Programa Literatura

The literature class is a three-hour session related to a central theme. Themes include writers and their work, literary movements, poetry, theatre, the art of the essay and many more. The class considers the literary, critical and historical contexts relevant to the writers or subjects but the main focus of the sessions is comparing our ideas about and responses to the texts under discussion. We often use extracts of documentaries and films to illustrate key aspects. Most sessions involve some pre-reading which, though not essential, certainly help participants get as much as possible from the class. The pre-reading is not too extensive – it usually means reading 4 or 5 short texts or extracts (such as poems, short stories, novel excerpts etc.)


Term 2 – Theme Description
1.     Sister Arts

Literature and Painting


No pre-reading is required for this session

Literature and painting. This session explores paintings related to poetry and narrative – thematically, historically and conceptually and includes examples related to writers and painters including Poe, Hopper, Georgia O’Keefe, Picasso, WH Auden, Adrienne Rich and Sheridan Le Fanu.
2.     Literary Movements


What were the aims and impact of Modernism? We will address this question considering work by TS Eliot, HD, James Joyce, Gertrude Stein, Ernest Hemmingway and Virginia Woolf.
3.     Writers and their work

Graham Greene

Graham Greene was a widely read and highly influential 20th century novelist. But how is his work seen today and has it – and will it –stand the test of time? We will consider this question with reference to some of his major works such as The Quiet American, The Power and the Glory and A Burnt-Out case, as well as his short stories.
4.     Poetry

The Augustans

Pope, Swift, Johnson and the Augustans – how do we read them today and what shaped the world of literary London in the first half of the 18th century? What was the social role of poetry at this time and how did satire become the pre-eminent literary genre?
5.     The Art of the Essay Several essays from different periods and by different writers on a range of topics including astronomy, nature, cooking, travel, writing and sport. This session focuses on the stylistic, thematic and rhetorical aspects of the essay and places the writers within the tradition of essay writing.
6.     Theatre

History in Drama

A number of modern plays have explored history through drama or used a specific historical setting. In this session, we will discuss the uses of history in the theatre with particular reference to Peter Shaffer’s The Royal Hunt of the Sun, Plenty by David Hare and Top Girls by Caryl Churchill.
7.     Variations on a theme


This session will compare the treatment of the theme of family through a selection of short stories and poems by writers including Raymond Carver, Amy Bloom, John Mortimer, Amy Tan, Charles Bukowski, Toni Harrison, Gillian Clarke, Thomas Woolfe, DH Lawrence and Lorrie Moore.




8.     Writers and their work.

Katherine Mansfield


Katherine Mansfield’s reputation as a ground-breaking Modernist writer and short story innovator has only grown since her early death. We will analyse and discuss her narrative technique and themes through a selection of her story including The Fly, Spring Pictures, At the Bay, Miss Brill and The Voyage.
9.     Popular fiction genres and styles

The country house and the hard-boiled detective story.

The detective story has grown from its modest appearance in the 1800’s into one of the most popular formats in popular culture, spawning endless variations on the theme of crime and detection. Two highly significant stages in this evolution were the ‘country house’ novel, typified by writers like Agatha Christie, and the ‘hard-boiled’ style of Raymond Chandler. We will look at how they are different and what version of crime and punishment the respective styles propose.
10.  Variations on a theme


The theme of memory through a selection of short stories and poems by writers including Truman Capote, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Edward Thomas, Toni Morrison and Alice Monroe.




Term 3 – Theme Description
1.     Literary movements:


How did Romanticism change the concept of the artist?

Wordsworth and Coleridge as poets and theorists of Romanticism and the later Romantics Shelley, Byron, Keats and Clare.

2.     Sister Arts

Literature and Music


From medieval ballads to the courtly Elizabethan world, from troubadours to Bob Dylan, the relationship between music, song and lyric has a long and rich history. In this session, we will look at examples of this tradition and how musical elements of texts remain even when they are no longer sung or played. In reverse, we will look at whether some contemporary song lyrics can be considered poetry and what kind of distinctions we now make between song and poetry.
3.     Poetry

Contemporary Chicano poetry

Contemporary American Chicano poets, including Lorna de Cervantes, Julia Alvarez and Roberto Rios.

The term «Chicano» is a political and cultural term of identity specifically identifying people of Mexican descent who are born in the United States. Their work is often infused with a sense of cultural tradition and upheaval, community, linguistic adaptation and the resulting fractured creative experience.

4.     Writers and their work

Willa Cather

Willa Cather achieved recognition for her novels of frontier life on the Great Plains, including O Pioneers!, The Song of the Lark, and My Ántonia. In 1923 she was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for One of Ours, a novel set during World War I. In this session, we will read extracts of her work and look at her critical reputation a hundred years after her major novels were published.
5.     The Art of the Essay

Place, location – description and ‘thereness.’

By reading and discussing extracts from a recent collection of ‘literary landscapes’ we will consider how essayists view the evocation of place and location in literature, with reference to several writers including Henry James, Charlotte Bronte, AA Milne and Edith Wharton.
6.     Theatre

Shakespeare on film

There are hundreds of film versions of Shakespeare’s plays. They vary from faithful reproductions to imaginative reinterpretations to highly experimental productions. We will look at Hamlet, Henry V and Romeo and Juliet but focus principally on versions of The Tempest, a text which has provided a source of inspiration for directors and actors.
7.     Variations on a theme


The theme of travel through a selection of short stories poems and travel writing, including texts by Shelley, Bill Bryson, Rebecca Solnit, Rudyard Kipling, W. Somerset Maugham and Joseph Conrad.
8.     Writers and their work

Laurie Lee

Laurie Lee’s published output was not extensive but Cider with Rosie and As I walked out one Midsummer Morning are fascinating, sumptuous descriptions of childhood and early adulthood that begin in a small English village and end in Cadiz at the beginning of the Spanish Civil War. As well as reading extracts from these books we will look at Lee’s life and consider the man behind the books.
9.     Popular fiction; genres and styles.

Post-apocalyptic fiction


The destructive forces unleashed in the 20th century gave rise to a type of writing that envisaged a future following an apocalyptic event. This has produced some remarkable and fascinating writing such as Russel Hoban’s Ridley Walker, The Chrysalids by John Wyndham, Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandal, Then by Julie Myerson and The Book of Dave by Will Self. We will read and discuss some of these examples in this session.
10.  Variations on a theme


The theme of education through a selection of short stories, autobiography and poems by writers such as Charles Dickens, Roald Dahl, Muriel Spark, Tim Winton, Saki, Joanne Harris, David Lodge and Jonathan Coe.