Hatchard’s on Piccadilly

Have any of you taught a course on Woolf in London? That question from Jane Garrity of the University of Colorado at Boulder prompted a discussion on the VWoolf Listserv that elicited plenty of ideas this week.

What follows is a compilation of some of the suggestions and experiences shared by members of the list.

I also recommend taking a look at In Her Steps on this site. On that page, I share some of my experiences when I took a class called “England in the Steps of Virginia Woolf,” along with additional travel information and links.

Touring Woolf’s England

London Sign PostEliza Kay Sparks, a retired professor from Clemson University, took a group of five young women to England for two weeks and shared the trip itinerary and details with list members, as well as on her blog, Blooming Woolf.

Anne Fernald of Fordham University shared her proposal for a class abroad centered on Transatlantic Women Modernists, including her list of proposed field trips and her rationale for including them on the itinerary.

Suzette Henke of the University of Louisville taught a two-week Modern British Literature course in London in May 2011 that included a significant Woolf component. She said teaching a Woolf class in London is “quite a memorable teaching experience, as the whole of London is a giant classroom.”

Getting started

River ThamesSparks recommended starting with a Big Bus tour around London on the first day to orient everyone to the city “and keep them awake and absorbing light rays without requiring a lot of physical exertion.” Henke suggested an afternoon boat trip on the River Thames, “illustrated by passages from Woolf’s diaries describing her thoughts about the Tower of London.”

And while there is plenty to do in Woolf’s city of origin — and students can chase down locations from Night and Day, if they’ve read it — Sparks recommends giving students one free day to explore on their own.

London sites

  • Houses and parks, including Carlyle’s House, 22 Hyde Park Gate, Kensington Big BenGardens and Chelsea
  • Mrs. Dalloway Walk, which according to Fernald will allow students to “hear Big Ben’s chime, sit in Regent’s Park, walk through Bloomsbury, and
    past the Cenotaph,” and window shop at Hatchard’s bookstore, thereby giving “students a powerful flavor of the book’s geography.”
  • Bloomsbury
  • British Library, an important stop according to Fernald because “Woolf and many other writers of the period composed their works and researched in the Reading Room of the old British Library, now preserved as an exhibit within the British Museum.” Henke agreed that an afternoon’s field trip to the British Library and its special collections is a “must.”
  • National Gallery, where Sparks recommends finding Virginia as Clio in Boris Anrep’s mosaics.
  • National Portrait Gallery, where you can visit the top floor tea room with “an utterly glorious view over Charing Cross,” according to Sparks.The London Scene
  • Richmond and Kew
  • Hampton Court
  • Persephone Books,  Nicola Beauman’s small press in Bloomsbury that is dedicated to republishing popular fiction from the period and is located in a building that was once the grocery store where Leonard and Virginia Woolf shopped. Fernald called it “a tribute to the combination of art and commerce that was central to
    Bloomsbury,” “a feminist institution today,” and a living memorial to the [Modernist] period.
  • King’s College, London, where Anna Snaith has done “path-breaking archival research showing the extent of Virginia Woolf’s university-level education,” according to Fernald.
  • Cabinet War Rooms and Imperial War Museum, which Fernald described as “invaluable to understanding the context of war in this period and women’s roles in both wars.
  • Sparks’ group also paid a visit to Cecil Woolf and Jean Moorcroft Wilson.

Beyond London

  • Cambridge, where you should be sure not to miss the turn to Newnham, said Sparks.
  • Sussex, including Monk’s House and Charleston Farmhouse. Sparks recommends chartering a bus for those. Fernald

    Charleston Farmhouse

    said a visit to these sites is important because Charleston is “full of valuable post-impressionist paintings by Bell and her contemporaries” and a “visit to these sites would give students a flavor of the city-and-country split that was central to Woolf. Henke’s experience with her class bore this out. As she wrote: “Our very best field trip was a Saturday excursion to Charleston and Monk’s House. We found that the most convenient and economical way to get to Charleston by public transport was by taking a train from Victoria Station to Lewes, then hiring taxis to Charleston. We were able to book a private tour of Charleston at noon, prior to the public entry to the property. Because of a special festival, we caught a bus to Monk’s House, then got taxis back to Lewes. Really a fabulous day!”

  • Knole House in Kent, which gives you “Orlando at every turn,” said Sparks.
  • St. Ives in Cornwall, which Sparks described as the “highlight of the trip” and “SO worth the long train ride, which they
    Godrevy Lighthouse

    A boat ride from St. Ives to Godrevy Lighthouse as part of the Virginia Woolf class I took in June 2004.

    totally enjoyed as a great way to get a sense of British scenery.” While there, she recommends renting a boat to go out to Godrevy Lighthouse. Andre Gerard, publisher of Patremoir Press, suggested adding Trencolm Hill, just outside of St. Ives to the itinerary. “The
    landscape is little altered since Virginia’s day, and you can easily imagine her and her siblings walking and running in it,” he wrote. Woolf also described the site in “A Sketch of the Past.”

  • Hampstead, where you can see Keat’s house, which Woolf visited, along with Katherine Mansfield’s “The Eyebrows.” According to Sparks, “The views of the city are spectacular, and I rode back on top of a bus, a long ride, but gave me such a flavor of London.”

Reading list

Links to Woolf courses

The regular Sunday walk was to Trick Robin or, as father liked to call it, Tren Crom.  From the top, one could see the two seas; St. Michael’s Mount on one side; the Lighthouse on the other. Like all Cornish hills, it was scattered with blocks of granit; said some of them to be old tombs and altars; in some, holes were driven, as if for gate posts. Others were piled up rocks.  The Loggan rock was on top of Tren Crom; we would set it rocking; and be told that perhaps the hollow in the rough lichened surface was for the victim’s blood. But father, with his sever love of truth, disbelieved it; he said, in his opinion, this was no genuine Loggan rock; but the natural disposition of ordinary rocks. Little paths led up to the hill between heather and ling; and our knees were pricked by the gorse the blazing yellow gorse with its sweet nutty smell. – Virginia Woolf, “A Sketch of the Past”

Revised April 17, 2015

Here is news of two Virginia Woolf events in England.

Orlando DVD

Orlando DVD

The first is a free lecture by Dr Theodore Koulouris of the University of Brighton titled “Virginia Woolf and Sussex” and will be held at Towner Gallery in Eastbourne on Wednesday, May 13, at 2.30 p.m. An online booking is required.

The talk is part of the Sussex Modernism Lecture Series of four free lectures and is presented by the Centre for Modernist Studies at the University of Sussex. In this series, academics from the Universities of Sussex and Brighton explore the influence of Sussex on the development of British Modernism and the influence of modernism on Sussex, since many of the leading writers, artists, composers, architects and patrons of British Modernism lived in Sussex at key moments of their lives.

The second is a showing of Sally Potter’s eponymous adaptation of Woolf’s novel Orlando that is scheduled for May 16 at 3 p.m. at the same location.

Woolf Works, a ballet based on the life and writings of Virginia Woolf, will be presented by the Royal Ballet May 11-26 at the Royal Opera House in London, and organizers are asking readers of Woolf to share their personal experiences of Woolf by posting comments on the website.

Beresford portrait of Virginia Woolf

Beresford portrait of Virginia Woolf

The full-length eight-performance production interweaves themes from Mrs. DallowayOrlando and The Waves, along with Woolf’s letters, essays and diaries.

Woolf Works expresses the heart of an artistic life driven to discover a freer, uniquely modern realism, and brings to life Woolf’s world of ‘granite and rainbow’ where human beings are at once both physical body and uncontained essence,” according to the Royal Opera House website.

The coreography is by Royal Ballet Resident Choreographer Wayne McGregor. The score is by Max Richter.

Tickets are available from the Royal Opera House.

In preparation for the ballet and in honor of her birthday this year, organizers are collecting comments from readers of Woolf regarding their personal experiences. The questions include: How did you discover her? What was the first thing you read? What struck you about it? What did (and does) her work mean to you? A selection of comments will be included in the show’s program book.

‘the ‘book itself’ is not form which you see, but emotion which you feel’ – Virginia Woolf, On Re-reading Novels

Woolf sightings appear online daily, and Blogging Woolf posts the briefest of them on Facebook. Again today we have gathered a few to share with readers here as well. Here they are:

  • Anne Fernald speaks about editing the Cambridge edition of Mrs. Dalloway at Widener University.Last Two Seconds
  • Read the notes at the end of the book of poetry The Last Two Seconds by St. Louis poet Mary Jo Bang, and you’ll discover that six of the poems borrow their words from Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway.
  • It’s no surprise when sci-fi writer Ursula Le Guin says she was inspired by Woolf’s Orlando.
  • Ann Hamilton and the SITI Company’s “the theater is a blank page,” on stage at the Wexner Center in Columbus, Ohio, April 23-26, uses text from To the Lighthouse.
  • Woolf’s A Writer’s Life was a lifesaver for this writer.
  • Woolf is cited in a Guardian article about the Vida study that says male writers continue to dominate literary criticism.

Originally posted on Oxley Press:

Virginia Woolf vibrantly conjures a busy shopping scene in her essay Oxford Street Tide: an exploration of consumerism in London’s busiest shopping strip. Woolf juxtaposes the London’s crude and dirty shipping docks with the glamorous glitz of the Oxford Street shopping strip—or so it appears on the surface. Actually, Woolf writes, Oxford Street itself is a mixture of brash sensations: gluttony for objects and of intense materialism. Woolf vividly represents brash, yet glittering consumerism.
Woolf concedes that consumerism is empty and vacuous. But, in the end, she also concedes happily that this is not a bad thing—don’t we all enjoy a little retail therapy? After all, even Virginia Woolf does.

I have also written about Virginia Woolf’s thought-provoking essay, Thoughts On Peace in an Air Raid.

View original

Collin Kelley reading his poem inspired by Virginia Woolf and London: “In Tavistock Square”

Woolf sightings appear online daily, and Blogging Woolf posts the briefest of them on Facebook. But today we have gathered a few to share with readers here as well. Here they are:


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