Guillaume Apollinaire: writer of poetry, drama and prose

Course Dates: 25/10/20 - 01/11/20
Time: 10:30 - 13:00
Location: Online

Although widely known as a poet of World War I, Guillaume Apollinaire was a prolific journalist and art critic, as well as playwright and writer of fiction. The intellectual and personal relationships that he formed in the artistic milieu of the Parisian Belle Epoque established his reputation as one of the most innovative and challenging writers at the beginning of the 20th century.

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


What is the course about?

This two-day course is an overview of the work of Guillaume Apollinaire, encompassing a selection of his poetry, fiction, drama, and critical writings on art and literature. The course will also contextualise these works in Apollinaire’s eccentric, adventurous, and tragic life. Beginning with Apollinaire's early works (inspired by classical myths and European folklore, medieval romance, and a religious sentimentalism and eroticism) we will explore of a selection of fiction and poetry that demonstrate a writer who was, in many ways, out of step with the most innovative literary movements of his time. Nevertheless, his early works demonstrate a rapid movement towards concerns with contemporary urban life, technology, and media that culminates in some of the most well-known poems of his first major collection Alcools (1913). As a young adult in Paris, Apollinaire worked as a journalist and art critic, establishing himself at the centre of the avant-garde and tirelessly promoting the painters that would establish movements such as Cubism, Fauvism, and Futurism. And we will explore a selection of his theoretical writings on art and literature, as well as his roman-à-clef of the Parisian avant-garde, Le Poète Assassiné (1916) As a soldier during World War I, Apollinaire wrote some of his most modern and experimental poetry, reflecting on the sensory and social experience of modern warfare, most of which is captured in his collection, Calligrammes (1918). Finally, politics, culture, and nationality were increasing concerns in his poetry and drama in the few years before his untimely death from the influenza pandemic of 1918. The course will be concluded with a brief discussion of the legacy of Apollinaire on art and literature in the 20th and 21st century.

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?

The major artistic themes will be Apollinaire’s positioning of poetry in relation to other art-forms, particularly painting, and his relationship to Cubist painters such as Pablo Picasso. This subject will pay closer attention to Apollinaire’s manifestoes, calligrammes, and conversation-poems. Two other subjects that frequently occur in Apollinaire’s work, and merit close attention, are the poet’s relationship to the nation, and the theme of sacrifice. These subjects are key to understanding Apollinaire’s struggle with being ‘modern’ or, as he put it, ‘the long debate between tradition and invention, Order and Adventure.’.

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

• Evaluate and analyse the texts being studied.
• Engage questions relating to modernism, the relationship between poetry and painting, and the role of art in society and national life.
• Contexualise Apollinaire’s work and his legacy.

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

No particular skills are needed. A knowledge of French can be useful, but all the texts are available in translation, so this is not a requirement.

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

We will examine a selection of poetry, prose, drama, and visual arts. Close readings, work in small groups and pairs, and discussions of historical and literary contexts will be part of the course activity. Other than reading the texts before class, there will be no work outside of class.

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

All texts will be provided as a PDF and will be posted on Google Classroom and via email:
• Alcools (Poetry - selection)
• Calligrammes (Poetry - selection)
• Heresiarch & Co. (Short Stories - selection)
• The Poet Assassinated (Novella)
• The Breasts of Tiresias (Play)
• A selection of critical and theoretical writings.

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

Please look for other literature courses on the web under History, Culture and Writing at

Tutor Biographies
James Leveque

Although he has lived in the United Kingdom for more than ten years, James Leveque is a native of California. He has taught courses in literature at City Lit, the University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh Napier, and the University of Dundee. James’s first monograph, entitled Words Like Fire: Prophecy and Apocalypse in Apollinaire, Marinetti, and Pound (Legenda) will be published in 2021. His research interests lie at the intersections of literature, religion, and social theory – particularly in 20th-century English, American, and French literature.

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: HLT86

Sun, day, 25 Oct - 01 Nov '20

Duration: 2 sessions (over 2 weeks)

Full fee: £59.00
Senior fee: £47.00
Concession: £36.00

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.