English - Free topic 3: Virginia Woolf and the Others and Creative Writing

Course content

Virginia Woolf and the Others (Charles Lock)

Virginia Woolf (1882-1941) is the best known and most studied woman novelist of the past century. Yet she is by no means the only one of her generation, and in this course we will look at novels no less experimental than hers, all by women. Many of them remained unpublished until the resurgence of interest in women's writing over recent decades.

We shall begin by examining two of Virginia Woolf's novels: Jacob's Room (1922) and Orlando: a Biography (1928), both in Oxford World's Classics editions.

The most influential book by any woman writer among Woolf's contemporaries, Pilgrimage (in twelve volumes), by Dorothy M. Richardson (1873-1957), is out of print. If you can acquire a copy you are encouraged to read the opening novel (of a mere hundred pages): Pointed Roofs (1915).


We will the pursue the biographical and autobiographical genre of the two Woolf works in:

  • Gertrude Stein (1874-1946), Three Lives (1909) Penguin
  • In these three books, gender is a conceptual problem as is any notion of a stable identity or a ‘life’ that can be represented as integral and whole. These themes will be followed through all the works on this course, attention being paid to the lexical and syntactic uncertainties of their textual representation.
  • H. D. (Hilda Doolittle, 1886-1961), Asphodel (written 1920s; published 1992, Duke University Press). This fictional memoir of life in Paris in the 1920s is one of the most important literary 'recoveries' of recent years.
  • Bryher (1894-1983), Development (1920) and Two Selves (1923) (University of Wisconsin Press, 2000). Two out of a series of three autobiographical novels by H.D.'s partner, rediscovered in 2000.
  • Sylvia Townsend Warner (1893-1978), Lolly Willowes (1926). Not so challenging or obviously experimental in its form, this has been widely recognized as a masterpiece of English comedy and a work defiant of norms both masculine and literary.  
  • Djuna Barnes (1892-1982), Nightwood (1936, Faber). Admired, published and promoted by T.S. Eliot.
  • Mina Loy (1882-1966) Insel (written 1930s, published 1991: Penguin). Her name was largely forgotten until Insel was published in 1991 and has since then gradually achieved recognition.


Two works by women of later generations:

  • Leonora Carrington (1917-2011), The Hearing Trumpet (1976, Penguin).
  • Sylvia Plath (1932-1963), The Bell Jar (1963, Faber).


It may be that not all of these titles are in print when the books are to be ordered for the course. This list is therefore provisional, and will probably be somewhat shorter.  Or perhaps the list will remain extensive while students will have some choice among them.


Reading and Writing Contemporary Short Fiction (Sarah Moss)

We learn to write fiction by learning to read fiction. In this course, we’ll read and discuss a selection of recent short stories. You will develop your own writing practice in this genre, and also give and receive constructive responses to the work of your classmates. This is for students who are ready to share their creative work in a supportive but professional environment, and to practice editorial and literary as well as scholarly craft. Reading will come from collections of short stories including those of Lydia Davis, Carol Shields and David Szalay.

Classes, with particular emphasis on reading primary and secondary texts, oral discussion and developing proficiency in English.

‘Virginia Woolf and the Others’ will be taught in a weekly 2-hour seminar throughout the semester and ‘Reading and Writing Creative Short Fiction’ is planned to run as 4 half-day seminars in the course of the semester (dates t.b.a.)

This course only leads to exams Free Topic 1, Free Topic 2 and Free Topic 3.

Type of assessment
Portfolio, A joint portfolio uploaded in digital exam: Deadline June 10th 2020
Take-home paper (11-15 pages) for ‘Virginia Woolf and the Others’ (counting 50 % in the final grade)
Writing exercises for ‘Reading and Writing Contemporary Short Fiction’ with a final portfolio input of 10-15 pages (counting 50 % in the final grade)
Criteria for exam assessment

Single subject courses (day)

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 56
  • Preparation
  • 353,5
  • English
  • 409,5