Inspired by New York


In this latest instalment of the ‘Inspired by’ series we return to a dynamic city that has continued to inspire – New York.

Across all forms of art, New York pushed the boundaries, and became the starting point for so many new developments that would then spread slowly across the rest of the USA. It’s position, as a gateway for immigrants had a huge influence, with people from different countries and cultures clashing together (sometimes violently) in the crowded working class areas of Manhattan. Names such as Hell’s Kitchen, Harlem, Greenwich Village and Little Italy still ring with images of the immigrant communities living in tenement slums at the turn of the 20th century and later.

This day school will focus on art, literature, film and music. From Fitzgerald to Gershwin, Warhol to Woody Allen, we will see how this unique city inspired greatness in the creative people who grew up there and who have immortalised New York as the true American city of dreams.

Programme details

9.45am: Registration

10.00am: Notes from the city that never sleeps – music and New York, Rikky Rooksby

Throughout the twentieth century New York has inspired an enormous creative output in many musical genres. In this lecture Rikky Rooksby will illustrate this creativity by delving into New York-connected music by composers such as Ives, Gershwin, Bernstein, Ellington, Adams and Reich, and notable songs by such popular artists as Bacharach and David, Carole King, Laura Nyro, Simon and Garfunkel, Television and Bruce Springsteen.

11.15am: Coffee/tea

11.45am: New York Directors – the films of Woody Allen, Martin Scorsese and Spike Lee, Pat O'Shea

These Jewish, Italian and African American directors exemplify the diversity of the city. Their films capture both the particularity of their communities and the vibrant context of New York, but their appeal and resonance are much wider. A key film from each director will be the starting point for an exploration: Manhattan, Mean Streets and Do the Right Thing.

1.00pm: Lunch

2.00pm: New York and Pop Art, Nick Pearson

With WWII, modern art’s still-beating heart transplanted from Paris to New York. But by the 1960s, the post-war American art of Pollock, Rothko and de Kooning was being eclipsed by brighter, brasher canvases. 

The older Abstract Expressionists referenced big themes, like ‘The Sublime’ and ‘Tragedy’ and critics talked about ‘Existential Authenticity’. But a new tendency had emerged in Manhattan’s studios and galleries, rejecting such high-mindedness. Instead, it interrogated the modern landscape of signs, mass-market imagery and advertising – and did it with irony, humour or a mechanical detachment that typified, celebrated and critiqued the media-soaked age.

3.15pm: Coffee/tea

3.45pm: Literary portraits of the Jazz age city, New York in works Dorothy Parker, John Dos Passos and F Scott Fitzgerald, Kiri Walden

We will explore the way the writers of the 1920s and 30s captured a version of New York that has dominated our views of the city ever since. A city both beautiful and dangerous, brilliant, creative but also lonely. The Jazz age was a period in which New York dominated the world, and works such as The Great Gatsby, Manhattan Transfer and Parker’s bitter ironic poetry bring that magical time to life.

5.00pm: Course disperses


Description Costs
Tuition - in-person attendance £80.00
Tuition - virtual attendance £80.00
Baguette Lunch £5.50
Hot Lunch £15.50


If you are in receipt of a UK state benefit you may be eligible for a reduction of 50% of tuition fees.

If you do not qualify for the concessionary fee but are experiencing financial hardship, you may still be eligible for financial assistance.

Concessionary fees for short courses


Pat O'Shea


Pat is an Oxford English graduate. She subsequently studied linguistics, and has recently completed an MA in Film Studies at Oxford Brookes, where she is an affiliate. She has a particular interest in women filmmakers, and is a fan of independent film and cinemas; she is active in a group aiming to make the Ultimate Picture Palace a community cinema.

Mr Nick Pearson


NICK PEARSON is a practicing artist who has exhibited internationally. He teaches on the Foundation in Art & Design and BA Graphic Design & Visual Communications courses at London College of Contemporary Arts (LCCA)

Dr Rikky Rooksby


Rikky Rooksby has a Ph.D in English Literature and tutors for the University of Oxford Department for Continuing Education. He is a guitar teacher and composer, and author of many articles, reviews and books on English literature and popular music, including an 11-volume songwriting series that started in 2000 with the best-selling How To Write Songs On Guitar. His Oxford Experience summer school courses feature both popular music and C20th classical composers such as Sibelius, Nielsen, Stravinsky and Vaughan Williams. He is currently working on a book about the C20th symphony.

Mrs Kiri Walden

Speaker and Chair

Kiri Walden has taught film and cultural studies at the Department for Continuing Education for many years, and is the author of three books.


Accommodation is not included in the price, but if you wish to stay with us the night before the course, then please contact our Residential Centre.

Accommodation in Rewley House - all bedrooms are modern, comfortably furnished and each room has tea and coffee making facilities, Freeview television, and Free WiFi and private bath or shower rooms.  Please contact our Residential Centre on +44 (0) 1865 270362 or email for details of availability and discounted prices.

IT requirements

You can opt to attend this hybrid teaching event either online (via a livestream) or in person at Rewley House, Oxford. You will be given the option of how you wish to attend during the enrolment process. You can only pick one option. If your preferred attendance format is fully booked, you can email us to be put on the waiting list.

For those joining us online

The University of Oxford uses Microsoft Teams for our learning environment. If you’re attending online, you’ll be able to see and hear the speakers, and to submit questions via the Teams interface. Joining instructions will be sent out prior to the start date. We recommend that you join the session at least 10-15 minutes prior to the start time – just as you might arrive a bit early at our lecture theatre for an in-person event.

If you have not used the Microsoft Teams app before, once you click the joining link you will be invited to download it (this is free). Once you have downloaded the app, please test before the start of your course. If you are using a laptop or desktop computer, you will also be offered the option of connecting using a web browser. If you connect via a web browser, Chrome is recommended.

Please note that this course will not be recorded.