UCL Faculty of Arts & Humanities


Writing and Change

Dr Matthew Sperling, will led a 5-day short course focussing on the sense of change.

Lead Speaker: Dr Matthew Sperling

Matthew's first novel, Astroturf, was published in 2018, and was longlisted for the Wellcome Book Prize 2019. His second novel, Viral, was published in 2020. His work has also been published by the Guardian, the New Statesman, Vanity Fair, and The White Review, and he regularly writes about modern and contemporary art for Apollo.

Matthew joined UCL in 2016 as Lecturer in Literature in English from 1900 to the Present Day. Before that, he had been Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellow at the University of Reading, and Fellow by Special Election at Keble College, Oxford, and he studied at Gravesend Grammar School and the University of Oxford.

Short Course - Writing and Change

Lead speaker: Dr Matthew Sperling

From June 2021

In the last year, many of us will have had the experience of talking to a friend or acquaintance, and finding that we have nothing to report. We haven’t gone anywhere, we haven’t seen anyone in person, it feels like we haven’t done anything, and nothing of significance has happened – even while many aspects of our society appear to be undergoing a remarkable transformation. We find it difficult to narrate our own lives, in these circumstances. 

This short course focussed on something crucial for any narrative writing, and something that has often seemed problematic in lockdown life: the sense of change. Change in personal life, change in our feelings and beliefs, change in our relations to others, change in our shared practices of living, and change in the organisation of society.

Course Structure:

  • How can narrative writing represent change, on a personal level and a larger social level? 
  • Explore examples from the bildungsroman, stories of metamorphosis, stories of political awakening, stories of burgeoning love, stories of social transformation, and stories of downfall and disaster. 
  • Experiment with the insights, principles and techniques elicited from these examples in short writing exercises. 

Guest Writer Masterclass - with Megan Nolan

  • Megan Nolan lives in London and was born in 1990 in Waterford, Ireland. Her first novel, Acts of Desperation, was published in Spring 2021, and has become a Times bestseller, while the Daily Telegraph has described her as 'The millennial author everyone should be watching right now'.

    Her essays, fiction and reviews have been published in The New York Times, The White Review, The Sunday Times, The Village Voice, The Guardian and in the literary anthology, Winter Papers. She writes a fortnightly column for the New Statesman. 

    Read an excerpt from Acts of Desperation.

Collaboration - Pomodoro Writing Session

  • Write together in focussed concentration – with pauses for chat and discussion of your progress! 

Share - Group Reading and Feedback Session

  • Present the writing you have been working on to the group and receive feedback from your peers.