British literature 1950 -2000: four nations

Course Dates: 23/09/20 - 11/11/20
Time: 19:45 - 21:30
Location: Online

How did Welshness, Northern Irishness, Scottishness and Englishness manifest themselves in writing of the second half of the twentieth century? Find out through the novels, poems and plays of Dylan Thomas, John Fowles, Seamus Heaney, Brian Friel and Jackie Kay.

This course will be delivered online. For more information please see our guide to online learning.


What is the course about?

Are there distinct qualities to the literature of each nation of the United Kingdom? While each of the books on this course expresses a separate national identity, they also reveal common concerns, including innovations in form and style, changing attitudes to women and gender, and political developments both contemporary and historical.

Dylan Thomas’ “radio comedy about Wales,” Under Milk Wood (1953), was a new departure for poetry and drama, telling the story of 24 hours in a Welsh seaside town through the voices of its motley inhabitants. The protagonist of John Fowles’ “historiographic metafiction,” The French Lieutenant’s Woman (1969), is a quintessential Victorian English gentleman whose worldview comes under pressure from changing attitudes to science and gender, ruthlessly directed and dissected by his twentieth-century narrator. Nobel prize-winning poet Seamus Heaney initially resisted writing of the Troubles in his native Northern Ireland, but in his landmark collection North (1975) he began to address contemporary violence alongside the geological and linguistic roots of his people. Brian Friel wrote several plays set in his native County Donegal including Dancing at Lughnasa (1990), whose central theme is competing traditions of paganism and Catholicism in rural Northern Ireland, as seen through the lives of “those five brave Glenties women”. Trumpet (1998), the first novel by Jackie Kay, tells the story of an adopted, mixed-race jazz trumpeter who also happens to be a woman passing as a man, while also addressing the rarely told history of African immigration to Scotland.

Course tutor: Dr. Lewis Ward.

This is a live online course. For more information please see our guide to online learning.
We will contact you with joining instructions before your course starts.

What will we cover?

• Welsh dreams and community: Dylan Thomas, Under Milk Wood (1953)
• English history and passion: John Fowles, The French Lieutenant’s Woman (1969)
• Northern Irish language and conflict: Seamus Heaney, North (1975)
• Northern Irish ritual and memory: Brian Friel, Dancing at Lughnasa (1990)
• Scottish identity and roots: Jackie Kay, Trumpet (1998).

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

• Recognise ways in which national identity is expressed in literature from England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland
• Identify similarities and differences between writers of each of the “home nations”
• Discuss and analyse significant novels, poetry and plays from 1950-2000 in terms of literary style and themes.

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

For those who enjoy reading and discussing literature and are interested in sharing ideas and listening to the views of others.

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 tutor presentation, pair and group work, close reading exercises and class discussion. We will make use of mixed media including photographs and audio interviews along with extracts from the texts themselves. The only preparation will be reading the five main texts over eight weeks, while further optional reading will be suggested by the tutor.

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

You will need to buy or borrow a copy of each of the five main texts. Any edition is fine, but these are recommended:

• Dylan Thomas, Under Milk Wood: The Definitive Edition (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2015). ISBN: 9781780227245
• John Fowles, The French Lieutenant’s Woman (London: Vintage, 2004). ISBN: 9780099478331
• Seamus Heaney, North (London: Faber, 2001). ISBN: 9780571108138
• Brian Friel, Dancing at Lughnasa (London: Faber, 1990). ISBN: 0571144799
• Jackie Kay, Trumpet (London: Picador Classics, 2016). ISBN: 9781447289494.

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

Look for other Literature courses under Humanities in the prospectus or under History, Culture and Writing at

Tutor Biographies
Lewis Ward

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.

Please note: We reserve the right to change our tutors from those advertised. This happens rarely, but if it does, we are unable to refund fees due to this. Our tutors may have different teaching styles; however we guarantee a consistent quality of teaching in all our courses.

Book your place

Course Code: HLT01

Wed, eve, 23 Sep - 11 Nov '20

Duration: 8 sessions (over 8 weeks)

Full fee: £149.00
Senior fee: £149.00
Concession: £91.00

Or call to enrol: 020 7831 7831

Any questions?
or call 020 7492 2652

Please note: we offer a wide variety of financial support to make courses affordable. For more information visit our online Help Center. You can also visit the Information, Advice and Guidance drop-in service, open from 12 – 6.45, Monday to Friday.