Realism and Revolt: Literature of the Mid-Nineteenth Century (OUDCE)

Ref: C3743193

How do you turn ‘real life’ into literature? How do you make our social and moral choices significant in fiction? By the middle of the nineteenth century, the predominant literary form in Europe was ‘Realism’. The question for writers was: could they recreate ordinary lives in fiction and drama as an intense and compelling experience, without resorting to fantasy or myth? We will study some striking examples of realism, including Trollope’s heart-warming novel, 'The Warden', Ibsen’s play, 'Hedda Gabler', Elizabeth Gaskell’s historical novella, 'Lois the Witch', and George Eliot’s novel of growing up in the Midlands, 'The Mill on the Floss'.

Additional information about this course

Courses marked with the university symbol are run in co-operation with the University of Oxford Department for Continuing Education (OUDCE). Students enrolled on OUDCE courses are expected to undertake some course work. Please phone the OUDCE Student Advisor on 01865 280895 for further information Please contact Jeannine Golding on 01908 567869/email address for enrolment. Class numbers will be limited to 25, so early enrolment is advised

Course aim

Fiction and drama with big moral and social questions at their heart: Trollope's 'The Warden', Ibsen's 'Hedda Gabler', Geroge Eliot's 'The Mill on the Floss' and a novella by Elizabeth Gaskell. Lots to discuss.

Do I need any particular skills or experience?

  • You must have read the Trollope before the class starts, and have at least started the George Eliot. All novels must be read before we discuss them.

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

  • Have understood and enjoyed four classic works of literature and be able to express preferences.
  • To have some understanding of the demands of Realism and be able to explain some.
  • To have acquired much useful information about investigative journalists, how to judge hats, witches, gypsies and the links between copper utensils and paying off debts.

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
  • You will be expected to carry out a range of activities in your own time

What kind of feedback can I expect?

  • Through discussion you will learn about developing narrative, exploring moral dilemmas, dramatising point of view. We will look at short passages in detail and in context. The tutor will provide background information to help with the discussions.

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.)

Pre-course work, reading and information sources

  • Background reading is not essential; reading the set books is. If possible, please try to read 'The Warden' before the class starts and allow time to read, 'The Mill on the Floss', a lengthy novel.

What can I do next?

  • Progress to another WEA course
  • Become involved with the WEA in a range of voluntary work and other activities including campaigning as a WEA member

Download full course information sheet

Realism and Revolt: Literature of the Mid-Nineteenth Century (OUDCE)


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
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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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