This course has concessions available

New: The Urban Wanderer

From the London-based tales of de Quincey, Poe, and Machen, and the Parisian flânerie of Baudelaire, to the psychogeography and deep topography of contemporary cities, the city has been the site of many poetic or visionary walks. We will read some of the authors who have explored the modern city (including Iain Sinclair and Esther Kinsky) and share their peculiar discoveries. Is the literary walk an act of re-enchantment of the world? Can it be a political gesture against the privatisation of public space?

Available Classes:

Who is this course for

Anyone with an interest in the literature and poetry of the city. No prior knowledge required.

What does this course cover

The course follows a range of authors as they explore a city on foot. For many, the winding streets of London can be a source of great mystery or even visionary experience, and we begin with examples from Thomas de Quincey, Edgar Allan Poe and Arthur Machen. From there, we cross over to nineteenth-century Paris and the flâneur-poet Charles Baudelaire, whose accounts of the Parisian Arcades propose new ways of appreciating the urban crowd. In the 1960s, Paris again inspired the concept of psychogeography in the urban drift of the Situationist writer Guy Debord. Psychogeography is a much-misunderstood and misused term, and we will attempt to get to grips with it. We then return to London, and the hugely influential work of Iain Sinclair which monitors the history and myths of contemporary London as it undergoes constant change and gentrification. Among other authors (including students' own favourites) we will read extracts from Esther Kinsky's River which documents the life around the River Lea.
By the end of the course you should be able to:
- appreciate the history of the urban literary walk
- understand the arguments for walking as re-enchanting the world
- perceive the connections between walking and political resistance
- share knowledge of - and fascinating stories from - a range of urban authors

What will it be like

Teaching methods include tutor presentations, use of handouts and PowerPoint presentations, reading aloud, group work, class discussion, and student presentations. Students will be assessed by individual learning plans and class participation.

What else do you need to buy or do

Extracts from the essential texts will be supplied. You will be encouraged to read as widely as you wish, using local libraries or following a supplied list of recommended texts. You may wish to bring a pad and pen for note-taking.

What this course could lead to

Other Humanities courses at Mary Ward Centre or elsewhere.

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I've been to many Centres to study in London and the Mary Ward Centre is one of the nicest I've studied in.

MWC student


This course has concessions available for people who meet certain criteria

Got a Question about this Course?

Contact The Departmental Administrator.

Why come to Mary Ward Centre?

Mary Ward Centre is the adult education centre with a difference. We provide a wide range of subjects for people at all levels and run courses during the day, evening or weekend to suit your timetable.

Get inspired and enjoy excellent teaching in an environment where each individual’s learning experience is valued. That’s what makes Mary Ward Centre ‘the friendly place to learn.’