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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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Now I’ve heard everything. The Huffington Post claims to have made educated guesses as to how nine famous authors would have voted in Tuesday’s presidential election. And their ill-educated guess regarding Virginia Woolf has her casting her ballot for Mitt Romney.

The Huff Post’s rationale is simplistic and ill-informed. Writers cite the fact that she “nearly always wrote about the upper-middle class, focusing on well-crafted, artful prose as opposed to social issues,” and they allege that in her feminist polemic A Room of One’s Own, Woolf “asserts that wealth is necessary to produce art.”

Both assertions fail to recognize the true breadth and depth of Woolf’s art, as well as her thinking about social and political issues. Yes, she wrote about the upper-middle class. But what did she actually say about them? Yes, she maintained that women needed a room of their own and £500 a year in order to write fiction. But what did she mean by that?

In both cases she was exploring and critiquing a highly stratified patriarchal society that saw women as less than men. Considering how Mittens fared with women on Tuesday — he garnered 43 percent of women’s votes, compared to Obama’s 55 percent — I doubt that Woolf, in all her feminist wisdom, would have made him her choice.

Oh, and let’s not forget her support for the Labour Party during elections that took place in her adult years.

But shallow confused thinking is what occurs when writers rely on quick and dirty Google-based research about an author. They pick one quote from an academic essay — in this case Leonard’s famous line that his wife was “the least political animal that has lived” — and leave the rest behind.

You can weigh in via the poll below. To keep things simple, it only includes the two major party candidates by name. But if you think she would have made an alternate choice, you can write it in.

Thanks for voting!

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