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Bloomsbury Experiments

ENGL 261.950
instructor(s):
fulfills requirements:
Sector 6: 20th Century Literature of the Standard Major
Elective Seminar of the Standard Major

This course considers the aesthetic, cultural, and social experiments of the Bloomsbury Group. The set of English artists, writers, and scholars that goes by that name thrived in the Bloomsbury section of London from around 1905 to the beginning of World War II. The group includes such well-known figures as Virginia Woolf, E.M. Forster, John Maynard Keynes, Lytton Strachey, Vanessa Bell, and Roger Fry; it also fostered important collaborations among visual artists, critics, translators, and writers (including the Omega Workshops and Hogarth Press). A key site in literary and artistic modernism, Bloomsbury also gave rise to a number of experiments in living. As the members of the group sought to throw off Victorian and Edwardian strictures, they cultivated passionate, unconventional friendships and created space for alternative forms of gender expression, sexuality, and relationship (open marriages, long-term triangles, etc.). This course will introduce students to a range of materials produced by the Bloomsbury group and will place the group within the history of modernism. We will also discuss the importance of the coterie form and will consider more broadly the transformation of social and sexual relations in the early twentieth century. As a class we will visit important sites in Bloomsbury; archives and museums; and Charleston, the farmhouse in Sussex where Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant lived (and many others came to stay) from 1916 onward. Requirements: full participation; short reaction papers; a final seminar paper.