Time: 18:00 - 19:30
This course will be delivered online. See the ‘What is the course about?’ section in course details for more information.
Course Code: HLT37
Duration: 4 sessions (over 4 weeks)
What is the course about?
This online literature course will explore some of the great loners and originals of European Modernism in the first half of the twentieth century, some of them so adrift from the mainstream their work is still seeking an international readership while others enjoy spectacularly iconic status. How do their novels, novellas and short stories thrive on and celebrate the fact of isolation, resisting categorisation in the search for imaginative freedom? Why do they fascinate, disturb and repel us at the same time?
We will explore the writings of Franz Kafka (Prague), Fernando Pessoa (Lisbon), Samuel Beckett (Paris, Dublin and London), Robert Walser (Berlin and Switzerland), Bruno Schulz (Drohobycz) and Clarice Lispector (Rio de Janeiro), discovering, in each case, how it is only through close attention to the fastidious textures of their beautiful prose that we can begin to take the measure of the shocks and triumphs of exile they experienced and, without exception, ecstatically embraced.
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?
Our journey will take us from the psychological and bureaucratic minefield of Czech Jewry in the Austro-Hungarian Empire (The Trial, 1916), to the “whirls [and] whirlpools, in life’s fluid futility” obsessively recorded by the patron saint of Portuguese modernism as he paced the streets of his native city, adopting one identity after another in a lifelong attempt to “write my own self” (The Book of Disquiet, 1914-35); from the second great novel of solitude, decay and vehement resistance of Beckett’s self-imposed exile in post-war France (Malone Dies, 1951), to the exquisite, rhapsodic countryside rambles and adventures in self-effacement of the Swiss “clairvoyant of the small” (The Walk and Other Stories, 1907-29) before he vanished forever into a mental home and sanatorium; from Polish Drohobych on the eve of the Second World War, where the Jewish graphic artist, short-story writer and “parasite of metaphor” Bruno Schulz fantasised his own impossible escapes into childhood (The Street of Crocodiles, 1957), to the slums of Rio and the impoverished immigrant-typist Macabea, the extraordinary, last adopted persona of Brazil’s most celebrated and incendiary modernist writer, “Hurricane Clarice”, herself a Lithuanian refugee from the Russian pogroms of the 1920’s and prey to a permanent homelessness (The Hour of the Star, 1977).
What will I achieve?
By the end of this course you should be able to...
• Discuss the narrative methods of six iconic modernists with some critical sophistication
• Explore other works from the same sources with an understanding of their place in the history of twentieth
• Develop your own estimation of the value of often challenging and controversial forms of narrative, and whether such radical departures from tradition have a lasting significance.
What level is the course and do I need any particular skills?
No previous knowledge is required, though some prior literary study would be helpful. Anyone who enjoys close reading and is willing to take part in discussion is welcome.
How will I be taught, and will there be any work outside the class?
There will be a variety of teaching methods, including direct tutor input, powerpoint, and group discussion, with opportunities to express why individually we are participating on the course and what we hope to take away from it. No work outside the class except preparatory reading.
Are there any other costs? Is there anything I need to bring?
We will be looking closely at passages the tutor will send digitally before each class.
If you wish to buy all or any of the named texts to read beforehand that will certainly be very helpful – especially those you are least familiar with.
When I've finished, what course can I do next?
Look up Literature courses at www.citylit.ac.uk/courses under History, Culture and Writing/literature.
Stephen Winfield has lectured in English for over thirty years. He taught Language and Literature at Richmond upon Thames College in Twickenham from 1989 to 2017, and was Coordinator of the International Baccalaureate there from 2004 to 2016. He has also lectured in English Literature at the University of Katowice in Poland and taught Business English in Paris. He has taught a range of EFL courses at Richmond College, for the Bell School of Languages, the Sinoscope Project at Kings College London and the BBC Summer School. He has taught classes in English, American and International Literature at City Lit since 2014.
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.