Cropped photograph of a painting by Manet

"The brain is wider than the sky." - Emily Dickinson

Information at a Glance

  • Evening Class
  • Wednesdays 18:00 - 20:00
  • 10 weeks: May to July
  • 2 hours weekly online taught time
  • Tutor: Richard Niland
  • Fees from £67 to £117
Booking link

Exploring classic literature that continues to fascinate readers the world over, this ten-week class examines a range of seminal literary works in the context of both confinement and escape, considering the power of literature to engage with the restrictions of our lived experience while simultaneously illuminating and cultivating the demands of our imagination.

Whether self-isolating, social distancing or dreaming of venturing forth, Reading for Pleasure opens up ten celebrated short literary texts, considering major writers and influential fiction, poetry, and drama alongside a stimulating range of cultural, critical and political ideas from the 19th and 20th centuries.

No previous specialist knowledge of literature is necessary.

Class Format

Each class session will look at a particular text in detail and discuss online (using Microsoft Teams) key elements of its style, form, themes and related contexts. Students are encouraged to read the relevant text in advance in order to get the most from their engagement and participation. Beyond an appetite for reading, you do not need to have any previous experience of studying literature to enjoy and learn a great deal from this course.

Equipment Required

To take part in this class you will need an internet connected computer or tablet, together with a Microsoft Teams Account. Microsoft Teams accounts are free, but you do need to register for one in advance using the same email address with which you enrol on this course. We recommend you also download the Microsoft Teams App.

It is possible to take this course "passively" without a microphone and/or web camera attached to your computer, but if you want to take part in class discussions you will need at least a micorphone connected to your computer or tablet. Many computers, laptops and tablets already have these built in, but you might want to check on that first.


Course Information

Course Programme

Week 1:   Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (1845)

We begin in this session by looking at the work of the noted 19th century political activist Frederick Douglass, exploring his powerful Narrative of his journey from bondage to freedom in pre-Civil War America.

Week 2:   Herman Melville, “Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street” (1853)

Herman Melville’s famous tale of a pallid scrivener working (and refusing to work) in Wall Street is a superb counterpoint to the expansive landscapes of Moby-Dick. The enigmatic story speaks to multiple concerns, from language, silence, power, the workplace, through to interrogating the nature of fiction itself.

Week 3:   Fyodor Dostoevsky, Notes from Underground (1864)

In this influential Russian work, Fyodor Dostoyevsky captured a quintessential modern literary voice. Embittered, withdrawn, paranoid, and obsessed with the development of politics and society in the 19th century. Welcome to the Underground!

Week 4:   Emily Dickinson, Selected Poems (1860s)

In this class we will look at a selection of Emily Dickinson’s brilliantly compressed poetry from the 1860s, looking at her interest in both representing and transforming circumscribed physical settings and the limitless spaces of her poetic imagination.

Week 5:   Charlotte Perkins Gilman, “The Yellow Wallpaper” (1892)

An important and complex story from 1892, Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” is a key text in late 19th century Feminist writing and one that offers an influential and troubling reading of domestic spaces and confinement.

Week 6:   Henry James, The Turn of the Screw (1898)

One of the greatest horror stories in literature, The Turn of the Screw is amongst Henry James’ most accessible works, while also capturing all the textured beauty of his style. A governess spends a lengthy period of time in a secluded country retreat with young children and begins to encounter strange happenings. The stuff of life’s nightmares becomes one of literature’s great pleasures.

Week 7:   Joseph Conrad, “The Secret Sharer” (1912)

Joseph Conrad’s masterful, suspenseful tale of a young sea captain faced with the challenges of command explores the trials of isolation and the demands of duty through a focus on secrecy, intimacy and solidarity. One of Conrad’s finest stories and a concentrated encounter with classic Conradian concerns.

Week 8:   Jorge Luis Borges, “The Aleph” (1945)

Argentine writer Borges holds a unique place in world literature for his ability to contain brilliantly imagined worlds and possibilities in the form of highly compressed and idiosyncratic short stories. “The Aleph” looks at the plight of a king of infinite space bounded in a nutshell. What Maradona could do with a ball, Borges achieves with his pen.

Week 9:   Samuel Beckett, Krapp’s Last Tape (1958)

Krapp’s Last Tape is one of Irish writer Samuel Beckett’s defining achievements; a short work that dramatizes an encounter with the unpredictable and fragmented spaces of memory alongside an enactment of the routine movements of the everyday. A memorable one-man play that asks some of Beckett’s favourite questions: who we were, who we are and who we might have been. Of what we will ultimately become, Beckett is in no doubt.

Week 10:   Marilynne Robinson, Housekeeping (1980)

One of the finest works of late-20th century American literature, Housekeeping is a short novel detailing the lives of a family of women torn between the demands of domestic attachment, responsibility to self and the call of the road. Richly allusive and beautifully written, Robinson’s novel is a tale of orphans, escape, and the power of literary language.

Course Reading

Students are encouraged to read the relevant text in advance in order to get the most from their engagement and participation.

Your Tutor

Niland photoDr Richard Niland has been a tutor/lecturer in literature for over 15 years and has published widely on Joseph Conrad and a range of other 19th and 20th century writers. The author of Conrad and History (2010) and editor of the Norton Critical Edition of The Secret Agent (2016), Richard has taught at the University of Oxford, the University of Strathclyde and also currently teaches at the City Literary Institute in London.

A Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and contributing editor to The Conradian, Richard is interested in the various intersections of literature, culture, politics, music and film in different global contexts.

Course Fees and Rate Categories

HoursWeeksStandard RateInternal RateAssociate Rate
20  10  £117 £67 £90
All fee rates quoted are for the whole course.
Term dates 1

Fee Categories and Discounts

Standard Rate

  • Applicable to all except those who fall under the Internal Rate or Associate Rate category, respectively.

Internal Rate

  • Applies to current Imperial College students and staff (incl. Imperial NHS Trust, Imperial Innovations, ancillary & service staff employed on long-term contracts at Imperial College by third-party contractors).
  • Current Centre for Languages, Culture and Communication (CLCC) staff, current CLCC PhD students, Science Communication (Sci Comm) postgraduate students, and students enrolled on an Imperial College 'Language for Science' degree programme should email evening before completing the online enrolment form.

Associate Rate

  • Students (non-Imperial College)
  • Alumni of Imperial College and predecessor colleges and institutes
  • City & Guilds College Association members
  • Members of the Friends of Imperial College
  • Francis Crick Institute staff, researchers and students
  • NHS staff (other than Imperial NHS Trust staff)
  • Members of the UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP)
  • Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea Council staff
  • Harrods staff
  • Historic Royal Palaces staff
  • Natural History Museum staff
  • Science Museum staff
  • South London Botanical Institute Members
  • Victoria and Albert Museum staff
  • Royal Geographical Society staff
  • Royal College of Art and Royal College of Music tutors and other staff
  • Santander Bank staff (Imperial College Walkway branch only)
  • Austrian Cultural Forum staff
  • Staff of Exhibition Road Cultural Group (Discover South Kensington) organisations
  • Lycee Charles de Gaulle staff
  • Tutors and other staff of other universities and higher education institutions
  • Tutors and other staff of institution members of the Association of Colleges
  • Residents of postcodes SW3, SW5, SW7, SW10 and W8
  • Members of the UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP)
  • Members of the South London Botanical Institute (SLBI)

Late enrolment

It is possible to enrol on many CLCC Evening Class and Lunchtime Learning programmes after the course has started. For non-language courses this is subject entirely to agreement by the tutor. For language courses it is subject to agreement by the language Coordinator conducting level assessment. If you want to join a course late do bear in mind there might be work you will need to catch up on, particularly in language courses.

Applicable terms & conditions

Please read these before enrolling on any course.

Term Dates

HoursWeeksAutumn termSpring termSummer term
 20  10 n/a n/a w/c 11 May - w/c 13 Jul 2020 (10 weeks)

Enrolment Process

Web enrolment starts 1 March

Enrolment and payment run through the Imperial College eStore. Please click on the blue booking link on the relevant course page noting below instructions:

  • Our rate categories are explained on the course page and your applicable rate category must be selected on the eStore
  • First-time eStore users please create an account by entering an email address and password. These credentials should also be used for future bookings. Imperial College users please note the eStore is not a single-signon College system
  • The booking process involves entering payment details before your course choice and applicant details are queried on an in-built questionnnaire which completes the process
  • The following email notifications are sent
What is sentWhen is it sentWhat does it contain
1. Payment confirmation Instantaneously following submission of your online application
  • Confirms payment, payment date, order number and course title
  • Should not be treated as a course-enrolment confirmation which is only sent later
2. Enrolment confirmation Sent in due course but likely not before the end of March. Please treat your payment confirmation as confirmation that your applicant details and payment have been received
  • Re-onfirms your course choice
  • Shows your course's term dates
  • Confirms your course' day of the week & time
3. Programme information Usually sent Friday late afternoon the week before term starts
  • Contains further course details incl. classroom location and teacher contact information
  • Provides further general programme details
If you need further help with the above information please ring 020 7594 8756

Certificate of Attendance

Our adult education evening and daytime classes do not offer academic credits, but we do offer an attendance certificate to those learners who attend at least 80% of the taught sessions. Eligible learners receive their certificate by email after the end of the course.

Any Questions?

Questions regarding the content and teaching of the above course should be addressed to the course tutor, Dr Richard