Julia Larden

Julia for WebsiteI have been teaching adults  since 1982.   I teach both English Literature and Film Studies.  On the English Literature side I have taught numerous nineteenth and twentieth century novel courses and Poetry and Drama courses.  Other areas of interest include Shakespeare, Women Writers, Frankenstein and Pygmalion narratives.  I have been teaching a two-hour weekly course at Solihull for Warwick Open Studies: ‘Reading the Novel’ since 2006.   I have an Open University BA in Arts and Social Sciences, a BA in English,  University of Birmingham, and an MA (English and Women’s Studies) University of Lancaster.

Spring  2020:  Keep the Aspidistra Flying by George Orwell

This  five-week course will run for alternative weeks throughout the autumn term of 2019 from Thursday 23rd January to Thursday 19 March.

This semi-autobiographical novel by George Orwell draws on Orwell’s own experience of living in various rented rooms in and around Hampstead in the late 1920s and early 1930s.  It is obvious that although Gordon Comstock, a struggling book shop assistant by day and writer by night,  is not George Orwell he does have points in common. Also, the character of Ravelston, Comstock’s wealthy publisher friend in Keep the Aspidistra Flying, has a lot in common with a real publisher friend of Orwell’s called Richard Rees.  Unlike the wealthy Ravelson,  Comstock constantly struggles to maintain himself and to pay for occasional dates out with his girlfriend who lives in another bed-sitting room in London. Things become even more difficult when he gives up the day job to pursue dreams of being a poet.

A film: Keep the Aspidistra Flying was released as a Romantic Comedy in 1997 (In America re-titled A Merry War.) The film stars Richard E. Grant and Helena Bonham-Carter.

There is a trailer here. 

There is a Guardian review of the novel here

The American journalist/popular film critic Roger Erbert offers an interesting review of the film here


This is a friendly, well-established, study group where new faces are always welcomed.  Classes are run to a lively, tutor-led discussion based, format where, after introductions to the author and set texts, students concentrate on a set portion of the text each week and consider pre-selected extracts in order to discuss a range of questions and topics both those planned by the tutor and those introduced by themselves.

Additional Learning Resources

Students take away a set of pre-prepared student notes at the end of every session.

For registered students, there is also a course website (not visible to the general public) with a new post for every session.  Here a range of additional materials, including a summary of main points in texts, videos, where available, and  links to critical texts for further reading appear.  Some time after each session a brief summary of the session is added together with a downloadable copy of the student notes.  Student contributions to this are always welcome.


Solihull Methodist Church Centre, Blossomfield Road, Solihull, B91  1GL

Getting ThereOn a Map No matter how you plan to travel, this is a very accessible venue. The centre is next to Solihull Station), Satellite  Close-Up (The Church Centre is the long building on the right of the station).  Car drivers appreciate the fact that the centre stands in its own car park.  By Train: trains run regularly from Birmingham Snow Hill, Birmingham Moor Street,  Acocks Green, Widney Manor and Dorridge.  Check times with here   Buses: The following numbers stop within yards of the Methodist Centre: 3, 4, 5, 6,  42, 49, 57, 57A, 71, 76, 82, 169, 966, 966A, S1, S2, S3, S4, S7, S9, S11.  For more bus info call Network West Midlands on 0871 200 22 33.

Course Fee


What Should I Buy?

Having the same version of the text as the teacher and the rest of the class is a huge help for ‘singing from the same hymn sheet reasons’.  We will be skipping around in the text a lot and precious minutes can be lost if a few people are struggling with different page numbering.   We would be using this (click on the word ‘this’ for link) edition of the novel

Are there any other charges?

Coffee and biscuits is offered at a cost of 25p per student.  This is collected weekly.  There are no other charges.

You can pay on PayPal (or credit card) by clicking the button below

Buy Now Button


Note: if you are given the options: ‘pay with debit or credit card you may be offered a screen for the US.  Choose the UK from the drop-down box options.

This method should be simplest for both sides, but, if you really prefer, drop me a line using the form below and I can send you an enrolment form.  You may also use this form if you have any other questions about the course.  (You don’t need to fill in the website bit!)

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