Spies and Thrillers

Ref: C3742981

We study four novels from the last sixty years:the Thirty Nine Steps by John Buchan, Our Man in Havana by Graham Greene; The Spy Who Came in From the Cold by John le Carré and Restless by Wiilam Boyd. We aim to discover what is special about this very popular genre. Are there elements that must be included? How formulaic are the books? Do they relate to "real life" as we experience it? Are we all in some way also spies? The selected books have all been acclaimed for their literary quality but do they deserve the praise? In class discussion we will try to answer these questions and through our discussions will hope to arrive at literary truths.

Course aim

To discover the special significance of this genre and the fascination it has to readers of all ages and for several generations.

Do I need any particular skills or experience?

  • No skills or experience needed
  • This course is suitable for beginners and improvers

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

  • Have an insight into the genre from four differing points of view and be able to name its key features.
  • Understand and appreciate the relevance of spy literature and explain why this is.
  • Appreciate the continuing attraction of the genre and explain preferences in discussion.

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?

  • 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
  • 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
  • All materials will be provided

Pre-course work, reading and information sources

  • It is essential that the four texts are read before the start of the course.

What can I do next?

  • Progress to another WEA course

Download full course information sheet

Spies and Thrillers

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This course has been cancelled.


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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