This course has concessions available

The Urban Wanderer

From the London-based tales of Poe, Woolf 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, Nick Papadimitriou, Laura Grace Ford, 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 and Edgar Allan Poe. 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. Following Sinclair, the category of walking literature has exploded in popularity, and we will trace some of the more recent movements or publications, including Nick Papadimitriou's 'deep topography', Phil Smith's 'mythogeography', Garnette Cadogan's 'Walking While Black', Laura Grace Ford's Savage Messiah, and 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
' understand the arguments for walking as political resistance
' share knowledge of - and fascinating stories from - a range of urban authors

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.

Classes will typically consist of an introduction of the topic and relevant themes by the tutor; close reading of text extracts; tutor-guided class discussion; small group work.

What else do you need to buy or do

Extracts from the essential texts will be supplied, but you will be encouraged to read as widely as you wish, guided by a supplied list of recommended texts and online resources.

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.

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 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.’