By Rebecca Cameron, De Paul University
Value: 15% of overall grade for course.
Purpose: To gain insight into Woolf’s writing process.
Instructions: Use Woolf Online to learn about Woolf’s writing process through her diaries and manuscripts. Your assignment should demonstrate your ability to make use of these primary sources to analyze To the Lighthouse. This assignment has three parts, each worth 5 points, for a total of 15 points. You may also use ModNets as another way to search and explore related materials in Woolf Online and other related digital scholarly resources.
Part 1: Diaries (writing process)
Woolf Online includes a series of entries Woolf wrote in her diary while she was working on To the Lighthouse. Read through these diary entries and find two observations that Woolf makes about the novel’s development that help you to understand either the form or the content of Woolf’s novel. What comments did you find most useful to understanding To the Lighthouse, and why? Your response should point to specific passages in the diaries and link them with your own commentary on specific aspects of the novel. Aim to use at least one or two quotations from the novel to illustrate your point.
Part 2: Diaries (social context)
Woolf’s diary entries also record her impressions of a General Strike that took place in England in May 1926 in support of coal miners who were being asked to work longer hours for lower wages. The strike affected transportation, newsprint, and food supplies. (See this article from the BBC for a general overview.) Do any aspects of this General Strike make their way into Woolf’s novel? Your response should make specific connections between her impressions of the Strike and the novel. Consider whether her experiences during the Strike might have influenced her imagery, her depiction of working-class people, or her presentation of social causes, for example. (You may argue that the Strike had no influence, but make sure you illustrate that point with specific references to the diaries and the novel.)
To get started, you might take a look at Woolf’s mentions of “strike” between 1926 and 1928.
Part 3: Typescript
Woolf Online includes several different versions of the “Time Passes section of To the Lighthouse–notebooks, manuscripts, typescripts, and published editions. Compare the typescript version of “Time Passes,” Section 3, pages 5-8, to the same passage in your published version of the novel (in the Harcourt edition, the passage appears as “Time Passes,” Sections 3 and 4, pages 127-30). Identify two or three key changes that Woolf made to the typescript before it was published, and comment on the effect of these changes. You might consider how the changes affect such matters as tone, imagery, rhythm, cadence, characterization, or theme.