Suggested Topics for Seminar Papers (deadline TBA)
Hussey’s Virginia Woolf: A-Z is the place to start on any of these topics. Note that all of them require analysis.
This is the typical seminar paper that develops an original idea. It usually involves a close analysis of textual evidence, backed up by thorough grounding in the scholarship about the book in question. This might be a close analysis of a theme or a pattern of imagery or a narrative technique. Naturally, you would thoroughly research what others have said about the theme, image, technique, etc., indicating how your idea agrees with or contradicts other interpretations, but the focus is on developing your idea. Sample proposal for this type paper. Sample paper of this type.
In a short summer class, it may be difficult to develop an original idea and argue it persuasively. You could easily spend 4 weeks getting grounded in the criticism about your book, and not get a good idea worth developing until days before the deadline. If that’s the way you work best anyway, go with the Type AA paper. If not, consider researching one of the following topics, synthesizing your findings, and applying them to one of the assigned books. All of these are topics we will be considering in the class.
Woolf and Modernism – review Woolf’s contributions to (and attitude towards) the literary movement called Modernism and explore how this plays out in one of the books. Mrs. Dalloway might be the easiest to apply this to. “Modern Fiction” and “Mr. Bennett and Mrs. Brown” are especially relevant essays. Don’t try to cover every aspect of Woolf’s relation to Modernism, but rather focus in on what interests you, e.g., the way she develops characters or the way she warps time.
Woolf and Androgyny – way too much has been written on this topic, including whole books on Woolf’s “androgynous vision.” It is a tricky topic in that it is all too easy to celebrate androgyny without examining the implications of erasing gender markers. Orlando is the obvious book to work with here. See also the chapter toward the end of A Room of One’s Own in which Woolf explores whether the artist’s vision is necessarily androgynous. Sample Proposal on this topic.
Woolf and War – Woolf and most of her friends were pacifists. A defining event of their lives was World War I. The obvious book to focus on for this topic is Mrs. Dalloway, since a main character, Septimus Warren Smith, is a shell-shocked WWI veteran. See also “Thoughts on Peace in an Air Raid,” and if you want to understand Woolf’s most mature and radical analysis of war, read Three Guineas (1938).
Woolf and Feminism – this one is harder than it sounds, because the word “feminism” is variously defined. The obvious book to focus on would be A Room of One’s Own, perhaps examining how it does or doesn’t define feminism (does it even use the word?). It would be interesting to do a search on the term using the Woolf CD-ROM available at the library. It will search all of her books, journals, essays, and letters.
Woolf and “Stream of Consciousness” - Woolf’s narrative technique is one of her major contributions to Modernism, and is worth exploring on its own terms. The Mezei article about “free indirect discourse” is useful here, and the book where Woolf first hits her stride with it is Mrs. Dalloway. It would be useful to synthesize what critics say generally about “stream of consciousness” and how Woolf does or does not use it. You will find much comparison to James Joyce and Dorothy Richardson, both of whom used a similar narrative technique. Keep the focus on Woolf.
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