Category Archives: Somerville Seminar

This Week In My Classes: Finishing Touches

Today was the last day for my fall term classes, which means the last meeting altogether for two of them. One of them, Introduction to Literature, continues in January, when I will also be adding another round of The 19th-Century Novel from Dickens to Hardy–a very different round, just by the way, from the last […]

Margaret Kennedy, The Outlaws on Parnassus

Preparing for reading The Constant Nymph in my Somerville Novelists seminar, I was intrigued to learn that in her Times obituary Margaret Kennedy was accorded little significance as a novelist while her book on the novel, The Outlaws on Parnassus, was considered her greatest literary contribution. I promptly ordered it from interlibrary loan, and it arrived just in […]

This Week In My Classes: Meetings, Deadlines, Poems, Mysteries, and Nymphs

This past week was very busy, which is why I didn’t manage to post this during the week. For one thing, one of the committees that I’m on had to do a series of consultations, which involves both the actual meeting times and a fair amount of correspondence and negotiation getting things set up. Another committee […]

South Riding: They like it! They really, really like it!

I’ve just finished rereading South Riding, ready for our final discussion of the novel in the Somerville seminar tomorrow. I was caught up in it both intellectually and emotionally, more than I was when I first read it last spring. Rereading made the subtleties of the novel’s construction more apparent: the sophisticated way Holtby weaves together […]

This Week In My Classes: Good, Better, Best!

We’ve almost settled into a routine in my three classes, I think. The one I feel least certain about is my section of Intro. I think we’re doing OK, but I wonder if I made things a bit too intense at the very start of term as I focused on establishing expectations and framing our […]

“I believe we are lost”: Erich Maria Remarque, All Quiet on the Western Front

All Quiet on the Western Front is as bleak and compelling a version of the “lost generation” narrative of World War I as I’ve read so far. In fact, Paul Bäumer, the novel’s narrator, comments explicitly, repeatedly, and bitterly on the chasm between the generation fighting in the trenches and the older generation far away from […]

My Somerville Summer Continues: Course Planning!

I continue to read both primary and secondary sources in preparation for my fall seminar on “The Somerville Novelists.” Most recently I’ve been going through Holtby’s Women and a Changing Civilization and Brittain’s Lady into Woman: A History of Women from Victoria to Elizabeth II, as well as reviewing some of their journalism: my idea at this […]

“She is in love with life”: Winifred Holtby’s Virginia Woolf: A Critical Memoir

In my post on Vera Brittain’s Testament of Friendship, I quoted a passage Brittain includes from Holtby’s letters, addressing her decision to write a critical biography of Virginia Woolf: I took my courage and curiosity in both hands and chose the writer whose art seemed most of all removed from anything I could ever attempt, […]

Social Revolutions: Vera Brittain, Honourable Estate

I finally finished reading Vera Brittain’s 1936 novel Honourable Estate. I read Part I a few months back and described it as “not particularly artful” but “emotionally quite intense,” and unsurprisingly, it continues that way to the end. Part I told the unhappy story of Janet and Thomas Rutherford, their marriage destroyed either by Janet’s unreasonable […]

My Somerville Summer: Update

Six weeks into my ‘Summer of Somerville,’ it seems like time to take stock. In my previous post, I identified two main areas I need to focus on: pedagogical strategies (concrete course-planning things like readings, schedules, and assignments) and research in a whole range of topics (my own expertise will be needed partly to inform […]

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