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Reading the Nineteenth Century

Nineteenth-century novelists are not only masterful storytellers but also valuable witnesses of their times. In this monthly course we will be reading Victorian novels in the light of what they tell us about the age in which they were written.  What were the issues that concerned our forebears?

Predictably drugs, alcohol, love, the position of women, religion, social justice – sounds familiar?

We will be focusing on four writers, each of whom throws a fascinating light on the issues of the day.

  1. In Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South, we learn about divisions between the poor and not-so-poor, workers and employers and town and country (as well as love and religion!)
  2. Charles Dickens’ The Mystery of Edwin Drood reflects the British Empire in all its glory and its horror – the very first page conveys an opium-filled hallucination.
  3. Danesbury House was penned by Mrs Henry Wood to preach against the evils of alcohol – and we see it ruining lives in all strata of society. Is religion the answer?
  4. Finally, Wilkie Collins explores femaleness, the position of women and much more in his psychological thriller, The Woman in White.
  5. In our fifth and final session, participants will introduce a novel of their own choice which has something to say about nineteenth-century society. Help will be given with the selection.

This course is for the general reader who wants to delve a little more deeply into their reading. Participants will be expected to read all four novels ahead of the monthly discussions, and to share their ideas with the rest of the group.

The course will run 7-9pm on Wednesdays

24 January
28 February
28 March
25 April
23 May

The seminars are led by Sherry Ashworth, writer and Visiting Teaching Fellow at Manchester Metropolitan University.

Each session is £8 or book all five courses for £35


Wed 24th Jan 7pm - 9pm

Readings/Lectures, Workshops

And we've got a house. Yes! we really have

Elizabeth Gaskell, 1850