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	Image: Susannah Fullerton

Favourite British novels of the 20th century

A ten-part lecture series with Susannah Fullerton

The English-language novel came of age in the 19th century. Jane Austen, Dickens, Trollope, George Eliot, the Brontës and others established its respectability, its popularity and its status as a great literary form. But where did it go from there?

This course looks at a range of popular British novels from early in the 20th century through to its last decade. Susannah Fullerton, distinguished author, lecturer and literary tour leader, takes you on a journey exploring the creation of these much-loved novels, their themes and characters, and the lives of their authors.

This course offers the joy of revisiting childhood favourites, but seeing them through adult eyes and discovering why they continue to enchant young readers. There will be encounters with the dead bodies scattered through mystery novels as you get to know two ‘Queens’ from the Golden Age of detection. There will be lashings of English eccentricity, both at home and abroad, as we follow EM Forster, Graham Greene, Nancy Mitford and Mary Wesley, and their memorable characters. The course will also examine modern writers who chose to write within the historical genre, experimenting with it most successfully. And one lecture looks at the genre of ‘campus’ novel which first emerged in the 20th century. You will encounter old favourites and have the fun of reading new books and discovering new authors, and you will gain a new appreciation of the 20th century British novel.

It is not essential to have read the works examined in the lectures, but you will find it a bonus to have done so.

Image: Susannah Fullerton

Various Fridays, 10.30am and Saturdays, 11am in 2013
See listing for dates

Full series: non-members $400, members $290
Per lecture: non-members $45, members $35

Bookings and enquiries: 02 9225 1878


Become a member

Link above is for subscription booking.

Saturday series online bookings close Friday 4.30pm prior to each lecture.

Ticket price includes entry, lecture notes, coffee during intermissions and a glass of wine after each session.

Lectures and lecturers subject to change.
No transfers between sessions.

Three full working days (Mon–Fri) notice is required to qualify for a refund. All refunds attract an administration charge of 25% of the ticket price(s) with a minimum charge of $5. With subscription tickets there are no refunds for single sessions, unless a session is cancelled. Not negotiable.

Duration 2 hours
Location: Domain Theatre

Proudly sponsored by
Arab Bank Australia

Children’s classics – The Wind in the Willows and Winnie-the-Pooh BOOKED OUT

These two classics were written for all children under the age of 100, and they have never been out of print. Both were written for real children (the sons of the respective authors) and yet they are universal in their concerns, themes and characterisation. This lecture looks at the real stories behind the enchanting realms of the riverbank and the Hundred Acre Wood and explores these timeless classics.


Friday 22 February 2013 10:30am – 12:30pm

Saturday 2 March 2013 11am – 1pm

Murder and detection – The Murder of Roger Ackroyd and Gaudy Night BOOKED OUT

The 1920s and 30s in Britain were the Golden Age of the detective novel. Agatha Christie rapidly became the ‘Queen of Crime’, producing over 60 crime novels and creating hundreds of fictional corpses. More ‘academic’ in style was Dorothy L Sayers, whose detective, Lord Peter Wimsey of Gaudy Night and other novels, remains a controversial literary figure. Enjoy some ‘cosy’ British crime in this lecture on murder and sleuthing.


Friday 1 March 2013 10:30am – 12:30pm

Saturday 9 March 2013 11am – 1pm

Mad dogs and Englishmen – A Room with a View and Travels with my Aunt BOOKED OUT

The Englishman abroad, going out ‘in the midday sun’ of foreign climes, is sometimes radically changed by the experience. EM Forster loved travel to Italy, and this lecture explores the classic he set in Florence, A Room with a View. We also accompany dahlia-growing bank manager Henry Pulling on a series of extraordinary adventures with his redoubtable Aunt Augusta in Graham Greene’s Travels with my Aunt.


Friday 15 March 2013 10:30am – 12:30pm

Saturday 16 March 2013 11am – 1pm

To the manor born? – The Forsyte Saga and Love in a Cold Climate BOOKED OUT

The British are made aware of their place within the class system almost from the moment of birth. This lecture explores the upper-middle-class world of John Galsworthy’s The Forsyte Saga (consisting of 3 novels: The Man of Property, In Chancery and To Let), and the wacky, aristocratic society of Nancy Mitford’s delightful Love in a Cold Climate.


Friday 22 March 2013 10:30am – 12:30pm

Saturday 23 March 2013 11am – 1pm

Repression – Brideshead Revisited and The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie BOOKED OUT

It is very British to keep a ‘stiff upper lip’, but repression can bring tragic consequences. This lecture focuses on the consequences of repressive Catholicism within the aristocratic family of Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited, and the strict Protestantism of Edinburgh in Muriel Spark’s The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.


Friday 12 April 2013 10:30am – 12:30pm

Saturday 13 April 2013 11am – 1pm

Second marriages – Cakes and Ale and Rebecca BOOKED OUT

Dr Johnson famously described a second marriage as ‘a triumph of hope over experience’. First and second wives in fiction can have some fascinatingly competitive relationships. In W Somerset Maugham’s Cakes and Ale, wife number two tries to look on wife number one as just an unfortunate lapse to be written out of her husband’s biography, while in Daphne Du Maurier’s Gothic classic ,the second wife doesn’t even have a name and struggles to establish her own identity.


Friday 26 April 2013 10:30am – 12:30pm

Saturday 27 April 2013 11am – 1pm

English eccentrics – Miss Mapp and Harnessing Peacocks

No-one does ‘eccentricity’ as well as the English. EF Benson (sometimes described as a ‘bitchy Jane Austen’) piles peculiarities onto his characters in Miss Mapp, and the result is wonderful social comedy. Mary Wesley was a true eccentric and much of her own life and character went into the ‘cook/mistress for hire’ heroine of Harnessing Peacocks.



Saturday 29 June 2013 11am – 1pm

Friday 12 July 2013 10:30am – 12:30pm

Turning to the past – The French Lieutenant’s Woman and Letters to Alice on First Reading Jane Austen

This lecture discusses two novelists who turned to the past for inspiration. John Fowles’s experimental The French Lieutenant’s Woman offers the reader three different endings to a complex, historical plot. In her Letters to Alice Fay Weldon unites a punk teenager (who has spiky green hair) with Jane Austen, and the result is an intriguing exploration of a brilliant novelist and of the craft of fiction.



Saturday 13 July 2013 11am – 1pm

Friday 19 July 2013 10:30am – 12:30pm

Campus novels – Nice Work and Possession

The literary genre known as ‘campus novels’ started in Britain in the 1950s. This lecture discusses David Lodge’s Nice Work, which depicts a conservative manager of an engineering firm and a feminist university lecturer forced to enter each other’s worlds as part of a government scheme. Also examined is AS Byatt’s Booker Prize-winning Possession, a superb novel which examines modern academia and its attempts to ‘possess’ two dead Victorian poets.


Friday 2 August 2013 10:30am – 12:30pm


Saturday 3 August 2013 11am – 1pm

Children’s classics – Peter Pan, and Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

In 1904 JM Barrie created Peter Pan, a parentless boy, who would never grow up and who lived in a fantastic world of islands, fairies, pirates and a determined crocodile. In 1997 an unknown JK Rowling wrote a story about another parentless boy, who also encounters magic, witches and evil forces. Harry Potter rapidly became one of the world’s best-known fictional creations and an amazing best-seller. This last lecture in the series explores these two important fictional boys and their creators.


Friday 9 August 2013 10:30am – 12:30pm


Saturday 10 August 2013 11am – 1pm