Fictions of Home: Jane Austen to the Present Day
Literature Summer Course 2019

 This course has now finished.

This course explores ideas of home in literature, from the early nineteenth century until today, from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and Northanger Abbey, through Charles Dickens, Katherine Mansfield, and Virginia Woolf, and ending with contemporary refugee writers.

How does the modern idea of 'home' emerge in the writings of Jane Austen; when does a house become a home? What does 'home' mean in Dickens’s powerful autobiographical novel, David Copperfield (1850)? In the early twentieth century, how does Katherine Mansfield understand 'home' in her innovative and moving short stories; and what does it mean in Virginia Woolf's great novel, Mrs Dalloway (1925)? And finally, we explore how writers in our own time discuss the terrible loss of home faced by refugees. We will study Vietnamese-American Viet Nguyen’s story collection, The Refugees (2017) alongside anthologies of British and international refugee writers, Refugee Tales and The Displaced. Our teachers include Oliver Goldstein, Alison Hennegan, Isobel Maddison, Corinna Russell, Clare Walker Gore, and Trudi Tate. 

There will be lectures, seminars and supervisions (tutorials), plus an evening talk by Ann Kennedy Smith on 'The women who changed Cambridge: Anne Clough, Ida Darwin and Helen Gladstone', and a reading of the whole of Tennyson’s great poem, Maud (1855) by Oliver Goldstein. There will also be excursions to places of interest in Cambridge, including Girton College, the Wren Library at Trinity College, and Kettle’s Yard house.

The course aims to give us new insights into great writers of the past 200 years. And it seeks to understand how literature bears witness to one of the great themes of our time: the meanings of home.


Reading list

Summer course, July 2018

Summer course, July 2018

Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice (1813)
Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey (written 1798; published 1817)
Charles Dickens, David Copperfield (1850)
Virginia Woolf, Mrs Dalloway (1925)
Katherine Mansfield, Collected Short Stories (mainly 1920s)
Viet Nguyen, The Refugees (2017)
Viet Nguyen, ed., The Displaced: Refugee Writers on Refugee Lives (2018)
David Herd and Anna Pincus, eds., Refugee Tales (2016)

Lecture list

Alison Hennegan on Austen, Northanger Abbey and Pride and Prejudice
Corinna Russell on Dickens, David Copperfield
Jane Potter on Woolf, Mrs Dalloway
Isobel Maddison on Katherine Mansfield, short stories
Trudi Tate on Viet Nguyen, The Refugees; Viet Nguyen, ed., The Displaced: Refugee Writers on Refugee Lives; and David Herd and Anna Pincus, eds., Refugee Tales II

Ann Kennedy Smith, evening talk: ‘The women who changed Cambridge: Anne Clough, Ida Darwin and Helen Gladstone’:

Ann writes: ‘For hundreds of years Cambridge was an all-male institution. Then in the 1870s and 1880s the first women students and university wives arrived, and changed everything. Virginia Woolf once called Cambridge ‘that detestable place’, but these women's influence went beyond college walls. This talk will focus on Anne Clough, Ida Darwin and Helen Gladstone, whose work connected town with gown.’

Poetry reading: Oliver Goldstein will read Tennyson’s poem Maud (1855) in its entirety. This extraordinary work is written in the voice of a young man who feels out of place in his homeland (mid-nineteenth century England). It’s a story of love found and lost; of hope and delusion; of homeland and homelessness. The reading will take about an hour.

Jane Austen

Jane Austen

Dates and Venue

21-26 July 2019, Wolfson College, Cambridge.

Take the opportunity to live for a week like a Cambridge student in the relaxed environment of Wolfson College, Cambridge. Immerse yourself in literature, with, lectures and discussions, and time to read and think. There will be visits to places of literary interest in Cambridge, a welcome dinner, a formal closing dinner, and a traditional English afternoon tea. 


From our 2018 students:

• 'The week I spent in your Women Writers course at Cambridge was the ultimate reward to myself for years of self-study on Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group. The immersion with like-minded literature-lovers was bliss. The mix of lectures and trips was the perfect blend. 

• ‘I loved sitting outside under the trees and reading aloud from the works.'

• ‘I loved the wonderful mix of academics, graduate students and common readers, like myself, who made up our group.’

• ‘I enjoyed the amazing sensation of being with a group of people who needed absolutely no explanation of why I love Woolf and would want to spend my holidays with her (and them!). I think this really hit me when we were all huddled in a white room in the basement of the Fitzwilliam Museum, poring over the original manuscript of A Room of One’s Own with magnifying glasses and feeling SO happy!’

• Julia Salmeron writes about her time on our 2018 Women Writers course on our Blog page.

The course

Laura, Ragavi, Alexander outside Wren*.jpg

Each day starts with a lecture presented by a leading scholar. Students have a chance to talk to the lecture over a cup of tea after the lecture. Most days we have a Cambridge-style supervision (tutorial), given to students in very small groups, and led by lecturers and post-docs from the University of Cambridge. Supervisions are a unique opportunity to discuss a work in depth, try out ideas, and refine your close reading skills. We will also have a group seminar in which everyone can participate.

We will pay visits to places of interest in Cambridge, including some of the most beautiful, ancient colleges. Our lecturers lead the visits and can get access to areas not usually open to the public.

After lectures, supervisions, and excursions, there is some time to explore Cambridge on your own, go punting, discuss literature with other students, and to reflect. 

Refugees cover 1.jpg

We also offer a week of study on Virginia Woolf's Gardens, 14-19 July 2019. There is a discount if you attend both courses.
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Information from Gov.UK, checked on 2 February 2019.
According to Gov.UK, people from many countries still don’t need a visa to visit the UK as a tourist or for a short course. Please check on the Gov.UK visa page. The visa rules are not expected to change in the near future, whether or not Britain ends up leaving the EU. Gov.UK advises that visitors from the EU, Australia, Canada, the US, Argentina, Japan, and many other countries don’t need a visa for a short visit. Please check the Gov.UK page for the latest updates, and for the documentation they advise you to bring. According to Gov.UK, visitors from China and Turkey probably will need a visa.

Useful links

British Library information on Jane Austen.
Reading of Tennyson’s Maud on YouTube.
Katherine Mansfield Society webpage. Includes copies of Mansfield's stories.
Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain webpage.
Viet Nguyen, New York Times article, September 2016, on being a refugee.
Interview by Piper French with Viet Nguyen, Asymptote journal, April 2019.
Extract from Lyndsey Stonebridge’s essay on creation and de-creation in refugee studies.
Lecture by Viet Nguyen at Memory Studies Association conference, Madrid, 2019.

Gallery from our 2018 summer courses. Thanks to Jeremy Peters @JezPete for the photos.