A page from Great Expectations by Dickens

Literature of the English Country House

A journey through the literature of English country houses from the time of Thomas More to Oscar Wilde

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About the course

On this course, we’ll be introducing you to literature from 450 years of English country-house history and we’ll be seeing together how that literature shapes our understanding of country houses. We’ll be joined on the way by guest experts from the University of Sheffield School of English and tapping into their specialist knowledge.

We’re going to travel on a historical journey through literature, visiting notable country houses around Yorkshire and Derbyshire. You’ll gain insight into life in these country houses and will learn about some common misconceptions. You will see the magnificent seventeenth-century wall paintings at Bolsover Castle, often held to be the best of their kind in England. You will visit Haddon Hall, a house frozen in the time of William Shakespeare and an inspiration for the great Gothic novelist, Ann Radcliffe.

We’ll be using a wide range of texts spanning the history of literature from Thomas More’s ‘Utopia’ to Oscar Wilde’s ‘Canterville Ghost’. Along the way we will examine sections from a play by Shakespeare, poetry by Margaret Cavendish, and brief passages from novels by Jane Austen, and Charles Dickens. We will even look at fiction by a country house resident Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire.

During this course you’ll learn to analyse literature using a technique called ‘close reading’. It will help you to make your own connections between country-house literature and its historical backgrounds.



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Requirements

You should be comfortable doing this course if you enjoy reading and discussing literary texts in English. The course will give you a good foundation in analysing texts if you are thinking about studying English Literature. If you are already at degree level in English or another subject, this course could be a good supplement to your work. However, the course is made for everyone who loves country houses and great literature.

Get a personalised, printed certificate

You can buy a Statement of Participation for this course — a personalised, printed certificate to show that you’ve taken part.