Clash of Values

Ref: C3744655

We shall discuss some enjoyable and challenging literary works. We will consider two novels and some poetry by Wordsworth and Byron. In 'The Portrait of a Lady' Henry James portrays many themes including tensions between American and European values, the power of money, the problem of making choices, and the theme of illusion and reality. Alice Walker’s 'The Color Purple' is about an African American woman who survives abuse and develops her understanding of friendship, love, religion, and equality. We will also compare a few poems by Wordsworth with examples of Byron's poetic style. As well as considering the themes of the novels and poems, we will also discuss their structure; their use of language, imagery and symbolism; and the social and cultural contexts.

Course aim

We will consider the themes, style and structure of contrasting literary works. The texts are Henry James' 'The Portrait of a Lady', Ailce Walker's 'The Color Purple' and poems by Wordswoth and Byron.

Do I need any particular skills or experience?

  • The course is for anyone who is interested in Literature. Although the course will be taught at Level 3, there are no entry requirements apart from an interest and enthusiasm for Literature.

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

  • Discuss the themes and the portrayal of contrasting attitudes and values.
  • Comment on methods of characterisation and the use of contrasting characters.
  • Discuss the use of settings and the importance of the descriptive writing.
  • Comment on the social and cultural contexts.
  • Gain confidence in discussing ideas and in listening to differing points of view.

How will I be taught?

  • Your 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 will be asked ask you to take part in discussion. You will have the opportunity to introduce a topic, but this is not required.

What kind of feedback can I expect?

  • Your tutor will give you informal feedback on your progress. You can contact the tutor by email if you need advice or feedback. Your tutor will give you advice about how to build up your confidence if you feel shy about participating.

What else do I need to know?

  • Please bring a copy of Henry James' novel 'The Portrait of a Lady’ to the first class. The Norton critical edition edited by Robert D Bamberg is recommended. At the first session we will discuss the themes, contrasts of character and style of the first fourteen chapters of the novel.

Pre-course work, reading and information sources

  • To prepare for the first class, please think about the themes, contrasts of character, the use of settings, and the style of the first fourteen chapters of ‘A Portrait of a Lady'.You could also think about how the story is told and constructed so far. Do you find the novel gripping and memorable?

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
  • You could progress to Higher Education courses. Follow link to the PEARL website for information

Download full course information sheet

Clash of Values


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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 2019
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