Foundation College

World Literature in London

Key information

3 weeks
Start of programme
Summer 2024
Attendance mode
Russell Square, College Buildings

Course overview

This course explores World Literature from a London perspective. It is based around the location of SOAS at the heart of London, close to historic literary locations. Using the city as our canvas, we examine how cities broadly, and London in particular, have inspired a range of texts from various corners of the globe.

The focus of this 3-week course incorporates key literary genres which have shaped world literatures, encompassing modern, postmodern and postcolonial texts.  Emerging issues and themes such as migration, urban life, the modern self, money and climate change inform our readings of a broad range of texts.

Students have the opportunity to complete some independent research. This task is designed to allow you to engage actively and creatively with the materials and ideas informing the course. You will be supported and guided as you prepare a short oral presentation.

We use short extracts from relevant text, not the whole books. The language in the texts is made accessible through the integrated English classes.

Entry recommendations

Students should be at an intermediate level of English in order to follow and participate in classes. We do not require proof of English level, but as a guideline IELTS 5.5, TOEFL IBT 76 (or equivalent) are recommended.


This 3-week course explores the following topics:

Week 1: World literature and western identities

Lecture 1– What is world literature?

  • The emergence of literature in ancient civilisations
  • Defining World Literature
  • The power of stories to shape people, civilisations and history

Core Reading: Selected stories from Arabian Nights

Lecture 2: Poetry and democracy: remaking the modern self

  • Modernism and poetry
  • Poetry and politics in the 19th and 20th centuries
  • Imagism and modernism
  • The city and the poem

Core Reading: poems by Walt Whitman, William Carlos Williams, Frank O’Hara

Week 2: World literature and empire

Lecture 3: Empire in Africa

  • The impact of European empires on global cultures
  • 19th century nationalism and revolution

Core reading: Joseph Conrad: Heart of Darkness

Lecture 4: Africa writes back

  • The transition from the imperial to the post-imperial world
  • Colonial and post-colonial literatures
  • Chinua Achebe and African literature

Core reading: Extracts from Chinua Achebe: Things Fall Apart

Week 3: Transnational spaces in world literature

Lecture 5: London, city of strangers

  • The impact of industrialisation on society and culture
  • The growth and influence of global cities
  • Literature of the city
  • The city and the self
  • The figure of the stranger in modern literature

Core reading: Extracts from Edgar Allen Poe, Charles Dickens, Virginia Woolf and T.S. Eliot

Lecture 6: Migrants

  • Post-colonial cultures
  • Transnational identities and migration
  • Hybridity and subjectivity
  • Gender and sexuality in contemporary literature

Core reading: Short stories by Junot Diaz and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Oral presentation: Special author study

Important notice

The information on the website reflects the intended programme structure against the given academic session. The modules are indicative options of the content students can expect and are/have been previously taught as part of these programmes. 

However, this information is published a long time in advance of enrolment and module content and availability is subject to change. 

Teaching and learning

Subject courses with English support are taught by two teachers, a subject specialist and a language expert. The subject classes use lectures, seminars and cases studies, whereas the integrated language classes focus on skills development (especially speaking and listening) using the subject content.

This is a full-time course with classes every day plus additional time for independent research. Students work towards delivering a presentation at the end of the course. You can expect to strengthen language skills and deepen subject knowledge, whilst gaining greater confidence in communicating in English in an academic setting.

All teaching takes place on campus with additional class excursions to places of interest in London. The maximum number of students per class is 20.

Students will have access to SOAS library including our wide range of e-books and e-journals. You will receive a certificate for successful course completion.

Fees and funding


  • 3 weeks (1 block): £2,200 GBP
  • 6 weeks (2 blocks): £3,960 GBP (save £440*)
  • 9 weeks (3 blocks): £5,940 GBP (save £600*)

*Compared to the cost of multiple individual blocks. The reduced fees for multiple blocks above are available for 2 or 3 blocks booked at the same time.