British literature 1900-1950: travellers' tales

Course Dates: 18/09/19 - 06/11/19
Time: 19:45 - 21:45
Location: KS - Keeley Street
Lewis Ward

Discover the ways in which British writers such as Joseph Conrad, Virginia Woolf and Christopher Isherwood used ‘travellers’ tales’ to explore themes of identity, history, creativity and transgression in the first half of the twentieth century.


What is the course about?

Travel, or the idea of travel, inspired British writers of the first half of the twentieth century in many ways. For the former seafarer Joseph Conrad, it offered situations that reveal the hidden depths of human nature, for example in his haunting and enigmatic story ‘The Secret Sharer’. Somerset Maugham, meanwhile, in The Moon and Sixpence, drew on the life of the painter Paul Gaugin to explore the relationship between foreign lands, creativity and genius. More fantastically, the eponymous hero(ine) of Virginia Woolf’s Orlando travels freely through both space and time, transgressing boundaries of all kinds on her/his strange odyssey through European literary history. Back down to earth in the (un)reality of 1930s Germany, an Englishman abroad, Christopher Isherwood, assumes a position of ‘camera’-like observer in the stories of Goodbye to Berlin. Meanwhile a British woman abroad, Rebecca West, embeds history and politics into a highly personal account of a journey among the ‘Southern Slavs’ in Black Lamb and Grey Falcon: A Journey Through Yugoslavia. Taken together, these travellers’ tales reveal the importance of journeys, boundaries, foreignness and identity to the British literary sensibility of the era.

Tutor biography

Lewis Ward is a London-based teacher and editor. His PhD (University of Exeter) focused on history, memory and trauma in contemporary narratives. He has taught at four UK universities, covering most literary periods and genres along the way.

What will we cover?

• Travel and the Unconscious: Joseph Conrad, ‘The Secret Sharer’ (1909)
• Travel and Creativity: Somerset Maugham, The Moon and Sixpence (1919)
• Travel and Time: Virginia Woolf, Orlando (1928)
• Travel and the Observer: Christopher Isherwood, Goodbye to Berlin (1939)• Travel as History: Rebecca West, extracts from Black Lamb and Grey Falcon: A Journey Through Yugoslavia (1942).

What will I achieve?
By the end of this course you should be able to...

• Recognise and respond to the works of the writers
• Analyse and discuss the work in an informed manner
• Identify ways in which different literary texts explore characters and ideas and comment on culture and society.

What level is the course and do I need any particular skills?

• Anyone with an interest in the subject is welcome.
• You will need an enthusiasm for reading and discussing a range of texts in large and small groups.
• You should be willing and able to do some reading outside the class.
• You should be interested in listening to, and learning from, the responses of other students to the work discussed.

How will I be taught, and will there be any work outside the class?

The classes will be highly participatory and interactive, with a combination of pair and group work, close reading exercises and class discussion. We will make use of mixed media including film and artworks along with the texts themselves. While the tutor will provide expert guidance and knowledge, your own responses and ideas will be to the fore.

Are there any other costs? Is there anything I need to bring?

You will need to buy or borrow copies of the following (recommended editions in brackets):
Joseph Conrad, The Secret Sharer and Other Stories (Penguin Classics, 2014 ISBN 978-0141397009)
Somerset Maugham, The Moon and Sixpence (Vintage, 1999 ISBN 978-0099284765)
Virginia Woolf, Orlando (Vintage, 2016 ISBN 978-1784870850)
Christopher Isherwood, Goodbye to Berlin (Vintage, 1989 ISBN 978-0749390549)

Extracts from Rebecca West’s Black Lamb and Grey Falcon: A Journey Through Yugoslavia will be provided at the beginning of the course, but feel free to buy a copy of the whole thing e.g. Canongate, 2006 ISBN 978-1841957876.

When I've finished, what course can I do next?

The follow on course in term two is British Literature 1950- 2000 course code HLT167.
Look for other Literature courses under Humanities in the prospectus or under History, Culture and Writing at

General information and advice on courses at City Lit is available from the Student Centre and Library on Monday to Friday from 12:00 – 19:00.
See the course guide for term dates and further details

Tutor Biographies
We’re sorry. We don’t have a bio ready for the tutor of this class at the moment, but we’re working on it! Watch this space.

Book your place

Course Code: HLT01

Wed, eve, 18 Sep - 06 Nov '19

Duration: 8 sessions (over 8 weeks)

Full fee: £159.00
Senior fee: £159.00
Concession: £70.00

Or call to enrol: 020 7831 7831

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Any questions?
or call 020 7492 2652

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