English - Free topic F: Virginia Woolf and the Others

Course content

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 Many of these works remained unpublished until the resurgence of interest in women's writing over recent decades.


PART ONE (weeks 1-7): Virginia Woolf and her contemporaries:


Orlando: a Biography (1928), in Oxford World's.


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, and their complexities, in:


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 autobiographical novels by H.D.'s partner, rediscovered in 2000.


Charlotte Mew, Complete Poems (Penguin)


Hope Mirrlees, Paris: A Poem (1919; reprinted for the first time in 2020, Faber).


Sylvia Townsend Warner (1893-1978), Lolly Willowes (1926, Virago Modern Classics). Not 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.  


Nella Larsen, Passing (1929)


Gertrude Stein (1874-1946), Lucy Church Amiably (1930) or The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas (1933, Penguin)


Djuna Barnes (1892-1982), Nightwood (1936, Faber). Admired, published and promoted by T.S. Eliot.


Mina Loy (1882-1966) The Lost Lunar Baedeker (collected poems), edited by Roger L. Conover (Carcanet, 1996).


In these works, it is not only gender that is a conceptual problem but any notion of a stable identity or a 'life' that can be represented as integral and whole. Such questions will be followed through all the works on this course, attention being paid to the lexical and syntactic uncertainties of their textual representation. Virginia Woolf said that Dorothy Richardson had created ‘the psychological sentence of the feminine gender’. May Sinclair claimed that Dorothy M. Richardson was the first to understood how ‘the stream of consciousness’ could be represented in literature.


Otherness is not only syntactical, and each of these works seems to press language not just from one side to another of the gendered binary, but to suggest an other, or a between, whether of gender, or of genre, or of nation. Most of these writers lived and worked in diverse locations and are securely contained within no national literary canon.


PART TWO (weeks 8-14) Post-1945 works by women of a later generation, whose descent from and continuity with Woolf and her contemporaries is now emerging.


H.D. Trilogy (1946)

Carson McCullers, The Member of the Wedding (1946)

Ivy Compton Burnett, The Present and the Past (1953)

Iris Murdoch, The Italian Girl (1964)

Anna Kavan, Ice (1967) or Julia and the Bazooka (1970)

Leonora Carrington, The Hearing Trumpet (1976, Penguin)

Audre Lorde, Zami: A new way of spelling my name (1982, Penguin)

Christine Brooke-Rose, Life, End of (2006, Carcanet)

Anne Blonstein, to be continued (2011, Shearsman)


Note that all texts are subject to availability from the publisher, and that this is particularly the case with the small presses that support less canonical works. Some of these texts may therefore need to be replaced by others.



This course only leads to exams Free Topic 4 with Written and Oral Proficiency in English.

Kurset kan også bruges Frit emne A (inkl. skriftlig sprogfærdighed) og Frit emne B (inkl. mundtlig sprogfærdighed) under Kandidatdelen af sidefaget i engelsk 2019, samt Frit emne (inkl. skriftlig og mundtlig sprogfærdighed) under Kandidatdelen af sidefaget i engelsk 2020.

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Single subject courses (day)

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


Course number
See exam description
Programme level
Full Degree Master
Master’s minor subject

1 semester


Dette er et dagkursus via tompladsordningen mod betaling på Åbent Universitet. Tilmeld dig og se aktuel prisoversigt på www.aabentuniversitet.hum.ku.dk

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Study board of English, Germanic and Romance Studies
Contracting department
  • Department of English, Germanic and Romance Studies
Contracting faculty
  • Faculty of Humanities
Course Coordinator
  • Charles Lock   (4-7073676f446c7971326f7932686f)
Saved on the 07-10-2022

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