HENKF2003U English - Free topic 3: Virginia Woolf and the Others and James Joyce’s Ulysses and its Afterlives

Volume 2019/2020

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 Many of them remained unpublished until the resurgence of interest in women's writing over recent decades.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.


James Joyce’s Ulysses and its Afterlives (Kiron Ward) 

This is a course for students interested in Anglophone modernism and its international legacy on postmodern and contemporary. As we approach the 100th anniversary of Ulysses by James Joyce, we will be looking at ways of reading a novel that has been described as both ‘unclean lunacy’ and ‘the greatest novel of the 20th Century.’ What has made Ulysses so enduring? Why was it so divisive? Why are postmodern and contemporary writers across the world, and particularly in the Americas, still obsessed with it? We will spend the bulk of the course reading Ulysses itself, and exploring the history of critical thought that has been inspired by it. In the final weeks, students will give presentations on texts that are in explicit dialogue with Ulysses, re-working or developing its ideas in some way. Students will have the option either to choose from a list of texts or to propose a text themselves.


Post-Ulysses options may include: Alison Bechdel, Fun Home; Julio Cortázar, Rayuela; Don DeLillo, Underworld/Zero K; Anne Enright, The Gathering; Siri Hustvedt, The Blazing World; Dambudzo Marechera, Black Sun; José Lezama Lima, Paradiso; Leopoldo Marechal, Adán Buenosayres; Eimar McBride, A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing; Fernando del Paso, Palinuro de México; Juan Rulfo, Pedro Páramo; Salman Rushdie, The Satanic Verses; Gustavo Sainz, Obsesivos días circulares; Sam Selvon, The Lonely Londoners.

Classes, with particular emphasis on reading primary and secondary texts, oral discussion and developing proficiency in English.
This course only leads to exams Free Topic 1, Free Topic 2 and Free Topic 3.
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 56
  • Preparation
  • 353,5
  • Total
  • 409,5
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)
Take-home paper (11-15 pages) for ‘James Joyce’s Ulysses and its Afterlives’ (counting 50 % in the final grade)
Criteria for exam assesment