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	Image: John Constable View of Salisbury Cathedral from the Bishop’s Grounds c1822 (detail)oil on canvas, Victoria & Albert Museum, London, UK. Bridgeman Images

O, to be in England

A Learning Curve lecture series with Susannah Fullerton

Discover the England of English literature.

‘O, to be in England…,’ wrote Robert Browning in his poem Home thoughts from abroad when he was living in Italy. Yet those who love English literature do find themselves transported to England through the words and descriptions of great writers. This course looks at the way in which England has been presented by a selection of those authors.

Each lecture examines a certain aspect of English landscape or English history through a poem, novel, play or diary. Discover how industrial cities, cathedral cities and villages have been portrayed, see London through the eyes of diarist Samuel Pepys, learn about Shakespeare’s portrayal of a faulty English king, and see how Arthurian England was re-invented and romanticised. The English on the move, the English at war, and the English at work and at play – these will be all be discussed.

Image: John Constable View of Salisbury Cathedral from the Bishop’s Grounds c1822 (detail)
oil on canvas, Victoria & Albert Museum, London, UK. Bridgeman Images

Various Fridays 10.30am, Saturdays 11am
6 March - 18 July 2015
See listing for details

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

Bookings and enquiries: 02 9225 1878

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Friday subscription

Saturday subscription

Saturday online bookings close Friday 4.30pm before 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

Arthurian England: Tennyson and 'The Lady of Shallot' BOOKED OUT

King Arthur is a legendary British king whose story emerges from folklore and literary invention. Victorian poet Alfred Lord Tennyson had a lifelong interest in Arthur and his court – his Idylls of the King and Sir Lancelot and Queen Guinevere retell Arthurian legends. This lecture will examine Tennyson’s Arthurian writings with particular reference to The Lady of Shalott.


Friday 6 March 2015 10:30am – 12:30pm

Saturday 7 March 2015 11am – 1pm

Royal England: Shakespeare and King Richard II BOOKED OUT

King Richard II ruled England from 1377 until he was deposed in 1399 by his cousin. A firm believer in royal prerogative, Richard cultivated a refined, artistic atmosphere at court. His posthumous reputation has been largely shaped by Shakespeare, who portrayed his misrule as responsible for the Wars of the Roses. Did Shakespeare get it wrong? How does he depict this king and use superb poetry to sway audience sympathies? And what role did a performance of the play have in an Elizabethan uprising? This lecture looks at Shakespeare’s depiction of an English royal and his effect on English history.


Friday 13 March 2015 10:30am – 12:30pm

Saturday 14 March 2015 11am – 1pm

England's capital: Samuel Pepys and his diary BOOKED OUT

‘Jane called us up about three in the morning, to tell us of a great fire they saw in the City…’. This is the first mention of the Great Fire of London in the extraordinary diary of Samuel Pepys. No other writer has given such a detailed, intimate, varied and remarkable portrayal of England’s capital as we find in Pepys’ diary. Discover the London of the 1660s – the Restoration, fire, plague and other dramatic events – through the eyes of a curious, intelligent man, whose diary has proved a gift to all historians and lovers of literature.


Friday 20 March 2015 10:30am – 12:30pm

Saturday 21 March 2015 11am – 1pm

Aristocratic England: Alexander Pope and 'The rape of the lock'

In 1712 Alexander Pope published a mock-heroic satire which he hoped would heal a breach between two feuding titled families, caused when a young lord cut off a lock of a lady’s hair without her permission. The rape of the lock is considered the finest mock-epic poem in English. It is wickedly funny in its depiction of the essentially trivial nature of many aspects of aristocratic life. This lecture looks at the society that Pope satirises and examines his brilliant poem.


Friday 27 March 2015 10:30am – 12:30pm


Saturday 28 March 2015 11am – 1pm

The rolling English road: Henry Fielding and 'The history of Tom Jones' BOOKED OUT

Tom Jones is a bastard and a foundling and in Fielding’s great novel he sets off to travel the roads of England and have adventures. This, one of the earliest of English novels, is a picaresque tale, set against the backdrop of the Jacobite rebellion. As Tom travels, he meets with people from all classes of society, enabling Fielding to provide a varied and full picture of 18th-century life in England. Fielding was an important law reformer and magistrate; he also
did much to advance the progress of the English novel.


Friday 8 May 2015 10:30am – 12:30pm

Saturday 9 May 2015 11am – 1pm

Rugged England: William Wordsworth and his landscape poetry BOOKED OUT

Wordsworth, leader of the Romantic poets, revolutionised our way of seeing the natural world. In Tintern Abbey and Ode on the intimations of immortality, he described an almost mystical union with nature and its beauties, and he constantly turned to nature for inspiration and an escape from the industrialisation of the age. His poems made of his beloved Lake District, until that time a rugged and unvisited area, a major tourist attraction, and his writings forever changed our views of the natural world.


Friday 15 May 2015 10:30am – 12:30pm

Saturday 16 May 2015 11am – 1pm

Village England: James Austen and 'Emma' BOOKED OUT

Jane Austen once advised a novel-writing niece that ‘ three or four families in a country village is the very thing to work on’. In her masterpiece Emma, published 200 years ago, she followed her own advice and created the finest depiction of English village life ever written. The village hierarchy, its problems and concerns, its crimes and its pleasures, are all described so vividly, as Emma Woodhouse learns vital truths about her world and about herself.


Friday 19 June 2015 10:30am – 12:30pm

Saturday 20 June 2015 11am – 1pm

The English cathedral city: Anthony Trollope and 'Barchester Towers' BOOKED OUT

One summer’s evening in Salisbury, Anthony Trollope (whose 200th birthday we celebrate in 2015) gazed at the cathedral and was inspired to write a novel featuring clerical characters going about their business in a cathedral city. He wrote The warden and its sequel Barchester Towers with the immortal Mrs Proudie, Mr Slope, the Bishop and Archdeacon, and the delightful Mr Harding. This lecture will discuss Barchester Towers and Trollope’s superb depiction of life in a cathedral city.


Friday 26 June 2015 10:30am – 12:30pm

Saturday 27 June 2015 11am – 1pm

Industrial England: Elizabeth Gaskell and 'North and south' BOOKED OUT

The cotton-milling cities of the north of England were grimy, unhealthy places, where workers led short and dreadful lives. Elizabeth Gaskell, wife of a Manchester clergyman, knew first-hand about the poverty and suffering in Victorian industrial cities and describes these conditions in North and south, her 1855 novel. Her book caused controversy amongst mill-owners, but Gaskell was modern and enlightened in her presentation of English industrial unrest and urban problems.


Friday 10 July 2015 10:30am – 12:30pm

Saturday 11 July 2015 11am – 1pm

England at war: Wilfred Owen, Rupert Brooke, Edward Thomas and their war poems BOOKED OUT

Winston Churchill once described WWII as Britain’s ‘finest hour’, but for many war poets, the first and second world wars were times of horror, mud and death, with nothing ‘fine’ about them. This lecture looks first at Wilfred Owen, Rupert Brooke, Edward Thomas and other WWI poets who described the horrors of the trenches – ‘obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud’, in Owen’s words. It then moves to those such as Keith Douglas and Henry Reed whose poems show the weapons and destruction of the more mechanised WWII. See England at war through the eyes and words of its poets.


Friday 17 July 2015 10:30am – 12:30pm

Saturday 18 July 2015 11am – 1pm