reading the waves

Study Day, Saturday 21 September 2019, 11.00 am–5.00 pm

Price: £90.00 / £80.00 students. Lunch, tea and coffee provided.
Venue: Stapleford Granary, Bury Road, Stapleford, Cambridge CB22 5BP

CAMcard holders and members of Virginia Woolf societies can book at the student price. Please bring proof of status to the event.

The Waves (1931) is regarded by many as Virginia Woolf’s most remarkable novel. The book traces the life stories of six friends, three women and three men, told in six voices. Woolf explores their very different experiences, looking at how their lives interweave. How do we perceive ourselves as we live; how do we shape the lives of our friends? How do people experience friendship and love, inhabit their bodies, and come to understand – or not – their own sense of self?

How does the narrative method shape the meanings of this lyrical work?

Three leading lecturers will lead us through different approaches to the book, with three lectures and a round-table seminar. Tea and coffee and a light lunch are included in the price.

Whether you know Woolf’s work well, or are coming to it for the first time, this day will deepen your understanding and enjoyment of her writing.


Bookings can be made on the Stapleford Granary website. If you prefer to book by cheque or PayPal, please email us or use our contact form.

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Trudi Tate
Introduction to The Waves

This lecture will introduce us to The Waves, looking at its structure and narrative techniques. Then it will explore Woolf’s use of rooms in the novel. Why are rooms important; what do they mean? How are human relationships shaped by the rooms we inhabit?

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Claire Nicholson
Clothing in The Waves

What do characters wear in The Waves? The novel might seem to be composed of disembodied voices, yet bodies are very important in the novel, and Woolf often draws attention to clothing, fabric, and textures. What do they mean?

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Alison Hennegan
Six characters in search of a self

How does Woolf write the six characters in The Waves; and what is their relationship to the absent Percival? How does Woolf imagine the self in this novel?


Photos of our Woolf Study Day in 2018 by Jeremy Peters

About our lecturers

Alison Hennegan is Director of Studies in English at Trinity Hall, Cambridge. After working for many years in gay activism, literary journalism, publishing and broadcasting, she returned to Cambridge to teach for numerous Cambridge colleges, specialising in nineteenth- and twentieth-century literature and in Tragedy. She has published on Oscar Wilde, Elizabeth von Arnim, First World War writings, Benjamin Britten, gay fiction, and many other topics.


Claire Nicholson is Chair of the Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain. She works on Woolf’s complex relationship with clothing and fashion. She teaches widely on Woolf and Bloomsbury. She is co-editor of The Women Aesthetes 1870–1900, vol. 1 and also of The Voyage Out: Centenary Perspectives.

Trudi Tate is a Fellow of Clare Hall, Cambridge and Director of Literature Cambridge. She has published books and articles on the Virginia Woolf, First World War, the Crimean War, and the American-Vietnamese War, with a special interest in Vietnamese refugee writers. She runs Literature Cambridge’s annual summer course on Virginia Woolf. Her most recent book is A Short History of the Crimean War (I. B. Tauris, 2018).


Waves photo by Tim Marshall, Unsplash

Waves photo by Tim Marshall, Unsplash