Literature, Art and Economics – Online

Economic life is driven by creativity, collective rules and emotions, not just by rational calculation. It is a product of imagination and social sentiments. How come then most economic theories study this dynamic process through static equilibrium models and narrow rationalistic assumptions?
This course will trust fiction writers and artists to give us another view of economic realities. We will call authors to the witness stand, as diverse as Aristophanes, Dickens, Zola and Ben Okri (and you may have others in mind you would like to see contributing their expertise). We will discuss painting and scenes from films. As any good fiction, economics is about metaphors, myths, fantasies, heroes and villains; it mixes cognitive truths and ideological falsifications. Let's see if we can find a way along these blurred lines.

Who is this course for

The course is designed for anyone who has an interest in words and in the world. No prior knowledge of the subject is needed. We will visit the great concepts of economics: value, price, exchange, markets, interest rates, speculation, income distribution, growth and development, but we will let writers and poets, rather than certified economists, be our guides.

What does this course cover

Each lesson will consist in analysing and discussing one or more passages of a poem, play or novel. Students will be expected to have read these excerpts before the lesson (a few pages), even if they are not familiar with the entire work (which is not required). We will identify, and then formalise, the economic concepts that are introduced, and which we need to understand in order to enjoy a better-informed life in society.

What will it be like

The course will be run online using Zoom for the live class sessions and either the Moodle page for the course or some other system for the distribution of the electronic resources for the session sitting alongside this. Although there will be some adjustments that need to be made for the online version of this course, we will aim to keep the experience as close as possible to that of a face to face course taught in the Centre.

Students will receive a few pages of readings by email and occasionally pictures of paintings to prepare a class discussion led by the tutor on some economic concept (what is the meaning of production, does labour create value, is there a law supply and demand, what is money, etc.)
Students should establish what they hope to gain from the course and evaluate their own progress in understanding the issues. Feedback will be privately given on class contributions, and assessed against stated objectives.

What else do you need to buy or do

The course will be run on Zoom, please make sure you have installed it in advance of your first class on your computer or mobile device. You can sign up for free here:

You will need a microphone (it's fine to use whatever is built into your device) and camera, so we can see you via video. You may also want to use headphones during the session.

You can participate in class sessions through the use of a computer, laptop, tablet or other similar internet enabled device. Please note that if you only have access to a smartphone, you will be able to attend the class sessions and participate in them but you will find it more difficult to benefit from the full range of materials and activities involved in the course if this is your only means of connection.

Make sure you have a small space to work in during the session and that as far as possible that you can keep this space quite and clear of interruption so that you can concentrate on what is happening in the class.

By signing up to the course you are consenting to being on camera. The content of the lesson may occasionally be recorded by the tutor for internal education and training purposes but any such recordings will not be made available to anyone outside of the Mary Ward Centre organisation without us asking you again for further permission to do so.

Students should have an email account, and a printer (optional) to receive a few pages of texts to read every week, plus a curious and open mind, are the only requirements to attend this course.
If they are not already doing so, students can start reading the business and economic sections of their favourite newspaper. And of course they may want to read the entire literary works, of which we will be studying only excerpts.

What this course could lead to

At the end of the course students will have acquired a few fundamental notions of economics, and better understand the practical and ethical issues discussed in the media and among politicians. Students might discover new artists and literary authors. Plus spend lively moments discussing both art and the issues of the day.

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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

Got a Question about this Course?

Contact The Departmental Administrator.

Why choose Mary Ward?

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 and weekends to suit your timetable. You can learn face to face at one of our centres (Bloomsbury or Waterloo) or take an online course

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.’