Women's Writing from Wollstonecraft to Woolf

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Module code


  • Level 1
  • Semester 2
  • English - School of Humanities
  • Coursework 100%
  • Evening classes, day and time tbc


This course seeks to question the development of the male-centred literary canon by taking into account the works of some of the most famous, and some lesser-known, women writers from the late eighteenth to the early twentieth centuries. Through a close engagement with a wide selection of texts, this module will consider the ways in which women’s writing reflected on, engaged with, and protested against, gender ideology. Starting with the ground-breaking writings of Mary Wollstonecraft whose Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792) called for the extension of female education, the module will end with a consideration the revolutionary works of Virginia Woolf. The module will consider a diverse range of genres including the manifesto, prose fiction, and poetry and will explore a number of issues such as marriage, class, race, and the politics of writing.


Dr James Morris


The module will be taught by a weekly two-hour workshop over 11 weeks.


This module is assessed as follows:

  • Close reading essay 90% (2 x 45%)
  • 5 Minute Presentation (10%)


Indicative Reading

Indicative Reading List:

Selections from Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (in Norton)

Jane Austen, ‘Lady Susan’

Selected Poetry, Anna Lettitia Barbauld (in Norton)

Anonymous, The Woman of Colour

George Eliot, Silas Marner

Mary Seacole, selections from Wonderful Adventures

Mary Prince, selections from The History of Mary Prince

Charlotte Perkins Gilman, ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’

Edith Wharton, Ethan Frome

Mina Loy, ‘Feminist Manifesto’ and Selected Poetry

Virginia Woolf, ‘Modern Fiction’, ‘Professions for Women’, and ‘The Mark on the Wall’ (in Norton)

Module Aims

1. To provide students with the key skills required to undertake an undergraduate degree in the Humanities.

2. To increase students’ knowledge of writing by women throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

3. To consider the works of various women writers (in various genres) in their literary and cultural contexts.

4. To give students some knowledge of cultural debates surrounding the position of women’s writing in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

5. To provide students with the critical thinking skills to address the idea of literary canonisation.

Intended learning outcomes

1. Students should be able to develop the critical thinking and writing skills to prepare them for further study at undergraduate level.

2. Students should show an ability to engage critically with a representative range of writing from the nineteenth to early twentieth centuries.

3. Students should develop some understanding of the cultural context which shaped women’s writing during the period.

4. Students should indicate an understanding of some of the central aesthetic and cultural debates which took place during the period.

5. Students should demonstrate some knowledge of recent critical developments that have influenced the interpretation of women’s writing and of literary canonisation.

6. Students should demonstrate an ability to use relevant critical and digital resources in preparing written work.