?

  • 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
  • A file of work will be kept which will help to record your progress

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 purchase or borrow copies of the two novels. The Passion of Artemisia by Susan Vreeland (Penguin pubd, 2002) Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood (Virago pubd. 1997)

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
  • Pre-reading is helpful, but each novel will be divided into sections. Each section is then discussed separately, following a schedule provided by the tutor.

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

Fiction: Historical Crime


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  • 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
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