Unreal city: the history of London through literature from 1800 to today

Course Dates: 14/01/20 - 18/02/20
Time: 14:45 - 16:45
Location: KS - Keeley Street

Fiction writers are often the first to identify and analyse a social phenomenon. We will examine two centuries of London history through the eyes of novelists and poets, from William Blake to Zadie Smith.


What is the course about?

London’s social and economic history as revealed through imaginative writers’ eyes.

What will we cover?

The Regency; social divisions and inequality; Romantic visions of London as a centre of mysterious power; the arrival of the Metropolitan Police and its impact on crime writing; Charles Dickens as a ‘special correspondent for posterity; slum fiction – explorations of deprivation and social exclusion at the end of the 19th century; Modernist visions of London; the Roaring Twenties; Jewish Whitechapel; race and religion in London’s dockside areas; Communist realism; the bedsitter novel; neo Victorianism; dystopian visions of impending urban disaster; the capital as a place where young people come to learn about themselves and about life; and as a site of mass migration across two centuries.

Authors include: William Wordsworth; Thomas De Quincey; Thomas Hood; Edward Bulwer Lytton; Edgar Allan Poe; Robert Louis Stevenson; Fyodor Dostoevsky; Somerset Maugham; Virginia Woolf; Evelyn Waugh; Israel Zangwill; George Orwell; Pamela Hansford Johnson; Iris Murdoch; Elizabeth Bowen; Ruth Rendell; Sarah Waters.

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

- Identify the major fictional portraits of London from 200 years of history.
- Define key moments in London’s social history.
- Identify some of the literary trends / shifts in style across 200 years of fiction writing.
- Pursue further reading on these subjects, with a detailed bibliography/secondary reading list for each session.

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

No previous skills or knowledge required, but curiosity and an appetite for reading will be helpful.

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

Teaching will be delivered via illustrated mini-lecture and seminar; students are strongly encouraged to present their own 15- to 20-minute seminar paper/presentation on any of the fictions or subjects that are of greatest interest.

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

Extracts for us to consider in class will be provided in advance. The full reading list will also be supplied in advance, though you are not expected to have read these ahead of class, unless you have lots of time on your hands this summer! The suggested ‘further reading’ will be available in the City Lit Library or can be loaned from your local library (via inter-library loan, if they do not have the works in stock).

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

Other courses in London and British history. Please see the City Lit website.

Tutor Biographies
Sarah Wise

Sarah Wise is an award-winning writer and historian, with an MA in Victorian Studies from Birkbeck, University of London. She teaches in the English Department of City University London, and also teaches social history and literature at the University of California’s London Outreach Center. Her interests are urban history, working-class history, medical history and nineteenth-century literature and reportage. Her most recent book, Inconvenient People: Lunacy, Liberty and the Mad-Doctors in Victorian England, was shortlisted for the Wellcome Book Prize. Her 2004 debut, The Italian Boy: Murder and Grave Robbery in 1830s London, was shortlisted for the 2005 Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction and won the Crime Writers’ Association Golden Dagger. Her follow-up The Blackest Streets: The Life and Death of a Victorian Slum (2008) was shortlisted for the Royal Society of Literature's Ondaatje Prize. For reviews www.sarahwise.co.uk/reviews.html Her TV work includes BBC2’s History Cold Case; providing material for BBC1’s Secret History of Our Streets, and BBC2’s The Victorian Slum; she has appeared on Who Do You Think You Are? (Derek Jacobi episode) and the US version of WDYTYA? (Mandy

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: HLW201

Tue, day, 14 Jan - 18 Feb '20

Duration: 6 sessions (over 6 weeks)

Full fee: £119.00
Senior fee: £95.00
Concession: £52.00

Or call to enrol: 020 7831 7831

Download form & post

Any questions? humanities@citylit.ac.uk
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.