Further Information

IES Abroad London


London - Study London
London - Theater Studies
London - Health Practice & Policy

DISCIPLINE(S): Literature

TERMS OFFERED: Spring, Summer





This course examines the connections between literature of various kinds and its settings, and interrogates the reader’s reaction to the strategies by which place is depicted. We shall be studying fiction, drama and poetry, and it is hoped that at least one writer will be able to visit the course. We shall be going on field trips to explore some London locations, and shall be watching some interviews of writers, and some dramatic versions of their work.


Students who complete the course will have developed a good understanding of the individual texts, and be able to relate them to their settings and the significance of these.


Lectures, seminar discussions, and student presentations, a visit from a writer, dramatised versions of texts.


We shall combine field trips with academic work to widen knowledge and enable the development of informed opinion.


Students will be expected to contribute to discussions on a regular basis.


Week 1: T.S. Eliot’s long poem ‘The Waste Land’ (1922)

We shall watch a dramatic version of this poem, which William Carlos Williams called a ‘catastrophe’ – because he knew it was a great poem. We shall talk about T.S. Eliot as the grand old man of the twentieth century and also as a creative neurotic. In this opening class the course as a whole will be outlined, and class presentations will be assigned and explained.

Week 2: Iris Murdoch’s novel A Word Child (1975) (which must be read in its entirety before class)

We shall watch an interview with Iris Murdoch, discuss the novel’s London setting, and the influence of T.S. Eliot on this, and also the pervasive influence of the imaginary spaces of J.M. Barrie’s 1904 play Peter Pan.

Week 3: Virginia Woolf’s novel Mrs Dalloway (1925)

We shall discuss the novel (which must be read in its entirety before class) as a pioneering work of fiction, and watch an extract from a film version. We shall discuss T.S. Eliot’s influence on the work, and analyse in particular the London setting.

Week 4: Walk round Mrs Dalloway’s London

A detailed handout will be supplied for this walk, in which we shall retrace Mrs Dalloway’s footsteps at the opening of the novel, and note both what she observed and what she failed to observe. Additional points of interest on the walk will also be included in our own observations, and, time permitting, we shall also visit locations in A Word Child.

Week 5: Peter Carey’s novel His Illegal Self (2008) (must be read in its entirety before class)

We shall examine the ways in which the action of this complex and ambiguous novel switches between New York City and the Australian Bush.

Week 6: Martina Evans’ collection of poems ‘Facing the Public’ (2009) (must be read in its entirety before class)

We shall listen to the writer read her own work and analyse the Irish and the London settings.


Week 7: Sarah Waters’ novel The Little Stranger (2009) (must be read in its entirety before class)

We shall discuss this supernatural detective story in terms of its setting in the English Midlands and its setting just after the second world war.

Week 8: Amy Rosenthal’s play ‘On the Rocks’ (2008)

It is hoped that the playwright herself will be able to visit the class and talk about the ways her play (which must be read before class) portrays D.H. Lawrence, Katherine Mansfield, and their partners in the historically accurate setting of rural Cornwall during the first world war.

Week 9: Ian McEwan’s novel Saturday (2005) (must be read in its entirety before class)

We shall discuss the novel’s philosophical speculations about the invasion of Iraq in the context of its setting very close to IES, and also the debt which it owes to Mrs Dalloway.

Week 10: Field trip: walk round the locations in Saturday

A handout will be supplied for this walk.

Week 11: Jean Rhys’ novel Voyage in the Dark (1934) (must be read in its entirety before class)

We shall discuss the switching of locations between London and the Caribbean, and the narrator’s neurotic attitude to both.

Week 12: Conclusions

We shall reflect on what we have learnt, and what opinions we have formed, and also prepare for the final examination.


(Any edition may be used)

Further reading should be made up of additional texts by the same authors. Please note that this course requires CLOSE reading of the texts. They have been arranged so that longer texts alternate with shorter texts and field trips. Close and careful reading should therefore always be possible.