Virginia Woolf: Writing the World will include six seminars with leading modernists and Woolf scholars. Space for these seminars is limited to 15 participants, so please indicate your interest on your registration form. Spots will be filled on a first-come, first-served basis.


Melba Cuddy Keane

Seminar Title: Woolf and Cognition’s Outward Turn

Seminar Leader: Melba Cuddy-Keane

Seminar Description: In The Modern Psychological Novel (1955; 1961), Leon Edel identified a “distinct category of fiction” characterized by an “inward turning” that in turn reflected “the deeper and more searching inwardness of [the 20th] century.”  Edel’s approach gave an important impetus to studies of stream of consciousness and “lateral” associative thinking in the modern novel, but it had the less fortunate consequence of bolstering the assumption that such novels turned away from the external world.  In contrast, cognitive approaches today, whether in philosophy, literary study, or neuroscience, increasingly posit connectivity and interactivity between individual human cognition and social, animal, and environmental worlds. This “outward turn” is reflected in a host of new terms: embodied, embedded, situated, and grounded cognition; the extended or enactive mind; participatory sense-making, intermental thinking, and intersubjectivity; cognitive ecology and ecological perception.  Despite the “newness” of such concepts, our seminar will explore the extent to which Woolf (and other modernists) already understood cognition as embedded and interactive.  Indeed, rather than an “inward turn,” might a quintessentially modernist characteristic be the exploration and rearticulation of our situatedness in the world?

Participants in this seminar are asked to contribute, by June 1, and in 100-200 words, ONE of the following:

  1. a short passage from one of Woolf’s texts, or from a text by another modernist writer, that illustrates the outer “skin” of cognition (see examples in readings), with an accompanying question or comment about it;
  2. a quotation from a critic, theorist, or scientist about some dimension in cognition beyond the individual mind, adding a short comment about its significance.

Send your contribution to, using “Woolf Conference Cognition Seminar” in the subject line.  A selection from these contributions will be chosen for our collaborative discussion and analysis.

Preparatory Reading:

  • Cuddy-Keane, Melba. “Movement, Space, and Embodied Cognition in To the Lighthouse.”  The Cambridge Companion to Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse. Ed. Allison Pease. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, (forthcoming).  (5000 words)
  • Cuddy-Keane, Melba, Adam Hammond, and Alexandra Peat.  “Common Mind, Group Thinking.” Modernism: Keywords. Oxford: Wiley Blackwell, 2014.  40-45.
  • Herman, David.  “1880-1945: Re-minding Modernism.” The Emergence of Mind: Representations of Consciousness in Narrative Discourse in English.  Ed. David Herman.  Lincoln: U of Nebraska P, 2011.  243-272.



Seminar Title: Bloomsbury WorldsUrmila Seshagiri

Seminar Leader: Urmila Seshagiri (University of Tennessee) & Rishona Zimring (Lewis and Clark)

Rishona ZimringSeminar Description: This seminar revisits the dynamic, much-storied worlds of the Bloomsbury group. We will consider how Woolf and her numerous Bloomsbury peers and associates in post-Victorian London redefined private space, pioneered new modes of sociability, and cultivated inner worlds shaped by interchanges between art and life. Building on recent work by scholars such as Christine Froula, Maud Ellmann, and Janet Lyon, we will approach Bloomsbury not only as a context, but also as a civilization, a network, and a stage for Bohemian sociability. What are Bloomsbury's legacies in 20th- and 21st-century art, design, performance, publishing, and social theory? How have Bloomsbury’s worlds inspired private collection (for example, rock star Bryan Ferry’s Omega- and Charleston-inspired stylish home), or state sponsorship of the arts as public good (Keynes’ postwar chairmanship of the newly established Arts Council), or entrepreneurship (Persephone Books)? Seminar participants are welcome to bring in cultural evidence of Bloomsbury’s conceptual longevity.

In anticipation of a productive, lively, and focused seminar, Urmila and I would like to ask each of you to send us a very short position paper or reading response no later than Friday, May 30. Given our narrow time frame, we suggest you limit yourself to 600 words, and that you regard this as a flexible opportunity either to respond informally to one or more of the suggested readings or to provide a brief summary of your current scholarship as it relates to Bloomsbury and its legacies. Between Friday, May 30 and Saturday, June 6 (when we meet), Urmila and I will organize your statements so that we can shape the seminar discussion. Please send them to and/or Thank you!

Preparatory Reading:

  • Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space (short selections)
  • Woolf, “Old Bloomsbury” (1922) and “Solid Objects” (1920)
  • J.M. Keynes, “Art and the State” (1936)
  • Urmila Seshagiri, “Making it New: Persephone Books and the Modernist Project” (2013)
  • Rishona Zimring, “Ballet, Folk Dance, and the Cultural History of Interwar Modernism: The Ballet Job,” forthcoming, Modernist Cultures (2014)
  • “The City Squire: Inside Bryan Ferry’s London Home” (2010)



Seminar Title: Queering/Cripping ModernismMadelyn Detloff

Seminar Leader: Madelyn Detloff (Miami University)

Seminar Description: This seminar explores the intersections and imbrications of discourses of normativity as analyzed both by queer theory and crip theory.  It is no accident that the force of normativity burgeoned in the early 20th century, when eugenics served as a potent rationalization for racism, homophobia, colonialism, and able-bodied-ism.  In the seminar, we will discuss Woolf's first and last novels (The Voyage Out and Between the Acts) with reference to Abby Wilkerson's "Normate Sex" and Judith Butler's "Beside One's Self."  Seminar participants will be encouraged to make connections with works by other modernist writers such as Djuna Barnes, James Joyce, and D.H. Lawrence.  

Preparatory reading:

  • Judith Butler, "Beside Oneself: On the Limits of Sexual Autonomy." Chapter One of Undoing Gender. NY: Routledge, 2004.
  • Abby Wilkerson, "Normate Sex and its Discontents." Chapter 9 of Sex and Disability. Ed. Robert McRuer and Anna Mollow. Durham: Duke UP, 1012.
  • Virginia Woolf, The Voyage Out and Between the Acts.



Seminar Title: Perspectives on Virginia Woolf’s Sense of PlaceBonnie Kime Scott

Seminar Leader: Bonnie Kime Scott (San Diego State University)

Seminar Description: I’d like to invite seminar participants to join me in formulating an idea of “deep place,” using Virginia Woolf as a resource. Come to our session with a selected place that you find complexly rendered in her fiction. Think about such physical and theoretical dimensions as global, national, colonial, cosmopolitan, liminal, palimpsestic, transhistorical, gendered, queer, natural/cultural, and ecological, as well as Woolf’s use of metaphor, and the perspectives of observers in her rendition of this place.

Submit a 100-word description of the place and approach that you’d like to discuss in the seminar by June 1 to, using “Woolf Conference Place Seminar” in the subject line.

Preparatory Reading:

  • Esty, Jed.  “Insular Rites:  Virginia Woolf and the Late Modernist Pageant-Play,” Chapter 3 of Shrinking Island: Modernism and National Culture in England. Princeton:  Princeton UP, 2003. 54-107.
  • Heise, Ursula. “Localism and Modernity:  The Ethic of Proximity,” Chapter 1, Part 3 of Sense of Place and Sense of Planet: The Environmental Imagination of the Global.  New York:  Oxford UP, 2008. 28-49
  • Scott, Bonnie Kime. “The Art of Landscape, the Politics of Place,” Chapter 4 of In the Hollow of the Wave:  Virginia Woolf and Modernist Uses of Nature.  Charlottesville: U of Virginia P, 2012. 111-53.



Seminar Title: “This Ecstasy:” Affect, Woolf, ModernityJaime Hovey

Seminar Leader: Jaime Hovey (DePaul University)

Seminar Description: This seminar explores Woolf and feeling, or the ways in which Woolf’s characters, and Woolf herself, use affect to negotiate a commodified modern world. Recent feminist and queer theory has emphasized the ways in which feeling helps subjects create narratives that counter normative, capitalist models of success and belonging, while recent writing on Woolf has reevaluated the tension in her work between detachment and emotion, seeing in this dialectic Woolf’s fashioning of new and larger modes of self-awareness where, as Kirsty Martin has argued, “one feels with groups, cities, and nations.” In this seminar, we will focus mostly on two works about modern cities (or towns) and groups, Mrs. Dalloway and Between the Acts, reading them alongside Judith Halberstam’s “The Queer Art of Failure,” Lauren Berlant’s “Cruel Optimism,” and Carey James Mickalites’s “Alienated Vision and the Will to Intimacy, or Virginia Woolf and ‘the Human Spectacle’.” Participants are welcome to make connections with other modernist-era writers.

Seminar participants are asked to come prepared to discuss the work of emotion with respect to capitalist modes of normativity in one or more Woolf texts. Identify at least one of the three readings for this seminar that most influences your sense of the relation in your text(s) between (a) feeling and b) the norms of everyday life. Then write a brief statement (100-200 words) that describes the quality of emotion, or identifies a specific meaningful emotion, in your chosen text, and discusses how it might be shaped by or resist normative ideals of success. The seminar description focuses on Mrs. Dalloway and Between the Acts for the sake of common reference, but Orlando and other texts are welcome as well.

Submit these short statements to by June 1, and I will circulate them to the group. Bring Woolf passages to share in the seminar.

Preparatory Reading:

  • Berlant, Lauren. "Cruel Optimism," chapter one of Cruel Optimism. Durham: Duke UP, 2011.
  • Halberstram, Judith. "The Queer Art of Failure," chapter three of The Queer Art of Failure. Durham: Duke UP, 2011.
  • Mickalites, Carey James. “Alienated Vision and the Will to Intimacy, or Virginia Woolf and ‘the Human Spectacle.’” Chapter 4 of Modernism and Market Fantasy: British Fictions of Capital, 1910-1939. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012. 133-169.



Seminar Title: Virginia Woolf and Bloomsbury HomosexualityMorgne Cramer

Seminar Leader: Morgne Cramer (University of Connecticut-Stamford)

Seminar Description: In 1981, when Jane Marcus declared "we [feminists] do not consider 'Bloomsbury' as an important influence on Virginia Woolf" (New Feminist Essays on Virginia Woolf), she extricated Woolf from the "Invalid Lady of Bloomsbury" myth. Although this shift was liberating at first, lesbian readings of Woolf suggest we shift context again to include Bloomsbury friendships, especially in connection to ideas about homosexuality, because it is in early Bloomsbury that Woolf first received her reeducation in un-Victorian sexual frankness and where her theories about female same-sex love began to take shape. During the heyday of Bloomsbury sex talks, 1904-1914, Woolf had already acknowledged erotic feelings for women. Sexual, especially homosexual themes, predominated in these conversations: those “hours of talk” Woolf records on, for example, third sex theories (D1 110); “sex and illegal rites” (L1 414); sodomy (D2 136; L3 330); and of course, homosexual love (D2 126; L3 351).

Seminar participants are asked to come prepared to share favorite female and male homoerotic passages from Woolf’s fiction and to consider how reading Woolf within Bloomsbury homosexual contexts might alter prevalent ideas about Woolf as sexual theorist and modernist.

Preparatory Reading:

  • P. Morgne Cramer. "Virginia Woolf and Theories of Sexuality." Virginia Woolf in Context. Eds. Jane Goldman and Susan Sellers. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2012. 129-46.
  • P. Morgne Cramer. "Woolf and Sexuality." The Cambridge Companion to Virginia Woolf. Eds Susan Sellers and Jane Goldman. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2010. 180-96.
  • Jane Marcus. "Sapphistry: Narration as Lesbian Seduction in A Room of One's Own. Virginia Woolf and the Languages of Patriarchy. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1987. 163-87.
  • Karyn Z. Sproles. Desiring Women: The Partnership of Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West. Toronto: Toronto UP, 2006.
    Chapter 1. "Desiring Women." pp. 3-17.
    Chapter 3. "Making Use of the Fruit: Vita Sackville-West's Influence on Virginia Woolf.” pp. 51-69.
  • Swanson, Diana L. "Gardens in The Years and Maurice: Woolf and Forster on Homosexuality, England, and Empire." ©Diana L. Swanson