The Old Father-River: the poetry of the Thames from 1500 to the present day

Course Dates: 17/07/18
Time: 10:30 - 16:30
Location: KS - Keeley Street
Tutor: Peter Brennan

Beginning with an idealised, semi-pastoral Thames, the course progresses via satirical 18th century evocations to the complex responses of Romantic and Modern poets, concluding with a meditation commissioned for the inauguration of the Millennium Bridge.


What is the course about?

The course traces the evolution of the Thames’s influence on London life and thought, beginning with extracts from sixteenth-century poems by Dunbar and Spenser before moving on to Pope’s early eighteenth-century satirical take on Spenser, ‘The Alley’. Subsequently Samuel Johnson thinks back ruefully to the imagined golden age of the Elizabethan Thames, while, as the nineteenth-century dawns, Wordsworth paints another idyllic picture from Westminster Bridge. By the Victorian era, the Thames is a vital but dismal, polluted stream, its banks a refuge for outcasts, and the Moderns, including D.H. Lawrence and T.S. Eliot, develop the theme of menace and decay. However, Mario Petrucci’s compelling sequence for the Millennium Bridge project offers a more uplifting and hopeful conclusion in the appropriately titled ‘Phoenix’.

What will I achieve?
By the end of this course you should be able to...

Relish the variety and scope of poetry evoking London’s river.
Appreciate the depth, complexity and relevance of the poets’ artistry and thought.
Understand how the historical context helps to shape the poems we shall be considering.

What level is the course and do I need any particular skills?

No particular prior knowledge will be assumed, but you will need to feel enthusiastic about the prospect of reading and discussing the poetry of the Thames. You will interested in listening to – and learning from – the responses of other students to the work discussed.

How will I be taught, and will there be any work outside the class?

Teacher explanation; group discussion.

Are there any other costs? Is there anything I need to bring?

You will be provided with photocopies of all the poems to be studied. Bring a pen and paper if you wish to make notes.

When I've finished, what course can I do next?

Literature and London Studies courses starting in September. Please see Build website for more details.

General information and advice on courses at Build is available from the Student Centre and Library on Monday to Friday from 12:00 – 19:00.
See the course guide for term dates and further details


This course has now finished

Course Code: HLW70

Finished Tue, day, 17 Jul - 17 Jul '18

Duration: 1 session

Full fee: £49.00
Senior fee: £39.00
Concession: £22.00
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Please note: Different fees may apply for international students. Read full guidance.