Elizabeth Gaskell's 'North and South'

Ref: C2342774

'North and South' is more than a love story across barriers, appealing though this always is. It raises questions of industrialisation, social class, religious turmoil and the position of women in mid-Victorian England. Gaskell's portrayal of geographical, political and social rifts in society is as relevant now as when the novel was first published as a weekly serial in Dickens' 'Household Words'. The course will cover Gaskell's life, works and ideas, the literary contexts of this 'Condition of England' work, and the writer's distinctive style. Expect an interactive course with plenty of lively discussion and the chance to follow up any related interests you may have in nineteenth century literature and history.

Course aim

This course enables students to study Elizabeth Gaskell's 1855 novel, 'North and South', both as literature and as social history.

Do I need any particular skills or experience?

  • This course is suitable for beginners and improvers

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

  • Give an account of the biographical, literary, historical and economic contexts in which 'North and South' was written.
  • Discuss the appropriateness of the novel's title to its plot, theme and final resolution.
  • Compare the novel with any other mid-Victorian work, fact or fiction, with which you are familiar (possibly in terms of extracts provided by the tutor).
  • (Optional) Either research a topic relevant to the novel, or devise a creative text - prose, poetry, drama or artwork - inspired by 'North and South'.

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?

  • Course booklets will be provided but you will need a copy of 'North and South' (any edition).

Pre-course work, reading and information sources

  • The tutor will assume you have read the novel - not necessarily recently - or seen the television series ( BBC 2004 - not the one about the American Civil War). If you have time, read Gaskell's 'Mary Barton' or the biography by Jenny Uglow in addition.

What can I do next?

  • Progress to another WEA course
  • You could progress to Higher Education courses. Follow link to the PEARL website for information http://pearl.open.ac.uk/

Download full course information sheet

Elizabeth Gaskell's 'North and South'

Is this course right for me? Request more information

This course is not available for online enrolment.


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 2019
  • 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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