This ninety-minute presentation takes up the issue of women’s education in relation to Virginia Woolf’s fiction and non-fiction writing from the interwar years (spanning 1922–1938). For Woolf, the layout of buildings—rooms, windows, dormitories, libraries—are representative of larger social forces that shape individuals, men and women alike.
We will begin with Jacob, the hero of Woolf’s early novel Jacob’s Room (1922), as he tries to make space for himself in the literati of pre-World War I England. From there, we will approach Shakespeare’s sister, Judith, so named by Woolf in her influential essay, A Room of One’s Own (1929), to trace the development of Woolf’s conviction that space and money are two pillars that support radical thought and social progress, particularly in the case of women. Finally, we turn to one of the final pieces she wrote before her untimely death at the beginning of WWII: Three Guineas (1938), in which she examines the connection between war and limited education for women.
Out of the flames of the stodgy old university mentality would arise a new woman educated for a new, war-free era. At the end of the presentation, audiences will be asked to consider: Is Woolf’s plan finding some resonance in the recent resurgence of the community college?