Category Archives: Holtby, Winifred

‘The Secret Fortresses of Her Mind’: Winifred Holtby, The Land of Green Ginger

Once again, I’ve finished a book from my Somerville cluster feeling, paradoxically, both engaged and adrift: it’s as if these novels have their own idiolect, their own set of terms and meanings and tropes that are related to the ones I know from my other reading, or from the general ideas I’ve picked up from […]

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: Love Poems and Social Novels

In English 1000, we’ve started our first poetry unit. We’ll be doing more poetry after Christmas, organized into what I hope will be provocative thematic clusters, but for now we’re just working through the basics of reading and analyzing poetry — meter and scansion, figurative language, poetic forms and modes. We haven’t really talked much […]

“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, […]

Virginia Woolf, Three Guineas

It’s hard to spot similarities between Virginia Woolf and the Somerville novelists I’ve been looking at if you focus on Woolf’s fiction. Winifred Holtby wrote a book about Woolf, and as I noted in my post about Testament of Friendship, she did so deliberately because she knew Woolf was such a different novelist: “I took […]

The Summer of Somerville

Now that the dust has mostly settled from the teaching term, I’ve begun organizing my plans for the summer. One of my top priorities is preparing for my new seminar on ‘The Somerville Novelists,’ which is the first official academic manifestation of the reading I’ve been doing about Vera Brittain, Winifred Holtby, and Margaret Kennedy. […]

“The Awfulness of a Life Where Nothing Ever Happens”: Winifred Holtby, The Crowded Street:

Only the last section of The Crowded Street – a mere 16.5 pages – is named for the novel’s protagonist, Muriel Hammond. Each of the other sections is named for another woman whose life preoccupies and dominates Muriel’s: first her schoolmate Clare, then Muriel’s mother, then her sister Connie, then her friend Delia. Structurally, then, […]

Reading and Research Redux: The Somerville Novelists Project

I admit, my earlier question “When is reading research?” was a bit disingenuous: obviously, research is purposeful reading. Of course, this definition can get batted around a bit too, depending on how you define your purpose: the pursuit of pleasure? aesthetic enrichment? familiarity with current best-sellers? Perhaps it’s better to say that, at least in […]

Winifred Holtby, Anderby Wold

Writing about Vera Brittain’s The Dark Tide, I suggested that “there are books that are bad in uninteresting ways and books that are bad and yet somehow still interesting.” I thought The Dark Tide was in the bad but interesting category. I think Anderby Wold may require me to add a third category: something like “books that […]

Testament of a Generation: The Journalism of Vera Brittain and Winifred Holtby

The more time I spend in the company of these two extraordinary women, the more I appreciate their energy and commitment, as well as the clarity and force of their prose. All of these qualities are on full display in this collection of their journalism. The editors, Paul Berry and Alan Bishop, have organized the […]

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