Monday, September 12th

You will be expected to have completed this week’s reading before arriving in the UK.

Virginia Woolf (Vanessa Bell, 1912)

Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own

Further information:

Virginia Woolf Biographical information from The British Library and the ODNB. List of publications.

Oxbridge = Oxford and Cambridge
Fernham = Newnham and Girton
The British Museum’s Reading Room

The history of women students at Oxford University

An online article “The Sisterly Collusion Behind Vanessa Bell’s Book Covers for Virginia Woolf” with excellent images.

Who is “Mary Hamilton”? An anonymous ballad first collected by Sir Walter Scott in the early 1800s and put to music by Joan Baez in the 1960s.

Wednesday, September 14th

For today’s reading you should go beyond the primary source to discover dates of publication, what was going on in the years referred to by the writers below, and where the works are set in relation to Oxford and other sites in the UK . Google Maps is an excellent tool for this. For the Rossetti poems, you should research what role she played in the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, and her response to their paintings, some of which are held by the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford.

Jane Austen, Persuasion

Biographical information on Austen: from the ODNB and from
Where is Bath? And where is Lyme?

Charlotte Smith, Sonnet I, Sonnet V (“To the South Downs”), and Sonnet XII (“Written on the Sea Shore. — October, 1784). Smith also wrote a long blank verse poem about Beachy Head, which we drove by when making our way to the Seven Sisters, the long walk we took along the coast. I’m not requiring you to read Beachy Head but you might find it interesting. You can find a scan of the mss. here.

Amelia Opie, “On Visiting Cromer,” “To Mr. L—-“, and Ode on the Present Times, 27th January 1795

Christina Rossetti, “Winter: My Secret” and “In An Artist’s Studio

Some useful links: the River Arun, Cromer, on the PRB. Biographical links to Smith, Opie, and Rossetti.

While reading Persuasion and the poetry today, I want you to pay attention to spaces of all kinds, as we discussed in class on Monday. In practice this means paying attention to how the life of the mind (as space of its own), is effected by physical space, domestic and public.

Portrait of Christina Rossetti (Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 1866)

Friday, September 16th

First Short Essay Due by 11:00pm (3 pages): This assignment is a contemplative piece that asks you to reflect on the experience of having read or re-read Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own in Oxford. Having said that, you still should begin with a thesis and then construct your essay in response to that thesis.

Please support your thesis with direct citation of the text. Use MLA style for both citation and formatting , which you can find summarized here.

Begin by finding a place in Oxford to re-read at least the first chapter, before then turning to the kind of research that Woolf did in the British Library (although you’ll do that via the internet this time around). After positioning yourself geographically, consider the same question that Woolf considers: What does “women and fiction” have to do with “a room of one’s own”? You will begin by addressing Woolf’s argument, but then you should turn to Wednesday’s reading to make an argument about the importance of space and freedom of thought in the work of Austen, Smith, Opie, and/or Rossetti. Feel free to focus on a single author, but you may also write about the reading as a whole or in part.


Monday, September 19th

Chawton House

Jane Austen, Mansfield Park

What is a ha-ha? Who is Lord Mansfield and what might he have to do with the title of this essay? What is important about Portsmouth?

Wednesday, September 21st

Anon, The Woman of Colour

The History of Mary Prince, a West Indian Slave. Related by Herself. You do not need to read the Supplement.

In-class writing assignment: Prior to class visit a museum, library, great house, garden or other site in Oxford and London. Keep in mind that you may draw from your excursion journal in responding to this prompt.

While visiting find one object or painting that resonates with Mansfield Park, The Woman of Colour, or The History of Mary Prince, and be prepared to first write and then discuss your findings. Best places to visit in Oxford include the Ashmolean or the Natural History Museum. If you make a day trip to London, consider going to the National Portrait Gallery, the Tate, or the Victoria and Albert Museum. If possible, consider visiting one of the relatively local “great houses,” including Blenheim Palace or Buscot Park, or the home of an artist or writer either in Oxford or London, or even farther afield if you have the chance. You do not have to restrict yourself to authors studied in our class. For example, it is fairly easy to visit the Charles Dickens Museum in London.

You will have 20 minutes of class time for your in-class writing assignment.


Monday, September 26th

Reading Day for Bronte Week!

The Bronte Parsonage in Haworth, England

Wednesday, September 28th

Anne Bronte, Agnes Grey
Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre
Emily Bronte, Wuthering Heights

In-Class Writing assignment: You should come to class prepared to spend about 20 minutes writing about the three novels in relation to one another. While reading consider the links between texts, and for your in-class short essay address one significant point of connection: i.e. representations of nature, childhood, passion, religion, etc. etc. You may choose the theme of your choice but you should address it in relation to all three texts.


Friday, September 30th through Sunday, October 2nd

Second Essay Due ( 3 pages): Due any time between Friday, September 30th and Sunday, October 2nd at 11:00pm. Please send me your essay as either an editable google .doc, a MS .doc, or .pages. This second essay also serves as the Essay Description for the longer final essay.

You should consider this essay a first attempt at your longer essay. I leave the thesis up to you as well as the text. In this short essay, you’ll work out the details of your thesis on a single text, as you plan for the longer essay due at the end of our course. I’m happy to meet with you to help you pare down your topic ideas as you craft your thesis. I’ll be in the Banbury House after our class on Wednesdays going forward and also available for other appointments. Just drop me an email:

The longer essay will require you to address at least 2 texts but no more than 3. Keep in mind that in a literature essay, you support your argument through direct evidence from the text.

You’ll find writing resources at the bottom of the course website front page:


Blue plaque erected in 2012 by English Heritage at Paultons House, Paultons Square, Chelsea, London SW3 5DU, Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea

Monday, October 3rd

Jean Rhys, Wide Sargasso Sea

Selection of 20th-century and contemporary British Women’s Poetry: Jackie Kay, “In My Country” and Two poems by Warsan Shire

Wednesday, October 5th

Jo Baker, Longbourn

Ideally, you will read the whole novel. At the very least, you should read all of Volume I, Volume II (Chapters IV-IX; XIII-XIV), Volume III (Section on 1788, start 1808 until the section that ends “Still there; from Chapter XVIII until the end of the novel.

Please also read the first chapter of Pride and Prejudice and compare the ways in which each novel begins.

Since we are not reading all of Pride and Prejudice, I’d like you to watch at least one film adaptation. The most recent is the 2005 feature film, starring Keira Knightley. For a more intense experience, try out the 1995 BBC starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle. I’ll also post some links to pertinent chapters of the novel itself.

Discussion of Excursion Journals

The poet Warsan Shire (2010)

In-class writing assignment: Time to reconsider the question that we began with: what do you make of “women and fiction”? In your response, make sure that you discuss at least 2 to 3 different authors read this semester, as you reflect on our reading in the aggregate.


Final Essay Due no later than 11:00 pm on Saturday, October 15th

Once you have received back my comments on your second short essay, please send me an email indicating a few things:

1. If you’re going to develop your short essay into a longer essay, and how OR a description of an entirely new essay

2. When you plan on turning your essay in, although you can always change that due date as you learn more. Keep in mind that it does need to be turned in by the 15th.

3. Let me know if you’d like to meet. I will be traveling a bit over the weekend, but will be available to meet f2f on Tuesday and Wednesday of next week. If you need to talk sooner, we should be able to arrange a Zoom meeting on Thursday afternoon or Friday morning.