Bruce Chatwin: persona, storytelling and literary style
Time: 19:30 - 21:30
This course will be delivered online. See the ‘What is the course about?’ section in course details for more information.
Course Code: HLT215
Duration: 4 sessions (over 4 weeks)
What is the course about?
Often credited with the reinvention of travel writing, Bruce Chatwin’s books also encompass fiction, essay, reportage, history, autobiography, ethnography and gossip. Since his early death in 1989, scholars and biographers have exposed many discrepancies between the ‘Bruce Chatwin’ who appears in books like In Patagonia (1977) and The Songlines (1987) and the ‘real’ author. Episodes from his travels in South America and Australia did not, it seems, happen exactly as they appear on the page, where events often show the author in a somewhat better light. As biographer Nicholas Shakespeare writes, this version of Chatwin “is this own best, most achieved character: observant, intelligent, sharp-witted, heterosexual, generous, intrepid”, while in real life Chatwin was less certain, especially about his sexuality. However, it is this myth-making quality that is arguably the key to Chatwin’s appeal, and on this course we will examine the blend of natural storytelling, imagination and literary technique with which Chatwin created his literary persona – one perfectly suited to guide readers through his explorations of restlessness, exile and character.
This is a live online course. You will need:
- Internet connection. The classes work best with Chrome.
- A computer with microphone and camera is best (e.g. a PC/laptop/iMac/MacBook), or a tablet/iPad/smart phone/iPhone if you don't have a computer.
We will contact you with joining instructions before your course starts.
What will we cover?
• Close readings: In Patagonia and The Songlines
• Context and comparison: extracts from Chatwin’s letters and biography
• Chatwin’s literary style: influence, purpose and technique
• Aspects of travel writing: storytelling, myth-making and the ‘snapshot’
• Ethics and representation: truth and lies, the rights of others.
What will I achieve?
By the end of this course you should be able to...
• Discuss Chatwin’s work in light of his life and letters
• Describe key aspects of Chatwin’s method, technique and style
• Analyse Chatwin’s work in the context of travel writing and the ethics of representation.
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 pair and group work, close reading exercises and class discussion. We will make use of mixed media including photographs, film and audio interviews along with extracts from 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 a copy of each of the texts, available in paperback as follows:
• In Patagonia (Vintage Classics)
• The Songlines (Vintage Classics)
Other articles and extracts will be provided by the tutor.
When I've finished, what course can I do next?
Look for other literature courses at www.citylit.ac.uk/history, culture & writing/literature.
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.