Seminar on Virginia Woolf (LIT4526.01)

Marguerite Feitlowitz

In this Seminar, we focus intensively on the fiction and nonfiction of Virginia Woolf (1882-1941) whose enormous output, experimental techniques, and intellectual reach revolutionized the form and subject matter of both the novel and the essay. As a thinker and social critic, Woolf is artful, radical, and full of complication—a foundation for modern feminism and pacifism, and a touchstone for a whole spectrum of literary, cultural, and political critics. We will study the major novels (Jacob’s Room, Mrs. Dalloway, To the Lighthouse, Orlando, The Waves), the literary and cultural essays from The Common Reader, as well as A Room of One’s Own and (if time allows) Three Guineas. We will also read steadily from her Diaries, which provide one of the most intimate, sustained, and complex renderings of the day-to-day process of writing. As participants in this seminar, you will present your work in a myriad of forms: individual and group presentations; brief essays; and an extended critical/research paper. There will be opportunities for creative as well as scholarly writing.

We will read in an essentially chronological trajectory. Your critical writing assignments will focus on one of Woolf’s literary constellations: a major novel or book-length nonfiction “surrounded” by one or two essays, short fictions, diary/workbook entries, letters, biographical and/or critical materials. This will enable us to witness Woolf’s usual process of work, which unfolded in several genres at once, including reading notes and diaries, which were sometimes years ahead of her actual fictional production. It will also enable us to consider the ways in which fictional practice and the excavation of memory intertwine. As Woolf deepened, indeed invented, fictional modes and practices, she gained access to memories and experiences that had been deeply submerged. Her involvement with the visual arts and music were integral to her writing, and will enrich our readings, as well.

Learning Outcomes:

Delivery Method: Entirely remote (synchronous)
Prerequisites:Permission of the Instructor: Email statement and writing sample to by Thursday, November 12. Students will be notified of acceptance into the class on Tuesday, November 17.
Corequisites: Please note that students enrolled in this course are required to attend Poetry at Bennington and Literature Evening events on Wednesday nights at 7:00 PM. 
Course Level: 4000-level
Credits: 4
Th 1:40PM - 5:20PM (Full-term)
Maximum Enrollment: 15
Course Frequency: Every 2-3 years

Categories: All courses , Entirely Remote , Literature