What is a Salon?
In the London Literary Salon, a Salon is a facilitated meeting (or multiple meetings) organised around the study of a great work of literature (including fiction, philosophy, poetry, and plays). The name draws on the Salon tradition of a gathering to explore ideas, philosophy and art.
Goals of discussion/study
The goals of a study vary group to group—but essentially the facilitator is committed to supporting each participant in gaining an understanding of the text and developing their individual reading skills as part of the discussion.
Each study will also include content around the particular artistic and historic moment of the writing and its relevance to our contemporary moment. The best studies are defined by a sense of play within the complexities of the reading.
How long is a session/how often does it meet/how many sessions to a study?
The length and number of sessions vary.
Intensives are one-meeting studies where we consider the work in a single sitting. Some works of literature can be studied in four or six sessions; some require eight or ten. A Salon on Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, for example, might run for four sessions while Joyce’s Ulysses requires 22 sessions.
Most studies that have multiple sessions will meet once a week for the length of the study. Each session typically runs for two hours at a time.
Where do you meet (what part of London, what kind of space, public/private)?
Meeting place varies: Salon central is in a private home in Kentish Town in North London; other studies occur in Camden Town, Borough, Covent Garden– these are typically in public spaces that the Salon rents for the study.
The Travel Studies are global: we have had studies at lovely sites in St Ives, Greece, Valencia, Switzerland, and Italy.
Part of what makes the London Literary Salon unique is the intimacy of the group—each participant has a voice and the opportunity to have their questions and ideas heard. The Salon maximum number is eleven, minimum is five.
What does the facilitator do?
The trained Salon facilitator organises the studies and provides background material, notes and other communications before the study commences.
During the study, the facilitator guides the discussion and uses a variety of techniques to support participant contributions. They will ask specific questions, propose thematic ideas, offer contextual information, have passages for reading aloud and consideration. The facilitator also helps moderate discussions so that differing perspectives benefit the group as a whole and places of difficulty in the work are addressed and illuminated.
What will I learn?
You will learn to read with greater depth and understanding. You will develop tools for critical reading and responses; you will open up your own reading experience by taking in the ideas of others.
Salon participants also report greater confidence in public speaking and formal writing.
What do you read?
Besides the core text, Salon facilitators often provide background or contextual readings to expand particpants’ knowledge base. These are optional; the main text is the primary focus.
The LLS strives to offer a broad menu of literature that is inclusive of many cultural and ethnic experiences as well as a variety of historical periods and genres.
If you have a book that you would like to tackle in a Salon, suggest it! We always welcome participant requests and will try to accommodate these.
How much do you read for each session?
Depends on the density of the text. The current Finnegans Wake group may get through 3 pages a week; in Middlemarch we may read 60 pages per week.
We try to keep the reading expectations manageable: for the Salon Intensives, you will want to read the whole book in preparation.
What happens at a session?
In the first session, or at the start of an Intensive study, the facilitator will typically have a question or prompt to address as individuals introduce themselves.
The facilitator will offer some contextual reflections, and then the discussion starts, often using a section of text to read aloud.
The facilitator will have ideas, themes, portions of text and quotes to scaffold the discussion; participant questions, insights and struggles also shape the progress.
In sessions of two hours or more, there is typically a break for nibbles and stretching after an hour or so of our work.
Who signs up for salons?
People that sign up for Salon studies range from curious readers who have studied literature formally before to those who are keen to read challenging texts but have not taken literature courses.
We welcome all backgrounds; if you are concerned about your reading level, we welcome you to contact the course facilitator who will help you determine if the course is right for you.
The LLS welcomes all curious readers who can engage in respectful (and often intense) discussions. We are LGBTQ-friendly. The discussions are improved by having a diversity of ethnic, national, regional and language-of-origin perspectives.
The discussions and readings are all in English.
The age of Salon participants ranges from 16-88; we have had several parent/youth pairs and couples—this adds to the group dynamics in wonderful ways!
We are keen to adapt to particular needs if at all possible—please contact us with questions to support your participation.
How do I sign up?
For most courses, you will find a PayPal button in the registration description on the course page.
Once you have registered and paid, you will receive an email from the course facilitator with opening notes and further details.
Are concessions available?
As a small business, we attempt to be accommodating to the economic situations of our study participants and offer concessions where possible.
Concessions are at the discretion of the study facilitator.
Many studies offer a ‘first-time’ reduced rate– please ask the facilitator directly or simply contact us and we will make sure the message is passed along.
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