Department of English

University of Toronto

ENG455H1S L0201

ENG455H1S   L0201   W11-1
Advanced Studies Group 5: Virginia Woolf and the Making of Modernism
Instructor: R. Tazudeen

Office Location: Jackman Humanities Building, Room 1002

Brief Description of Course: 
“These queer little sand castles, I was thinking. . . . Little boys making sand castles. This refers to H. Read; Tom Eliot; Santayana; Wells. Each is weather-tight, & gives shelter to the occupant. But I am the sea which demolishes these castles. . . . I am carrying on . . . the idea of women discovering, like the 19th century rationalists, that man is no longer God. . . . It is essential to remain outside; & realise my own beliefs: or rather not to accept theirs. A line to think out.”
—Virginia Woolf, Diary Volume V (18 November 1940)

Woolf’s art, as theorized in this diary entry, is the art of an outsider in at least three different ways. First, it is removed from the formal constraints of an earlier generation of writers, constraints which still dominated the literary milieu of her time. Second, it challenges the dominant gender and class ideals of the early twentieth century. And finally, it aligns itself with the forces of nature and the natural world, forces which arise from the outside but whose destructive effects are not fully controllable by the individual artist. This course will explore Woolf’s writing, from the early short stories and Jacob’s Room (1922) to her late political writings and final novel, Between the Acts (1941), as “outsider art,” an art that challenges existing artistic, political, and ecological norms from the outside, in order to lay the ground for new modes of thinking and being in the world. We will focus most particularly on Woolf’s “outsider” aesthetics in the context of literary Modernism, a movement she helped to produce and to reshape continuously throughout her career. Along with Woolf’s linguistic and formal experimentation, other topics of discussion will include Woolf’s interventions into the discourses of nationalism, fascism, imperialism, and total war; Woolf’s critique of gender roles and the formation of gendered subjects; the ecocritical and anti-anthropocentric strain of her late writing; her rethinking of the prevailing discourses of madness/sanity and illness/health (and their intersections with gender); and Woolf’s engagements with psychoanalysis and phenomenological philosophy.

Required Reading:
Woolf, “A Sketch of the Past”
The Complete Shorter Fiction
Jacob’s Room 
Mrs. Dalloway 
To the Lighthouse

A Room of One’s Own
Three Guineas
The Waves
Between the Acts

A course reader will include selected essays by Woolf and criticism from Elizabeth Abel, Ann Banfield, Gillian Beer, Christine Froula, Hermione Lee, Derek Ryan, Paul Saint-Amour, Bonnie Kime Scott, and Alex Zwerdling.

First Three Authors/Texts: “A Sketch of the Past,” The Complete Shorter Fiction (selections), Jacob’s Room

Method of Evaluation: Participation (15%); Weekly Responses (20%); In-class presentations (25%); Final Essay (40%).

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