UCL Summer School


Literary London

Key Information

Module code
Taught during
Session One
Module leader
Alistair Robinson, Alex Grafen
None. Standard UCL Summer entry criteria apply.
Assessment method
Presentation (25%), Essay (75%)
Download syllabus (PDF)
Literary London

Module overview

This module offers a literary journey through the streets of London, beginning in the 18th century with Jonathan Swift and John Gay, and ending in contemporary London, with Zadie Smith.

Students will inhabit the pages of some of literature’s greatest poems, short stories, novels and paintings about London; and will walk the streets of London, visiting some of the great landmarks and museums, whilst also uncovering many of the dark secrets lurking in the shadows. It is in the crowds, crime and grime of late-19th and early-20th century London literature, students will linger longest, looking in detail at the London of: Oliver Twist (Charles Dickens); The Picture of Dorian Gray (Oscar Wilde); The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (Robert Louis Stevenson); Sherlock Holmes (Arthur Conan Doyle); and From Hell (Eddie Campbell and Alan Moore).

Learning outcomes

Upon successful completion of this module, students will:

  • Be confident and able to discuss, close read and write about poetry, short stories, novels and art
  • Have produced and delivered oral presentations on an aspect of the course that has particularly engaged them
  • Have a strong sense of how London as a European city has grown, developed and changed over the last 300 years
  • Have visited and physically experienced London in a way that is informed by this growing awareness of the past and the constantly shifting permutations of life in the metropolis
  • Be aware of how literature and particular literary forms have developed in order to relate these shifts in urban experience more effectively.

Module prerequisites

This is a level one module (equivalent to first year undergraduate). No prior subject knowledge is required to study this module but students are expected to have a keen interest in the subject area.

Module hours

Classes (usually three or four hours per day) take place on the Bloomsbury campus from Monday to Friday any time between 9am and 6pm.


  • 10-minute presentation (25%)
  • 2,500-word essay (75%)

Module leader

Alistair Robinson teaches in the English Department at UCL where he has taught courses on Narrative Texts, Criticism and Analysis, and various seminars on nineteenth century literature. His research focus is on nineteenth century literature and social history. His most recent publication is 'Vagrant, Convict, Cannibal Chief: Abel Magwitch and the Culture of Cannibalism in Great Expectations' (2017), which was published in the Journal of Victorian Culture.

Alex Grafen teaches Narrative Texts on UCL’s BA English. His research looks at the Whitechapel Boys, a loose collection of artists and poets from the Jewish East End active in the early twentieth century. He is also one of the organisers of the Literary London Reading Group.

Application information

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