I 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.
This five-week course will run for alternative weeks throughout the autumn term of 2018 from Thursday October 18th, 2018.
This well-known and haunting novel won the Booker prize in 1989. We are studying it by popular request.
Written in the form of a diary we learn gradually and subtly that a butler loved a housekeeper as they both went about their quiet roles in an English country house of the period before World-War Two. Will they ever get together? Both are clearly bright and thoughtful, but the butler is also driven by obsessive routines involved in caring for his beloved master who, although the butler does not want to admit this to himself, became a traitor and Nazi supporter in and before World War Two. Much is told in flashback, but we pick up the story as the butler drives to meet the housekeeper again in a 1950s tearoom in Cornwall. Will she take up her old employment and make the house run smoothly again – the butler would have us believe this is his main concern … There is a very detailed and thoughtful Times Literary Supplement review which came out at the time and a more recent Guardian Review of the novel here
Feel you know this novel? It is so obviously a charming, if slightly melancholy old-fashioned Country House novel, and a novel of unrequited love … or is it? We will also consider the writing style of the novel. Critics differ about the its stylistic approach. Is it more of a realist, modernist, or postmodernist work? Perhaps it refuses definition and contains elements of all of these styles in its exploration of history, memory and sense of guilt, in a story told by an unreliable narrator, as a Japanese born writer takes takes a cynical side-sideways glance at a British world of forty years before?
We will also be using the celebrated 1993 Merchant-Ivory film of the novel starring Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson. This dispenses with the direct first-person narrative but retains the elaborate flash-backs. There is a Roger Ebert review of the film here and an another interesting review from Rolling Stone which is caustic about those who have sometimes sought to dismiss Merchant-Ivory as the ‘Laura Ashley’ of British film makers. The review notes the usual serious social commentary alongside the careful period detail and costume work.
Here is a trailer for the film.
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 There: On 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 Chiltern Railways 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.
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 will be using this 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.
How do I join the course?
You can pay on PayPal or credit card here:
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!)