Special Interest Courses

The following courses are all run by highly qualified tutors and lecturers. Some of them have taught or are teaching for The Cambridge University Institute of Continuing Education or other Institutes of Further or Higher Education or the WEA. Students are encouraged to take an active part in learning through class discussion and reading. Some tutors may give students the option to do written work but this is entirely at the tutor’s discretion and there may be a marking fee payable directly to the tutor. Other than for Creative Writing, written work will NOT be compulsory on any course. A syllabus and book list may be provided by the tutor prior to the start of the course. 

Autumn 2021

ReClothing the Past

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Tutor: Honor Ridout
Mondays from 10:30 to 12:30
13th Sep 2021
£100.00 per 10 weeks term.

The media, it seems, bombard us with historical dramas and documentaries. The producers now tell us their approach to clothing their characters: do they aim to be accurate representations, or do they want showiness and glamour alternating with grime and rags? This course will look at the sources the costume designers use, from paintings, sculptures to sketches and photographs, as well as the comments and accounts of contemporaries.

The Music of Disney

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Tutor: Stephen Barnard
Tuesdays from 13:30 to 13:30
7th Sep 2021
£60.00 per 6 weeks term.

Music has always been at the heart of the Disney approach to movie-making. Whether animating classical music in ‘Fantasia’ or fashioning ‘Mary Poppins’ around the vision of in-house songwriting team Bob and Dick Sherman, Disney continually stretched the boundaries of how music was used in film. This course explores a century of Disney music and the people behind it, including the creative talents who revitalised the studio from the 1990s onwards with films such as ‘Toy Story’, ‘Up!’ and ‘Frozen’.

The Story of the Earth from the Big Bang to the Present Day

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Tutor: Christopher Woolston
Tuesdays from 10:00 to 12:00
14th Sep 2021
£100.00 per 10 weeks term.

In this course we will attempt to answer such questions as How old are the Universe and the Earth?; How did various rocks, minerals and fossils form and how can they be identified and classified?; How are rocks dated?; What is the Earth like inside?; How are mountains formed?; How did life change throughout Earth’s history?; and, Why are Britain’s landscapes so varied?

The Long View by Elizabeth Jane Howard

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Tutor: Margaret Norwich
Tuesdays from 13:30 to 15:30
2nd Nov 2021
£60.00 per 6 weeks term.

This is the compelling story of one woman and her marriage told by a writer whose craft and humanity are universally praised. Antonia Fleming faces a life alone in 1950’s London, but as she looks towards her future, the novel moves steadily backward in time, tracing her marriage to its beginning in the 1920’s, through years of mistakes, motherhood, dreams and war: a master class in form, a great read and much to discuss!

Diamonds, Froth & Sparkle: Nancy Mitford’s The Pursuit of Love

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Tutor: Margaret Norwich
Tuesdays from 10:00 to 12:30
3rd Aug 2021
£35.00 per 3 weeks term.

A recent television adaptation of this enchanting but subversive love story has attracted both high praise and severe criticism, but Nancy Mitford’s 1945 novel, a companion piece for Love in a Cold Climate, never fails to delight. The lives, loves, intrigues and eccentricities of the British aristocracy provided Mitford’s post-war readers with much-needed glamour and may well do just the same for us. Bright, sparkling and tender: the perfect early summer read! Class dates are 3 August 2021, 10 August 2021 and 17 August 2021.

Light & Shadow: Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina

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Tutor: Margaret Norwich
Tuesdays from 13:30 to 15:30
7th Sep 2021
£60.00 per 6 weeks term.

“All happy families are alike but each unhappy family in unhappy in its own way.” This famous first line introduces us into a vast panorama of contemporary life in nineteenth century Russia on which the spellbinding story of Anna and her unhappy family unfolds with unprecedented emotional realism. In the character of Levin the author comes closest to expressing his own views and convictions. Written several years after War and Peace, this novel is considered the more perfect work, offering intimate insight into the human psyche and also perhaps the Russian soul. It’s a page-turner, too!

Taming the Titans of Home Computing

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Tutor: Jane Mailer
Tuesdays from 13:30 to 15:30
2nd Nov 2021
£50.00 per 5 weeks term.

Four of the biggest players in computing Microsoft, Google, Apple and Amazon provide services to tempt and persuade us to give them our exclusive and loyal custom. This course will provide information to help you make the choices that meet your needs, and how to mix and match services.

Managing Photos on a Tablet Computer

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Tutor: Jane Mailer
Tuesdays from 13:30 to 15:30
14th Sep 2021
£50.00 per 5 weeks term.

A tablet computer or Smart Phone provides a dazzling array of tools for taking and managing photos. This course will look at the tools provided by the Camera and Photo Apps as well as options for sharing and storing in the Cloud. We will also be looking at integrating the use of the tablet camera with other devices, pre-digital photos, and services provided by third party Apps. There will be a strong focus and support to provide you with the instructions you need in the form of “Road Maps”.

Five Economic Events Which Shook The World – ONLINE

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Tutor: Angela Pollard
Tuesdays from 10:00 to 12:00
21st Sep 2021
£50.00 per 5 weeks term.

We will look at five key global Economic events that have had a significant impact on the UK and the world, such as the Wall Street Crash, the collapse of the Berlin wall and the globalisation that followed it, the 2008 Global financial crisis and the OPEC oil price shock of 1973. We will examine the causes leading up to these important events and analyse the social and economic consequences and fall out, both during and after the events. This course will be held online using Zoom.

The Moon Landing, 1969

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Tutor: Tim Parrott
Wednesdays from 10:00 to 12:00
3rd Nov 2021
£50.00 per 5 weeks term.

The race to land a man on the Moon was a leadership initiative like no other. It galvanised America. Thankfully, Rocket Science isn’t as impenetrable as you might think. The US Space program remains an exhilarating episode in human history. You were too young and busy to enjoy it at the time. Make up for that now. The course includes archival video clips.

Amazing Scientists of the Middle East

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Tutor: Wafa’ Tarnowska
Wednesdays from 13:15 to 15:15
3rd Nov 2021
£60.00 per 6 weeks term.

These outstanding scholars of the Golden Age of Islam: Avicenna, Al Razi, Al Khwarizmi, Al Farabi, Ibn al Haytham, and others, translated, improved, and perfected the contributions of Greek and Indian scientists and philosophers and laid the foundation of the Scientific Renaissance in Europe. They were simply the inventors of modern medicine, algebra, optics, geometry, and they are rarely taught at schools in the West. During this course, Wafa’ will take you on a journey of discovery to meet these amazing scientists of the Middle East who proposed new concepts of hygiene; made use of anaesthetics in surgery with newly innovated surgical tools and introduced the science of dissection in anatomy.

It’s in The Post: Reading Greek and Latin Letters

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Tutor: Deborah Day
Wednesdays from 10:30 to 12:30
15th Sep 2021
£50.00 per 5 weeks term.

Letter-writing was well-established among the Greek and Roman middle classes by the end of the 4th century BC. Much can be gleaned about their social history, their private passions and grievances, the expectations of the political and ruling classes, and the development of the languages themselves. We will consider private and public letters, those intended for wider literary publication, ‘pseudo-letters’ written much later and mediaeval communications between clerics. All in English.

Love in Classical Literature

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Tutor: Deborah Day
Wednesdays from 10:30 to 12:30
10th Nov 2021
£50.00 per 5 weeks term.

Romantic love won and lost, patriotic love and wider, more spiritual love, both fascinated and inspired, as well as frustrated and tormented, ancient readers and writers as much as modern ones. In this course, we will study selections of Greek, Roman and mediaeval authors, all in English, those famous, such as Catullus, Propertius and Vergil, and those with less familiar names. No knowledge of classical literature is required.

St. Paul and Christianity

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Tutor: Gary Day
Thursdays from 13:30 to 15:30
16th Sep 2021
£50.00 per 5 weeks term.

This course will examine the competing claims surrounding the role of St. Paul in the creation of Christianity. We will look at his life and examine the relation between his Epistles and the Gospels. They were written after Paul’s Letters but not all the Letters were written by Paul. So not only do Christians have to cope with the lateness of the Gospels, they also have to contend with the disputed authorship of some of the Epistles.

Louis MacNeice’s Autumn Journal

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Tutor: Gary Day
Thursdays from 13:30 to 15:30
11th Nov 2021
£50.00 per 5 weeks term.

This autobiographical poem was written in 1938. Interwoven with personal history is a series of reflections on art, love, conscience and the state of modern culture, all the more poignant because of the approach of the Second World War. The sense of impending crisis makes the poem relevant to our own times. It teems with aperçus and is written in a lovely, light style. ‘Truth is not a statement, it’s a dance.’ Suggested reading: Louis MacNeice, Autumn Journal (Faber, 2012)

A Brief History of the English Garden – ONLINE

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Tutor: Andrew Sankey
Thursdays from 13:00 to 15:00
16th Sep 2021
£100.00 per 10 weeks term.

A detailed course looking at the development of the English garden from the Romans through to the present day. Along the route we`ll tackle the Medieval Garden, the Tudor Garden, the Dutch Garden, the English Landscape Movement, the Gardenesque style, the Victorian Garden and the modern day style of gardening. This course will be taught online using Zoom.

The Many Masterpieces of Christopher Wren

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Tutor: Katherine Alcock
Thursdays from 10:00 to 12:00
4th Nov 2021
£50.00 per 5 weeks term.

Join Blue Badge Guide, Katherine Alcock, on a five-week course exploring the most exceptional works of one of the country’s most exceptional men; Sir Christopher Wren. The course will cover buildings in Oxford, Cambridge, London and beyond, exploring some of his most groundbreaking pieces, and the genius behind them. We’ll discuss the great man himself, but also the artists and innovators he worked with as he left an indelible legacy, not just on the architecture of this nation, but on it’s imagination as well.

From Kaisers to Cold War: Germany’s Story at the Heart of World History – ONLINE

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Tutor: Alan Marchant
Thursdays from 13:30 to 15:30
4th Nov 2021
£50.00 per 5 weeks term.

Germany’s growth under the Kaisers helped forge World War One. The ensuing “Weimar” Republic began and ended in crisis despite some stability and cultural enlightenment in the1920s. The Nazis plunged Germany again into world war. For twelve years Germany was in destructive and self-destructive mode. Following World War Two, division and the Berlin Wall guaranteed Germany’s place at the epicentre of the Cold War, until re-unification in 1990. This course will be held online using Zoom.

Lipreading

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Tutor: Louise Reed
Fridays from 10:00 to 12:00
17th Sep 2021
£100.00 per 10 weeks term.

Lipreading classes are fun; we laugh a lot and learn a great deal about living with acquired deafness. Students learn how to cope in difficult situations and use techniques which help them understand, and take greater part in, conversations.

Spring 2022

Developing a Photographer’s Eye

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Tutor: Tony James
Mondays from 10:00 to 12:00
21st Feb 2022
£50.00 per 5 weeks term.

Are you able to “see” a photograph? A series of walks to a range of locations will give you experience in using your own camera. No particular camera is required; additional equipment is not needed but the use of a tripod and filters can be discussed and demonstrated. Travel will be involved to visit a range of venues to get to sites such as Stowe, Cambridge etc. An evening visit to London is planned to capture the lights over the Thames and other venues using longer exposures.

Food in Fiction

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Tutor: Sharon Priestley
Mondays from 13:30 to 15:30
17th Jan 2022
£100.00 per 10 weeks term.

On this discussion-based course, we analyse some fascinating novels featuring food, beginning with Margaret Atwood’s The Edible Woman (1969). Then we have The Joy Luck Club with many engaging characters. Like Water for Chocolate highlights one Mexican family and their recipes. Chocolat depicts a French chocolate shop and its unique customers. We hope to gain an appreciation of how food can be significant in fiction – this course may whet your appetite for reading and eating!

Popular Culture in Britain, 1945-55

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Tutor: Stephen Barnard
Tuesdays from 13:30 to 15:30
22nd Feb 2022
£60.00 per 6 weeks term.

Most accounts of the immediate post-war years depict Britain as a cultural desert at the mercy of all things American, but can a time that gave us the Arts Council, Ealing comedies, Orwell novels, The Goons and some eye-opening art and music be dismissed so easily? In this course we will explore the many faces of mass culture in this crucial period of national recovery and social upheaval.

Experiments that Changed the Course of Science

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Tutor: Christopher Woolston
Tuesdays from 10:00 to 12:00
11th Jan 2022
£100.00 per 10 weeks term.

“Science relies on experiments in order to progress, and millions of new experiments are carried out every year. Occasionally, experimental results have been so surprising that they have dramatically changed our understanding. Throughout this course, we will be examining a selection of these including, for example, Galileo’s discovery that light and heavy objects fall at the same rate, Lavoisier’s discovery of oxygen, and Hubble’s work which led to the discovery that the Universe is expanding.”

In a Foreign Country: The Go-Between by L.P Hartley

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Tutor: Margaret Norwich
Tuesdays from 13:30 to 15:30
22nd Feb 2022
£60.00 per 6 weeks term.

“The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.” Please join us to consider this statement from The Go-Between, published in 1953, a haunting story of a young boy’s awakening into the secrets of the adult world. Spending a long, hot Edwardian summer visiting a school friend, young Leo begins to act as messenger between the beautiful daughter of the house and a local farmer. He is drawn deeper and deeper into a dangerous game of desire and deceit which he only truly understands in retrospect. The novel captures the mood of summers past and invites us to consider the role of the go-between in literature and in life!

Almost Always Summer: E.M. Forster’s A Room with a View

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Tutor: Margaret Norwich
Tuesdays from 13:30 to 15:30
11th Jan 2022
£50.00 per 5 weeks term.

Young, spirited Lucy Honeychurch visits Italy with her prim cousin Charlotte as chaperone but finds it difficult to return to the conventional life planned for her at Windy Corner in Surrey. A Room with a View is a romantic love story (Lucy must choose between her head and her heart); a fizzing social comedy of very English manners; an oh-so-inviting evocation of the delights (and dangers!) of foreign travel and rural English life; and “a sunny novel” according to Malcolm Bradbury: much to enjoy and discuss!

The Art of the Cote d’Azur

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Tutor: Sarah Burles
Wednesdays from 10:00 to 12:00
12th Jan 2022
£50.00 per 5 weeks term.

In the late 19th Century the Côte d’Azur became the destination of choice for European royalty and aristocrats who wanted to avoid the cold northern winter. Artists such as Monet, Renoir and Signac also travelled south to experience the bright light and vibrant colours of the Mediterranean. They were later followed by Picasso, Matisse, Chagall and others whose work is celebrated in the museums of Nice, Antibes and St Tropez. This course takes a virtual journey to warmer climes as we discover the art of the Côte d’Azur. We visit the Picasso museum in Antibes, the Léger museum in Biot and the Chagall museum in Nice as well as Matisse’s stunning Chapelle du Rosaire in Vence, which he described as his ‘masterpiece’, and the Maeght Foundation in the hills above Saint-Paul-de-Vence, created after a family tragedy.

DNA: The Secret of Life

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Tutor: Tim Parrott
Wednesdays from 13:00 to 15:00
12th Jan 2022
£50.00 per 5 weeks term.

DNA is the genetic material in eggs and sperm which enables animals and plants to produce offspring. The full story only became known in the 1960s; we are some of the first people to have grown up with it. This course will look in some detail at how this extraordinary molecule affects the lives of all living things, including ourselves.

Film Music in Britain and Europe

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Tutor: Christopher Budd
Wednesdays from 10:30 to 12:30
12th Jan 2022
£50.00 per 5 weeks term.

Come and explore 5 more weeks of music in film with composer and writer Christopher Budd. We’ll enjoy and study the work of some of the great British film composers, some sophisticated sounds from across Europe, a bit of Hammer horror and some very silly comedies. You don’t need to have attended Christopher’s earlier Film Music course, and no prior knowledge is required, just a love of music and film.

Two Ancient Historians: Herodotus and Thucydides

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Tutor: Deborah Day
Wednesdays from 10:30 to 12:30
23rd Feb 2022
£60.00 per 6 weeks term.

Both Herodotus and Thucydides wrote of significant men and events in 5th century Greece. In this course the time will be split between the two historians, with the opportunity to consider a selection of passages recalling fascinating stories, momentous occasions and the people who spear-headed these changes, and whose names are still known two and a half millennia later. All textual material will be provided. No previous knowledge is required.

The Moon and Sixpence and Gauguin

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Tutor: Gary Day
Thursdays from 13:30 to 15:30
3rd Mar 2022
£50.00 per 5 weeks term.

Somerset Maugham’s The Moon and Sixpence is partly based on the life of Paul Gauguin, one of the great innovators of modern art. We will read the novel as a means of entry into Gaugin’s life and paintings, but we will also focus on it as a critique of some aspects of the modern world. We may also find that it tells us things about Maugham himself, a rather underrated figure in my view. Reading: Somerset Maugham, The Moon and Sixpence (Vintage 1999)

The Philosophy of Wittgenstein

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Tutor: Gary Day
Thursdays from 13:30 to 15:30
13th Jan 2022
£50.00 per 5 weeks term.

Ludwig Wittgenstein was arguably the most important philosopher of the twentieth century. An extraordinary man, who described his average day as feeling depressed, whistling and going for walks, he produced a theory of language which he thought would put an end to foggy talk about metaphysics and other such matters. Pretty soon he realised his mistake and so devised another theory to show that we could indeed communicate meaningfully about these issues. Additionally, Wittgenstein’s philosophies of language provide a good context for understanding some of the debates surrounding social media. Reading: Ray Monk, How to Read Wittgenstein (Granta Publications, 2005)

We are Making a New World: Foundations of the Modern World, 1917-23

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Tutor: Michael Williams
Thursdays from 10:00 to 12:00
20th Jan 2022
£100.00 per 10 weeks term.

The final phase of the First World War and the opening years of peace laid the foundations of today’s world, as power began to pass from Europe to the United States and the Soviet Union, with China to follow. We will be looking at the emergence of the US as the leading global power and the Russian Revolution, at the reshaping of the Middle East and the origins of Modern China, as well as peace-making in Europe.

Royal Gardens – ONLINE

This course cannot be booked online. Please call the office.

Tutor: Andrew Sankey
Thursdays from 13:00 to 15:00
20th Jan 2022
£100.00 per 10 weeks term.

A close look at five of England`s fabulous royal gardens; which famous gardeners designed them, and how they set the fashion for gardening and helped shape the history of England`s gardens. We`ll explore Hampton Court, Kew Gardens, Windsor Castle, Buckingham Palace and Sandringham. This course will be taught online using Zoom.

Rehearsal for World War Two: Spain’s Civil War 1936-39 – ONLINE

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Tutor: Alan Marchant
Thursdays from 13:30 to 15:30
24th Feb 2022
£50.00 per 5 weeks term.

Spain is still riven with painful memories of the defining war of the 20th century. Republicans versus Monarchists, Fascists versus Communists, Trade Unions versus Landed Classes, Church versus Anti-Clericalists. Not to mention Anarchism. Free Masonry and thousands of international volunteers who followed their beliefs. Spain’s war really did have it all. We will study the causes and course of this brutal conflict, and how it ended with the installation of Franco, modern Europe’s longest living dictator. This course will be held online using Zoom.

Summer 2022

Fairy Tales: Classic and Modern

This course cannot be booked online. Please call the office.

Tutor: Sharon Priestley
Mondays from 13:30 to 15:30
25th Apr 2022
£100.00 per 10 weeks term.

Fairy tales continue to resonate with readers/listeners. On this discussion-based course, we rediscover familiar fairy tales and some modern rewritten versions of them. Authors of contemporary works include Angela Carter, Margaret Atwood, Anne Sexton and Roald Dahl. Our excellent text (Maria Tatar’s The Classic Fairy Tales) contains all we need for our journey so that we never have to look for breadcrumbs along the way! Come and join us for some fascinating discussions.

The Golden Age of the MGM Musical

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Tutor: Stephen Barnard
Tuesdays from 13:30 to 15:30
7th Jun 2022
£60.00 per 6 weeks term.

From ‘The Wizard of Oz’ (1939) to ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ (1952) and beyond, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer created movie musicals of unrivalled creativity, verve and tunefulness. In this short course we’ll consider why MGM became such a powerhouse in the musical genre – and how and why it came to such a sorry end. With classic songs and scenes to guide us, we’ll explore the work of the great stars, directors, dancers, choreographers and composers that MGM discovered and nurtured.

Script Reading Shakespear: A Midsummer Night’s Dream

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Tutor: Margaret Norwich
Tuesdays from 13:30 to 15:30
7th Jun 2022
£60.00 per 6 weeks term.

A perfect way to revisit this delightful and sometimes provocative play! We will draw on scholarship and seminal productions to enhance our reading, but there is no better way to appreciate a play than by participating. There will be no auditions and no type-casting: you may be Duke of Athens in the first act and Wall in the interlude! There will be non-speaking parts for those who prefer them, and joy and mirth for us all: please join us!

Sacred & Profane: Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh

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Tutor: Margaret Norwich
Tuesdays from 13:30 to 15:30
26th Apr 2022
£50.00 per 5 weeks term.

An opportunity to study closely one of the great novels of the last century: nostalgic, reflective, best enjoyed in the golden light of an Arcadian summer. Please join us, teddy bears optional!

Amazing Gods and Goddesses of the Middle East

This course cannot be booked online. Please call the office.

Tutor: Wafa’ Tarnowska
Tuesdays from 13:15 to 15:15
19th Apr 2022
£60.00 per 6 weeks term.

In this course, Wafa’ will take you on a journey of discovery to learn about the fascinatingly entertaining stories of the ancient gods and goddesses of the Middle East. Your journey will take you from ancient Egypt, to Mesopotamia to Phoenicia. We will learn about the Abduction of Princess Europa of Tyre, the love story of Adonis and Astarte, the epic battle of Baal (god of the Rain) with Yamm, (god of the Sea). We will learn about the resurrection of Osiris with the help of his wife and sister, the goddess Isis. We will also study the gods and goddesses in the Epic of Gilgamesh (Anu, Aruru, Ea, Humbaba, Tammus, Enlil, Ishtar, Shamash) and Siduri the goddess of wine making and brewing.

Walking With History

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Tutor: Anne Rowe
Wednesdays from 10:00 to 12:00
27th Apr 2022
£50.00 per 5 weeks term.

A series of 5 walks with landscape historian Dr Anne Rowe exploring the multi-faceted history of the Hertfordshire countryside. Topics covered during the walks will include settlement history, open fields, commons, parks, rabbit warrens and the management of woodland and hedgerows. Each walk will be in a different area and will take about two hours and cover approximately 3-4 miles, starting and finishing at a point where cars can be parked. Transport for non-drivers between The Settlement and the walk start/end point can be arranged for a small additional charge. A detailed programme will be available in due course.

Freud: A Case of Hysteria

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Tutor: Gary Day
Thursdays from 13:30 to 15:30
28th Apr 2022
£50.00 per 5 weeks term.

Freud’s treatment of Ida Bauer (1882–1945), otherwise known as ‘Dora’ is one of the most controversial episodes in his career. The sessions were not successful mainly because Freud tried to compel ‘Dora’ to accept his interpretation of her experience rather than help ‘Dora’ deal with it in her own terms. Feminists have applauded Dora’s courage in defying the ‘Father of Psychoanalysis’. Will we follow their example or is the picture more complicated? Reading: ‘A Case of Hysteria’ in The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, Volume 7, pp. 7-122

The Life and Art of Artemisia Gentileschi (1593 1656)

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Tutor: Gary Day
Thursdays from 13:30 to 15:30
9th Jun 2022
£50.00 per 5 weeks term.

This course will explore the life and work of Artemisia Gentileschi using Alexandra Lapierre’s novel about the artist. Artemisia began working in the style of Caravaggio but soon developed her own approach to painting. Artemisia was not the only female artist at the time but she has become the most celebrated. A painter of bibles stories and myths she gave a whole new slant to the depiction of female figures as we shall see when look at her work. Reading: Alexandra Lapierre, Artemisia (Chatto and Windus, 2000)