Jane GarrityAssociate Director for Undergraduate Studies in the Department of English
Global Seminar: Literary London: Virginia Woolf On-Site (London, England)
What is your international experience like? Did you study abroad as a student?
I studied in London on a Rotary scholarship right after I graduated from Berkeley, and it was the most fantastic year of my twenties! I lived in an international dorm and studied for an MA in 20th century British Literature at Queen Mary College. During that time I gave traveled around England giving talks to Rotary club members about life in the states, so I was able to see the value of both academic and cultural immersion in a foreign country. That year confirmed for me that what I wanted to do was get a PhD in English literature and become a professor—and I did!
Why should English majors go abroad?
It’s really the best way to understand the literature. Virginia Woolf’s works are really steeped in the importance of public and private spaces, and for her London was “the center of things”—not only the social center but the vital epicenter of life itself. The opportunities for experiential learning and for immersion in a different cultural environment are unparalleled and cannot be compared to studying the same content back home.
What is your favorite British food?
That’s easy—cream tea (afternoon tea with scones, clotted cream, and jam)!
Why is London such a good place to study this topic?
London has an unrivaled literary heritage, and its architecture, monuments, parks, museums, and historic houses and squares are intimately associated with the work of Virginia Woolf. Students will understand how the social, historical, biographical, and cultural contexts of London gave rise to Woolf’s texts, and they will apply key literary terms and concepts to their understanding of what role the city played in Woolf's literary imagination. This global seminar uses the city of London—the cultural and political capital of England—as the centerpiece of all course readings. While this is an upper-division course, it assumes no prior knowledge of Woolf.
What aspect of this program do you look forward to the most?
The walking tours to key locations associated with Woolf’s work and life; the excursions to Monk’s House (a 17th century cottage inhabited by Woolf from 1919) and Charleston Farmhouse (the home and country meeting place for Bloomsbury writers, painters, and intellectuals). I am also really looking forward to the excursion to Knole (Vita Sackville-West’s grand ancestral home and the setting for Virginia Woolf’s novel, Orlando). Perhaps the most exciting trip will be to the incredible art studio of Cressida Bell, the great-niece of Virginia Woolf who specializes in textiles and interior decoration. Students will participate in a hands-on art project that recalls the work produced by Bloomsbury members of the Omega Workshop, the early twentieth-century arts and crafts cooperative where Woolf shopped and was a patron. This will be the most unique experience for all of us!
I am really excited about this study abroad seminar and can’t wait to meet my students and go!