‘Unusual, unreliable and impossible storytellers’: Piranesi, Elizabeth is Missing and Hotel World

Course Dates: 03/05/22 - 07/06/22
Time: 18:00 - 19:30
Location: Online
This course focuses on the intriguing and unlikely storytellers at work in recent fiction. How do we believe a story told by a woman who has dementia or a man who thinks that only fifteen people ever lived? What do we think when a five-year-old child is a novel’s narrator, or a dead person, or even a desert boot and a bandage? What are we to make of their improbable and sometimes unsettling stories? Can these unusual narrators open up new ways of thinking about the world? Includes work by Emma Healey, Susanna Clarke and Ali Smith.
This course will be delivered online. See the ‘What is the course about?’ section in course details for more information.
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Full fee £89.00 Senior fee £89.00 Concession £54.00

This course has now started

Course Code: HLT215

Started Tue, eve, 03 May - 07 Jun '22

Duration: 6 sessions (over 6 weeks)

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?

This literature course is about unusual storytellers in recent fiction.

The story of Emma Healey’s novel Elizabeth is Missing is told by ninety-year-old Maud, who is endeavouring to solve two mysteries. But Maud is hampered by her advancing dementia: she has trouble remembering what happened even a few moments ago. In Susanna Clarke’s Piranesi (winner of the 2021 Women’s Prize), the narrator wanders alone through a labyrinthine House that is his whole world, interpreting what he finds. ‘Many things are unknown,’ he writes, enigmatically – to us as readers, too. Hotel World, by award-wining author Ali Smith, dips in and out of five people’s connected stories, one of which is told by a woman who has recently died. We’ll look at extracts from other books too, including Emma Donoghue’s Room and Harry Parker’s Anatomy of a Soldier.

We’ll think about why writers might choose to tell stories from unlikely and even impossible perspectives like these, and why we read them. What do these narrators explore and imagine? What can they tell us that other narrators can’t? Reading these novels and extracts, we’ll think too about how fictional narrators shape our experience as readers: why do we believe some but not others? What makes us trust a story?

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?

We'll cover a range of topics as we delve into these fascinating novels. We’ll explore ideas about mysteries, detectives, memory and amnesia, and how remembering and forgetting both help to tell these novels’ stories. We’ll think about the different experiences of time these novels present and how these are created. We’ll also look at perspective, style and language to think about the narrators as characters, how they shape what we read and what makes us believe them – or not….

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 books confidently, with an extended knowledge of contemporary fiction
• Consider ideas about ‘unreliable’ narrators in fiction and their effects
• Extend your understanding of literary form, narrative time and techniques.

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

This course is suitable for all levels. All you need is curiosity (!), with an enthusiasm for reading contemporary fiction, listening to others and joining in discussions.

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

There will be a variety of teaching, including whole group and small group discussions, informal talks or mini-lectures, working with additional material including video clips, and close reading. Guided by the tutor, the focus is on participation and interaction, with opportunities each week for you to share responses and ideas.

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

You’ll need to buy the following, available in paperback:

Emma Healey, Elizabeth is Missing (Penguin, 2014)
Ali Smith, Hotel World (Penguin, 2002)
Susanna Clarke, Piranesi (Bloomsbury 2020)

The tutor will provide further extracts and learning materials.

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

Look for other Fiction courses at www.citylit.ac.uk/courses under history, culture & writing/literature/fiction.

Kate Wilkinson

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.