Historical fiction: reimagining the past
Time: 10:30 - 13:00
This course will be delivered online. See the ‘What is the course about?’ section in course details for more information.
This course has now started
Course Code: HLT269
Duration: 2 sessions (over 2 weeks)
What is the course about?
This short online literature course looks in detail at extracts from four twenty-first-century historical novels, which vividly reimagine past lives and events.
Sara Collins’s acclaimed first novel The Confessions of Frannie Langton (2019), set in 1820s Jamaica and London, is voiced by an enslaved black woman. This murder mystery and more draws on influences as diverse as Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre and Toni Morrison’s Beloved.
Emma Donoghue’s The Pull of the Stars (2020) tells the eerily topical story of a Dublin maternity ward at the peak of the Spanish flu pandemic in 1918.
Michel Faber’s The Crimson Petal and the White (2002) leads us through gothic intrigues in its unusual tale of prostitution in late-Victorian London. It’s ‘the novel that Dickens might have written had he been allowed to speak freely,’ (Kathryn Hughes, The Guardian, 2002).
Maggie O’Farrell’s Hamnet (2020) won the Women’s Prize for fiction last year. Inspired by the few known facts about a famous playwright’s son, it begins in Stratford-upon-Avon in 1596.
We’ll focus on extracts from these four novels to explore how they tell their stories using creative blends of literary invention and historical sources, and how their reimagining can both illuminate and challenge our ideas about the past. We will think about how historical novels belong to their time of writing, too: how and why they pull us back to our present.
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?
We will cover a variety of topics as we reflect on our experiences as readers and delve into historical novels’ strategies for recreating times and places. We will think about the expectations we have as readers, how these novels work with their literary ancestors and different genres, and how these can influence our reading. We will consider what makes a fiction feel ‘authentic’, including details of style, language and perspective, as well as its story and historical setting. We will think too about how novels can reflect on writing, and on whose stories are preserved or forgotten.
What will I achieve?
By the end of this course you should be able to...
By the end of this course you should be able to:
• Discuss these extracts confidently, with an expanded knowledge of historical fiction
• Extend your understanding of literary forms and narrative techniques
• Consider ideas about fiction, historical knowledge and rewriting, and return to these to enhance your future reading.
What level is the course and do I need any particular skills?
You need to have an enthusiasm for reading contemporary historical fiction, listening to others and participating in discussions. You don’t need to have studied literature formally.
How will I be taught, and will there be any work outside the class?
Teaching will be a mix of informal talks, small group and whole group discussion, close reading and working with additional material including video clips. Guided by the tutor, the focus will be on participation and interaction, with opportunities for you to share responses and ideas.
The tutor will send extracts in advance of the classes – you don’t need to buy the books.
Are there any other costs? Is there anything I need to bring?
The tutor will send extracts in advance of the classes – you don’t need to buy the books. Links will be provided to other reading and class materials.
When I've finished, what course can I do next?
Kate Wilkinson will also be teaching HLT239 'Historical novels - reimagining and rewriting'from 22 July - 12 August.
Please check out our other literature courses on the website at www.citylit.ac.uk/history, culture and writing/literature/fiction.
Dr Kate Wilkinson teaches English literature and has a particular interest in twenty-first-century novels. Since 2015 she has taught at Queen Mary University of London, on courses ranging from Middle English to cultural theory. Her PhD and publications explore the vibrant life of letters in fiction, and what this can tell us about our contemporary world.
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.