The European city in contemporary literature

Course Dates: 02/11/21 - 07/12/21
Time: 19:45 - 21:15
Location: Online
Reading our way through Paris, Madrid and Berlin, in this course we’ll be taking in some of the standout works of urban literature to have been written since 2000: texts that tell us about places, identities and contemporary life, and which prompt us to question how we think about, inhabit and visit cities.
This course will be delivered online. See the ‘What is the course about?’ section in course details for more information.
Book your place
In stock
Full fee £89.00 Senior fee £89.00 Concession £54.00

Course Code: HLT147

Tue, eve, 02 Nov - 07 Dec '21

Duration: 6 sessions (over 6 weeks)

Or call to enrol:020 7831 7831

Please note: We offer a wide variety of financial support to make courses affordable. Just visit our online Help Center for more information on a range of topics including fees, online learning and FAQs.

What is the course about?

Starting in the suburbs of Paris with Annie Ernaux’s Things Seen (2000), the course takes us through the shadowy spaces of Berlin in Chloe Aridjis’s Book of Clouds (2009) before rounding off with Ben Lerner’s Madrid-based novel Leaving the Atocha Station (2011). As we read these texts, we’ll consider what’s distinctive about the cities they depict, asking how these writers’ interventions sit alongside our own preconceptions, and how our readings can in turn affect our own approaches to urban life. We’ll also be reflecting on their relationship with seminal works of film and television made in the three cities.

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.
- Earphones/headphones/speakers.
We will contact you with joining instructions before your course starts.

What will we cover?

Questions we consider will include:
• how the texts being studied depict the experience of living in European cities;
• how they represent the place of literature in contemporary city life;
• how they affect and are affected by our own attitudes to city life.
• how they interact with an array of literary, cinematic and televisual contexts.

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

Lay claim to a knowledge of some great examples of contemporary city writing, and feel like you’ve visited three exciting cities.

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

This course is designed 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?

Teaching will be by way of group discussion, prompted by additional materials provided by the tutor. Preparation outside of class will consist of reading the texts.

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

Annie Ernaux, Thing Seen, trans. Jonathan Kaplansky (UNP - Bison Original, 2010), 106pp. ISBN: 0803228155
Chloe Aridjis, Book of Clouds (Vintage, 2010), 224pp. ISBN: 0099539594
Ben Lerner, Leaving the Atocha Station (Granta, 2012), 272pp. ISBN: 1847086918.

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

Look for other fiction courses under History, Culture and Writing/Literature at

David Anderson

David Anderson has studied and taught in the English Department at UCL, and is currently a research associate in the UCL Urban Lab. He received his PhD in 2018; a book based on it, entitled Landscape and Subjectivity in the Work of Patrick Keiller, W.G. Sebald and Iain Sinclair, is forthcoming with Oxford University Press. He is writer in residence at the Cob Gallery in Camden and an assistant editor at

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.