- DURATION 60 mins
This series focuses the spotlight on women writers who have made huge contributions to the world of literature, fighting against the cultural expectations placed on them to tell stories their own way.
Katherine Mansfield, 1888 - 1923: Rebel and Storyteller (Tuesday 9th May, 4pm)
Katherine was born in New Zealand and came to England as a teenager. Precociously ambitious, she became known for her innovative technique. Virginia Woolf confessed that Katherine was the only writer she was afraid of. Katherine’s personal life was chaotic. A teenage pregnancy ended in tragedy and marriage to a man she left on their wedding night. She later married her lover John Middleton Murry, but they spent most of their time apart. She died of TB at the age of 34.
Always on the fringes of the Bloomsbury circle, Katherine’s friends included Virginia Woolf, Bertrand Russell and DH Lawrence, who put her in one of his novels. Her short stories are ground-breaking; her intimate journals regarded as some of the best personal writing in the world.
Virginia Woolf, 1882 – 1941: A Fragile Genius (Tuesday 16th May, 4pm)
Born in late Victorian London into a privileged and intellectual family, Virginia Stephen was one of 8 children in a blended family. Early childhood trauma and sexual abuse affected her deeply and she had episodes of ‘breakdown’ from the age of 13. Virginia and her eldest sister, the painter Vanessa Bell, scandalised society by leading independent lives after the death of their father in 1904. Together with their friends, they became known as the Bloomsbury Group. Virginia married Leonard Woolf in 1912, but also had several relationships with women, in particular with Vita Sackville West.
Her first novel, The Voyage Out, was published in 1915. She is best known for her essay ‘A Room of One’s Own’ – one of the seminal works for women writers – and for Mrs Dalloway, Orlando and To The Lighthouse, which are still regarded as ground-breaking novels. After a lifetime struggling with her mental health and several suicide attempts, in 1941 she walked into the River Ouse near her home at Rodmell, leaving a letter for her husband.
Jean Rhys, 1890 – 1979: Writing from Darkness (Tuesday 23rd May, 4pm)
Jean Rhys was born in Dominica in the West Indies. Her father was a doctor, and her mother was a ‘Creole’. Like Katherine Mansfield, she came to England to be educated, but felt unable to fit into a society that didn’t accept outsiders easily. Estranged from her family, she eked out a precarious living on the fringes of respectable society. There were affairs, back street abortions, ill-advised marriages and a great deal of pain. After a bigamous marriage to a Belgian poet, she became the mistress of Ford Madox Ford who helped her to become published.
Jean Rhys described her experiences in four novels, beginning with Quartet, Voyage in the Dark, After Leaving Mr Mackenzie, and Good Morning Midnight. Like Woolf and Mansfield, she became one of the most important Modernist writers of the 20th century. Her personal life remained chaotic and, after the war, she gave up writing almost entirely until she was rediscovered in the 1960s. Her final novel, Wide Sargasso Sea is written from her memories of Dominica and the character of the ‘mad woman in the attic’ in Jane Eyre.
- Duration: 60 mins
- Online Zoom event: Join from your computer, phone or tablet (no replay available)
Meet the Host, Kathleen Jones
Kathleen Jones is a poet, novelist and author of eight literary biographies. Her account of the lives of the women associated with the Lake Poets, ‘A Passionate Sisterhood’ was a Virago Classic and won the Barclays Bank prize for biography. After graduating from Bristol University, Kathleen worked in broadcast journalism and has taught creative writing in a number of universities. She is currently a Royal Literary Fund Fellow, and in 2012 was elected a Fellow of the English Association for services to literature. She has also published four collections of poetry and a travel journal.
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Women Writers who changed the course of English Literature has supplementary learning materials provided by the event host. Once you book an event, you will get access to these resources.
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