What is the course about?
We explore how some stories are more powerful and memorable than others because they use symbols which reach directly to our deepest desires and fears. We look at a range of fiction from Swift and Mary Shelley to Golding, Bradbury and Muriel Spark.
Laurie Smith has taught writing and literature at The City Lit for some years, focussing on modernism and writers’ radicalism. He researches and teaches at King’s College London, helped to found Magma poetry magazine which he sometimes edits and has been a Trustee of the Poetry Society.
What will we cover?
Some writers are apparently realistic, but sometimes create unforgettable symbols – no one forgets Miss Havisham or Mr Gradgrind. So we will discuss some extracts of Dickens’ novels, Conrad’s Typhoon and The Secret Sharer, some of stories by Saki and Ambrose Bierce, some of Golding’s novels and Muriel Spark’s Memento Mori and The Girls of Slender Means.
Other writers use fantasy or science fiction and we will discuss Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels especially the Houyhnhnms and Yahoos, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Stevenson’s Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Kafka’s Metamorphosis and In the Penal Colony, and several stories by Borges and Ray Bradbury. We will explore how symbols crystallise and extend readers' feelings; how 'otherness' is enabled to enter ordinary life and its relation to myth; why writers sometimes turn to symbolism from other kinds of writing; and whether their symbolic narratives are more memorable than their other writing.
What will I achieve?
By the end of this course you should be able to...
• Understand why some writers create symbolic narratives
• Appreciate these writers’ originality
• Enjoy some great fiction.
What level is the course and do I need any particular skills?
You should be interested in how writers of symbolic fictions achieve their emotional effects. The course will be useful for people writing fiction, but this isn’t necessary. No particular skills are needed apart from willingness to read and discuss fiction.
How will I be taught, and will there be any work outside the class?
We will discuss short stories and extracts from longer works. The sessions are run in a seminar style with all students included in discussions led by the tutor. Each week the texts for the following week will be set so you can read them before the class.
Are there any other costs? Is there anything I need to bring?
Photocopies of the stories and extracts will be provided if you don’t have your own copy, but it will be helpful if you read (or re-read) the longer texts at home.
When I've finished, what course can I do next?
Please see our range of Literature courses under Humanities in the prospectus and under History, Culture and Writing on the website at www.citylit.ac.uk.
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