What is the course about?
We will analyse the works for their artistic and narrative value, but also seek to uncover the anxieties each story reveals about the time in which they were composed.
Sarah Wise is an award-winning writer and historian. She teaches literature in the English Department of City University London, and nineteenth-century social history and literature at the University of California’s London Outreach Center.
Her interests are London/urban history, working-class history, medical history, psychogeography, and nineteenth-century literature and reportage.
Her books include Inconvenient People: Lunacy, Liberty and the Mad-Doctors in Victorian England; The Italian Boy: Murder and Grave Robbery in 1830s London; and The Blackest Streets: The Life and Death of a Victorian Slum.
What will we cover?
The nature of fear/anxiety; totalitarianism; ecological disaster; aliens – both from space and our own planet; evolution theory; animal and plant life that has got dangerously out of control.
The seven works we will study are (in this order):
* The Doom of a Great City by William Delisle Hay (1880) — a short novella available to read online here http://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=umn.31951002135568t#view=1up;seq=4
* The Time Machine (1895) and The War of the Worlds (1898) by HG Wells
* Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell (1949)
* The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham (1951)
* Quatermass and the Pit by Nigel Kneale (1960) Film and TV versions.
* The Rats by James Herbert (1974).
What will I achieve?
By the end of this course you should be able to...
- Identify key themes that recur in these works plus the differences in the approach to these themes shown by individual authors.
- Locate each work within the historical context in which it was written.
- Define significant anxieties about ‘modernity’ and urban life that these books reveal.
- Pursue further reading on these subjects and authors, with detailed bibliographies/secondary reading lists.
What level is the course and do I need any particular skills?
No previous skills or knowledge required, but curiosity and an appetite for reading are desirable.
How will I be taught, and will there be any work outside the class?
Teaching will be delivered via mini-lecture and seminar.
There is a substantial amount of reading involved, though extracts will also be suggested if you do not have time to complete an entire book.
There will be an opportunity to give a short presentation on any of the studied topics but this not mandatory.
Are there any other costs? Is there anything I need to bring?
Most of the works can be purchased relatively inexpensively or borrowed from a library. For Quatermass and the Pit, we will actually be looking at the film and TV versions (rather than the published screenplay), and I will alert you to when the movie version is to be shown (the black and white TV series is available on YouTube).
When I've finished, what course can I do next?
Look for other literature courses under Literature in History, Culture and Writing at www.citylit.ac.uk.