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Literature Cambridge has scheduled interesting summer courses that have connections to Virginia Woolf and include fascinating excursions connected to her as well.

Woolf and Politics

Dates: 1-6 July 2018
Explores Woolf’s interest in the important issues of her day: women’s rights, education, the Spanish Civil War, the power of the newspapers, as well as her playful look at gender politics in Orlando.

Each day there is a lecture followed by a seminar or Cambridge supervision (tutorial). Some meals will be taken together as a group and the group will visit places around Cambridge of interest to Woolfians.

Excursions

  • King’s College: Woolf knew King’s well and had close friends there, including Dadie Rylands and E. M. Forster. She was appreciated for her wonderful conversation at college lunches. We will visit rooms with Woolf connections which are not usually open to the public. Guided by the lecturer and King’s Fellow Peter Jones, the group will also visit the marvellous chapel, built 1446-1547.
  • Fitzwilliam Museum: A rare opportunity to see the manuscript of A Room of One’s Own, one of Woolf’s most influential books. This is the only Woolf manuscript held in Cambridge. There will be a talk about the history of the manuscript, a chance to look closely at some pages, followed by a slap-up tea at Fitzbillies.
  • Wren Library, Trinity College: A visit to the Wren Library to see some of its remarkable manuscripts – Milton’s ‘Lycidas’; letters from Charlotte Bronte, George Eliot, and others; many first editions of classic works; and the manuscript of Winnie the Pooh. There will be a display about the Pethick-Lawrences, activists in the women’s suffrage movement. The group will also learn about women at Trinity and about the history of the library, once mockingly cursed by Woolf in A Room of One’s Own, now much used by women scholars and students.

Women Writers: Emily Bronte to Elizabeth Bowen

Dates: 8-13 July 2018.
Will study: Bronte, Wuthering Heights; Eliot, The Mill on the Floss; Woolf, To the Lighthouse; Mansfield, The Garden Party; Bowen, To the North

Excursions 

  • Girton College: Girton College, established in 1869, was the first residential university college for women. Clare Walker Gore will talk about George Eliot’s support for women’s education, and Alison Hennegan will discuss the remarkable history of Girton. The group will visit the room in which Virginia Woolf gave a talk that became A Room of One’s Own (1929).
  • Wren Library, Trinity College: As above; a rare treat.
  • Orchard Tea Room, Grantchester: The group will take tea and scones in this famous old tea room, enjoyed in the early 20th century by Woolf, Bertrand Russell, Rupert Brooke, John Maynard Keynes, E. M. Forster, Wittgenstein, and many others.

Wren Library, Trinity College, Cambridge

Wren Library, Trinity College, Cambridge

Literature Cambridge lecture at Girton College in July 2017

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Female friends are special. I often wonder what I would do without them. So I like to take note of stories about longtime women friends.

This was particularly true during the past week. Knowing that today I was on the blog tour schedule to publish a review of A Secret Sisterhood: The Literary Friendships of Jane Austen, Charlotte Brontë, George Eliot, and Virginia Woolf, by Emily Midorikawa and Emma Claire Sweeney, stories of women’s friendships kept popping out at me.

I’ll share just two of them before adding the promised review.

Akron Beacon Journal article featuring the lifelong friendship of two women, now 94 and 100.

Women friends on a local level

Yesterday, the front page of my local newspaper featured such a close friendship.  It told the story of two women — one black, one white — who led a Girl Scout troop in an all-white community back in 1954 and became fast friends, as did their daughters.

Women friends on a national level

Last week, a lecture I attended by Rebecca Traister, author of All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation (2016) spoke of the importance of women’s friendships throughout U.S. history. She also emphasized how those intimate friendships sustained and supported women when their marriage relationships, often entered into solely for financial reasons, did not.

Women’s literary friendships

Women writers had sustaining friendships with female friends, too. But as  Margaret Atwood says in her foreward to A Secret Sisterhood, female literary friendships have often been overlooked.

Midorikawa and Sweeney bring them into the limelight in their 2017 book, A Secret Sisterhood. Now out in paperback in the UK, it explores the “secret sisterhoods” entered into by Jane Austen, Charlotte Brontë, George Eliot and Virginia Woolf. My focus will be on the book’s final section, whose three chapters explore the ambivalent friendship between Woolf and Katherine Mansfield.

Woolf and Mansfield: friends or foes, cat or mouse?

Anyone who studies Woolf knows that there is much discussion of the love-hate relationship between Woolf and Mansfield. In Secret Sisters, Midorikawa and Sweeney bring it into clear focus.

They are careful to describe the complicated relationship between the two, showing us how and why Woolf considered Mansfield both her “bitter opponent and beloved friend — unrivaled by any other” (260). They use excerpts from letters, diaries and more to compile a detailed timeline that clarifies the relationship without oversimplifying its nuances.

The authors follow the relationship between the two writers from its spring 1917 beginnings in Mansfield’s humble Chelsea flat, where Woolf offered Mansfield the opportunity to have her work published with the newly formed Hogarth Press, to the news, delivered by Woolf’s maid Nellie Boxall in January 1923, that Mansfield had died.

In between, Midorikawa and Sweeney document the ups and downs of their professional alliance, as well as their personal relationship. Among them are Garsington gossip, the rivalry between the two to use the Garsington garden as the setting for a short story, and the ways they supported each other’s literary careers while engaging in creative competition.

We also get an inside view of Mansfield’s ill health and financial challenges, Woolf’s mixed feelings about Mansfield’s work, and the insecurities each woman had about the other as both a trusted friend and literary sounding board.

A Secret Sisterhood lays out the intimate inner workings of the friendship and competition between Woolf and Mansfield, setting theories and rumors to rest and illuminating a relationship characterized by a “rare sense of communion” (250) that has interested their readers for decades.

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Summer courses in Cambridge 2018

Virginia Woolf and Politics
1-6 July 2018, Wolfson College, Cambridge

Immerse yourself for a week in the books and ideas of Virginia Woolf. In 2018, we will learn more about Woolf’s interest in the politics of her time: the First World War, the education of women, the rise of the Labour Party. We will also explore her interest in pacifism and human rights, and her thoughts on gender and on families.

To be studied: A Room of One’s Own, Three Guineas, Orlando, The Years and selected essays.

No prior knowledge is assumed; just an interest in Woolf and a love of reading. Whether you know the politics of Woolf’s period well, or are coming to it for the first time, this course will deepen your understanding of Woolf’s wonderful writing.

Women Writers: Emily Bronte to Elizabeth Bowen
8-13 July 2018, Homerton College, Cambridge

This is a rare opportunity to study five great women who were writing in Britain in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries:

  • Bronte, Wuthering Heights
  • George Eliot, Mill on the Floss
  • Woolf, To the Lighthouse
  • Katherine Mansfield, “The Garden Party” and other stories
  • Elizabeth Bowen, To the North

Both courses are taught by leading scholars, with lectures, seminars, supervisions, readings, walks and the chance to go punting. Live like a Cambridge student for a week of intensive, exciting study.

Teachers include: Gillian Beer, Clare Walker Gore, Trudi Tate, Claire Nicholson, Claire Davison, Frances Spalding, Peter Jones, Aiofe Byrne, Nadine Tschacksch, Jeremy Thurlow, and others.

Discount for early bookings by 22 December 2017.

After 22 December, a discount for students and members of recognized Woolf societies (and other relevant societies such as the George Eliot Fellowship and the Katherine Mansfield Society), are available, subject to enrollment.

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