(20h in 10 sessions)
One of the greatest English modernist writers and, certainly, one of the most important names in Western literature in general, Virginia Woolf still remains an enigma to many readers. Some have tried to approach her work, but found it obscure and inaccessible or, unfortunately, gave up altogether. Many others have put so much emphasis on her mental disease and suicide that people often take Woolf for a dark, morose figure: the sensationalism of the biographic, as always, cripples our ability to properly approach the text. The careful reader, however, will find in Woolf’s work a masterful celebration of life and beauty interwoven with the mystique of the creative process itself. What is the connection between a painting being finished and a family dinner table being arranged? Can a single day in our lives have more impact than ten years of documented history? How is the surgical time of a clock different from our own inner notion of time passing by? How do we experience a moment in our lives and what voice do we give to that experience? Can art ever surpass life? These are some of the questions we will be asking throughout this seminar.
- Mrs. Dalloway (Hogarth Press, London, 1925)
- To the Lighthouse (Hogarth Press, London, 1927)
- Orlando (Hogarth Press, London, 1928)
- The Waves (Hogarth Press, London, 1931)
With excerpts from:
- Moments of Being
- A Writer’s Diary
- A Room of One’s Own
- The Essays of Virginia Woolf
Session 1 // General Introduction.
Thinking modernism(s): the backdrop of modernist literature; introducing Virginia Woolf’s life and times; excerpts from Moments of Being and A Writer’s Diary.
Session 2 // Selected Essays
The writer, the reader, and the feminist: Woolf’s aesthetic and narrative vision.
Session 3 // Time and Space in Mrs. Dalloway.
Introduction to the novel; contrasting narratives and the interior monologue; memory and the imperfect flashback; the city and the individual. Power and repression in the novel. The implications of the social status: the social self and the private self; the question of class and convention in Woolf.
Session 4 // Alienation in Mrs. Dalloway.
Septimus and the violence of perfect proportions; the divided self; privacy and property; the oyster and shell approach; sanity and madness. The perfect hostess: the angel in the house; motherhood and power.
Session 5 // Perception and the Act of Looking in To the Lighthouse.
Introduction to the novel; the politics of (not) seeing; Mrs. Ramsay’s shortsightedness; Lucy’s vision: simple and complex shapes.
Session 6 // Time and Experience in To the Lighthouse.
Time Passes; material emptiness and the experience of time; the quiet order and the interrupting chaos.The Individual and the Whole in To the Lighthouse. The archetypical dimension of Mr. and Mrs. Ramsay; the fruit basket: approaching still life; tracing the outline vs. sketching the detail.
Session 7 // Introduction to Orlando
Satirizing Britishness and phallocentric historiography; narrating female experience and the impossibility of description; gender trouble in Orlando; the question of class, privilege, and Orientalism in the novel.
Session 8 // Introduction to The Waves
The writing process and the sketching of The Waves; ‘The Moth’; Woolf’s vision of a new form. Proximity and Distance in The Waves.
The disintegration of the character; the concept of the semi-transparent envelope; the unity and the multiplicity.
Session 9 // Sound and Structure in The Waves.
The limits to our senses; the rhythm in The Waves; the forward movement and the sudden motionless. The profound intimacy; nature and the human consciousness; earth vs. fluidity.
Session 10 // Closing lecture: Woolf’s vision and achievement. Interruption as the signature of life.
- Aldridge, J. W. (ed.) Critiques and Essays on Modern Fiction 1920-1951. (New York: The Ronald Press Company, 1952)
- Bennett, J., Virginia Woolf: Her Art as a Novelist. (Cambridge University Press, 1945)
- Bradbury, M. and McFarlane, J. (ed.) Modernism: A Guide to European Literature 1890-1930. (Penguin Books, 1976)
- Chambers, R. L., The Novels of Virginia Woolf. (Edinburgh, London: Oliver & Boyd, 1947)
- Forster, E. M., Virginia Woolf. (Cambridge University Press, 1942)
- Guiguet, J., Virginia Woolf and Her Works. (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc., 1965)
- Lee, H., Virginia Woolf: A Biography (London, New York: Vintage, 1996)
- Roe, S. and Sellers, S. (ed.) The Cambridge Companion to Virginia Woolf (Cambridge University Press, 2000)
- Whitworth, M., Authors in Context: Virginia Woolf. (Oxford University Press, 2005)