Family Matters - Literature and the Family

Ref: C3677624

“Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” This is how Russian writer Leo Tolstoy begins his famous novel, Anna Karenina. Is he right? And, what is a family? Through reading a diverse range of fiction and poetry, you will have the opportunity to see how the theme of the family is by no means straightforward. Family is not limited to blood relations. As the OED tells us, family first came into the English language from the French meaning “servants,” and referred to a group living together under the same roof. The family provides us the chance to see the wide range of factors that contribute to happiness or unhappiness. In this course, we will contemplate how literary conventions of fiction and poetry can shape how writers invoke the family, a key thread in our wider social fabric. Through reading how Mansfield, O'Connor, Munro and other great writers convey the imagined lives of other families, we can learn more about our own.

Course aim

This course offers students the opportunity to read and discuss a diverse range of fiction and poetry about the complex relationships produced by families: everybody has a family, yet every family is different.

Do I need any particular skills or experience?

  • No skills or experience needed
  • This course is suitable for beginners and improvers
  • an interest in reading literature

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

  • discuss some key conventions of fiction about family
  • discuss some key formal conventions of poetry about family
  • demonstrate how literary texts can enrich my understanding of the world around me
  • share with others a new poem or short story that the course has helped open up

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?

  • It would be helpful if you had access to the internet (Mobile phone, tablet or computer at home or through a library etc.)
  • with internet access, you could join Canvas, the WEA's digital learning platform, and gain access to the eclectic course readings that might be otherwise tricky to locate.

Pre-course work, reading and information sources

  • You will have access to course resources and links to wider learning through the WEA’s digital learning platform, Canvas:
  • No pre reading is required but research on the subject on the internet or in the library may be helpful

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

Download full course information sheet

Family Matters - Literature and the Family

Is this course right for me? Request more information

You can only enrol in person on the course.

Please call 0300 303 3464 to enquire about enrolling on this course.


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

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