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Study information

Virginia Woolf: Fiction, Feeling, Form

Module titleVirginia Woolf: Fiction, Feeling, Form
Module codeEAS3219
Academic year2023/4
Module staff

Dr Kirsty Martin (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

On this module we will study the works of Virginia Woolf, looking closely at her major novels but also investigating her letters, diaries, essays and short stories.

Virginia Woolf is a major figure in literary modernism; her oeuvre includes some of the most influential works of the twentieth century. In addition to being crucial to literary modernism, Woolf is also arguably one of the finest writers of the body, of emotion and sensation, of what it is to feel and to be alive.

This course will study her works mostly chronologically because her work changes so dramatically from the beginning to the end of her career. Woolf constantly experimented with the form of the novel: her work moves from the sympathetic, rolling rhythms of Mrs Dalloway to the jagged unease of Between the Acts, from the teasing playfulness of her animal stories to the highly-wrought poetic prose of The Waves.

This module aims to bring these aspects of Woolf into focus through close readings of the complexity and dynamism, and sudden tonal shifts, of her writing. Through this module, you will gain a broad and intimate knowledge of Woolf’s work and of its far-reaching importance.

Module aims - intentions of the module

The module will address Woolf’s works roughly chronologically in order to explore the complex development of her work across her career. We will focus on close readings of Woolf’s works, looking carefully at her style and the literary detail of her work. Woolf’s writing will also be set in a range of historical and cultural contexts: exploring, for instance, her engagement with music, with visual art (looking especially at the paintings of her sister, Vanessa Bell), with the material world, with then-new sound technologies (including the gramophone and telephone), and with the political realities of her time. Whilst the emphasis will be on close, historicised reading, lectures will also occasionally draw on ideas from the new fields of emotion studies and happiness studies (my own current research) in order to explore the wider, ongoing significance of Woolf’s work.

The third hour each week (in addition to the two-hour seminar) will be devoted, depending on the week, to a lecture and to a workshop-style reading group. These reading groups will focus on short texts by Woolf (drawn from the letters, diaries and essays) or particular concepts (for instance, Woolf and visual art).

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Demonstrate a close and thorough knowledge of Woolf's writing
  • 2. Demonstrate an ability to relate Woolf's writing to other textual forms and media, and to the of historical and philosophical contexts with which it engaged

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 3. Demonstrate an advanced ability to understand literary texts and to set their concerns and modes of expression within their historical context
  • 4. Demonstrate an advanced ability to interrelate texts and discourses specific to their own discipline with issues in the wider context of cultural and intellectual history
  • 5. Demonstrate an advanced ability to understand and analyse relevant theoretical ideas and to apply these ideas to literary texts

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 6. Through essay-writing, demonstrate appropriate research and bibliographic skills, an advanced capacity to construct a coherent, substantiated argument, and a capacity to write clear and correct prose
  • 7. Through research for seminars and essays, demonstrate advanced proficiency in information retrieval and analysis

Syllabus plan

Whilst the content may vary from year to year, it is envisioned that it will cover some or all of the following topics:
The module will open with a consideration of extracts from Woolf’s autobiographical essay Sketch of the Past, and then will proceed to address Woolf’s works chronologically, moving from a study of Jacob’s Room (1922) to the posthumously published Between the Acts (1941). The early parts of the course will focus especially on the concerns shaping Woolf’s modernist experimentation, exploring for instance her response to the First World War, and her concern with the ‘everyday’. As the module proceeds there will be an especial focus on Woolf’s rendering of feeling, the senses and the body, examining her presentation of visuality, tactility, and sound, music and voices. In the final part of the course, we will aim to understand how and why the concerns of Woolf’s earlier work become so radically reshaped in her last novels, and we will think through the political and aesthetic concerns shaping her ‘late style’.

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled learning and teaching22Seminar
Scheduled learning and teaching11Lecture or workshops
Guided independent study70Seminar preparation
Guided independent study164Reading, research and essay preparation

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay352000 words1-7Essay feedback sheet with opportunity for tutorial follow-up
Essay654000 words 1-7Essay feedback sheet with opportunity for tutorial follow-up

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Essay (2000 words)Essay (2000 words)1-7Referral/Deferral Period
Essay (4000 words)Essay (4000 words)1-7Referral/Deferral Period

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to submit a further assessment as necessary. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Primary reading:

• Moments of Being: Autobiographical Writings
• Jacob’s Room (1922)
• Mrs Dalloway (1925)
• To the Lighthouse (1927)
• Orlando (1928)
• The Waves (1931)
• The Years (1934)
• Between the Acts (1941)
• Short stories: ‘Lappin and Lapinova’, ‘Kew Gardens’, ‘Death of the Moth’ (to be provided)

Selected Secondary reading:

• Gillian Beer, Virginia Woolf: The Common Ground (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1996)
• Julia Briggs, Reading Virginia Woolf (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2006)
• Diane Filby Gillespie, The Sisters’ Arts: The Writing and Painting of Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell (New York: Syracuse University Press, 1988)
• Maggie Humm ed. The Edinburgh Companion to Virginia Woolf and the Arts (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2010)
• Michael Whitworth, Virginia Woolf (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005)

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

The ELE site will include the lecture/workshop (or online equivalent, as required) schedule, relevant internet links and selected readings in PDF. From week-to-week, lecture hand-outs and Powerpoint slides will be uploaded.

• ELE –

Key words search

Virginia Woolf, Modernism

Credit value30
Module ECTS


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