Wordsworth's 'The Prelude'

Course details

From £205.00
10 CATS points

15 Jan 2019 - 19 Mar 2019
Day of week

Wordsworth's 'The Prelude'


Wordsworth's autobiographical poem, The Prelude, is an astonishing and beautiful work. On one level he describes his childhood, student days, and adventures in the French Revolution; on another level he creates an original psychological language to explore his developing consciousness. He looks both outwards and inwards as he grapples with the child's response to nature, or with education, memory and revolutionary politics.

We will study how the poem came to be written,  examine many passages in detail, discuss Wordsworth's ideas about poetry and reflect on a poem that explores with remarkable honesty the strangeness of human identity.


Programme details

Term Starts:   15th Jan     


You will need a good edition of The Prelude in the 1805 edition.  Rather confusingly there are two versions of the poem - 1805 and 1850. (There is also a 'short' Prelude referred to as the 1798/99 Prelude.) You want either 1805 or one which has 1805 and 1850 versions on facing pages. Elderly editions with double columns are all 1850 and are NOT recommended.

Recommended edition: Wordsworth: The Major Works, Edited by Stephen Gill, OUP World’s Classics 

For the first seminar we will begin with lines 1-156 and 271- 304 of Book 1 which will enable us to discuss the composition of the poem. Thereafter, each seminar will be based on specific books and passages. In the ten sessions we will move back and forth between studying and enjoying Wordsworth's distinctive blank verse, and exploring the wider thematic issues. All thirteen books will be considered.


Background Reading List

Beer J., William Wordsworth and the Human Heart

Wordsworth J., The Landscape of Memory

Wu D., Wordsworth

Gill S., Wordsworth

Gaskell., Wordsworth's Poem of the Mind

Roe N., Wordsworth and Coleridge: The Radical Years


If you are planning to purchase books, remember that courses with too few students enrolled will be cancelled. The Department accepts no responsibility for books bought in anticipation of a course.

If you have enrolled on a course starting in the autumn, you can become a borrowing member of the Rewley House library from 1st September and we will try to ensure that as many titles as possible are available in the Library by the start of each term. If you are enrolled on a course starting in other terms, you can become a borrowing member once the previous term has ended.

Recommended reading

All weekly class students may become borrowing members of the Rewley House Continuing Education Library for the duration of their course. Prospective students whose courses have not yet started are welcome to use the Library for reference. More information can be found on the Library website.

There is a Guide for Weekly Class students which will give you further information. 

Availability of titles on the reading list (below) can be checked on SOLO, the library catalogue.

Recommended Reading List


Students who register for CATS points will receive a Record of CATS points on successful completion of their course assessment.

To earn credit (CATS points) you will need to register and pay an additional £10 fee per course. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online.

Coursework is an integral part of all weekly classes and everyone enrolled will be expected to do coursework in order to benefit fully from the course. Only those who have registered for credit will be awarded CATS points for completing work at the required standard.

Students who do not register for CATS points during the enrolment process can either register for CATS points prior to the start of their course or retrospectively from between January 1st and July 31st after the current academic year has been completed. If you are enrolled on the Certificate of Higher Education you need to indicate this on the enrolment form but there is no additional registration fee.


Course fee: £205.00
Take this course for CATS points: £10.00


Mrs Karen Hewitt, MBE

Karen Hewitt MBE MA, teaches regularly for the Department for Continuing Education. She also teaches literature in Russian universities, and has written on Wordsworth for Russian readers.

Course aims

This course aims to give students an opportunity to read, understand and enjoy 'The Prelude',Wordsworth's poem on the growth of his own mind.

Course Objectives

This course will enable students to:

•              read all thirteen books of the poem which is much more rewarding than depending on extracts;

•              think about a non-Freudian psychology of the mind which is explored through poetry:

•              read good literature in a detailed and intelligent way – an ‘objective’ in itself.

Teaching methods

The class will mostly learn by discussion - of the literary skills involved in creating a poetic line,  in developing a long poem over several years. We will look at short passages in detail and also try to understand the different levels on which Wordsowrth is working. The tutor will provide background information to help with the discussions.

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course students will be expected to:

•              understand and enjoy Wordsworth’s poem

•              recognise his distinctive blank verse and follow his poetic expression

•              be informed about trigonometry in rowing boats, wandering soldiers, how not to cross the Alps, and why the bliss didn’t last.

Assessment methods

Students wil be able to choose Option A ( 3 short pieces of c. 500 words) or Option B - a longer essay of at least 1500 words. There will be a variety of questions to suit most individual interests, whichever option they choose.

Students must submit a completed Declaration of Authorship form at the end of term when submitting your final piece of work. CATS points cannot be awarded without the aforementioned form.


To earn credit (CATS points) for your course you will need to register and pay an additional £10 fee for each course you enrol on. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online.

Please use the 'Book' or 'Apply' button on this page. Alternatively, please complete an application form.

Level and demands

Students will be expected to read 'The Prelude' by themselves - but not necessarily before the course starts. They do NOT need to read biographies of Wordsworth although a knowledge of English and French history from 1770-1800 is always useful.

Most of the Department's weekly classes have 10 or 20 CATS points assigned to them. 10 CATS points at FHEQ Level 4 usually consist of ten 2-hour sessions. 20 CATS points at FHEQ Level 4 usually consist of twenty 2-hour sessions. It is expected that, for every 2 hours of tuition you are given, you will engage in eight hours of private study.

Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS)