London Travel Course Explores Genius of Woolf
Carol Bender had a certain destination on her mind during her sabbatical last winter term: London.
The English professor spent her sabbatical preparing for her Spring Term travel course, Virginia Woolf and London, which she taught last May.
Because Woolf is an influential figure in both British and women’s literature, the decision to choose to study her work was an easy one for Bender.
Carol Bender in London
“Woolf truly is a genius, so I thought it would be such a pleasure to focus on her work and nothing else,” she says. “Better than anyone I’ve ever read, I think she captures the historical journey of women through literature. I’ve always admired her work.”
Bender chose Woolf’s novels Mrs Dalloway, Night and Day and To the Lighthouse for the course. Being in London, the students in her class had the opportunity to visit the places described in the novels, including St. Ives, Cornwall for a weekend trip.
“We saw the lighthouse, which was awe-inspiring,” she says. “A tour guide also took us throughout London following the path of Clarissa Dalloway in Mrs Dalloway.”
Spending time in London is a joy for Bender, who taught her first Spring Term course there in 1992. She has gone back for every sabbatical, visiting again in 1995 and 2002.
While working on her Ph.D in 1988, she also studied at the University of London, where she was introduced to the technique of using drama to understand fiction, her research focus during this sabbatical.
“We were asked to dramatize work, which ended up being very powerful,” says Bender. “As we acted out the roles, we were struck by how much better we understood the works.”
Over the years, she has become more interested in using this technique within her courses, as it has continually proven to be both powerful and effective.
“Using drama, students try to figure out the back story of every character, which really helps in terms of understanding motivation,” says Bender. “As we analyze the text and characters, we want to understand why they behave as they do, so getting into their minds has been a successful strategy.”
In addition to giving students a fuller understanding of the work, she says this technique also creates a less stereotyped response to the characters.
“Writers and playwrights such as Virginia Woolf or Tennessee Williams put a great deal into these characters, so we want to be able to understand them as much as possible,” says Bender. “Approaching the work from a rich background helps students do this.”
Posted: Mon, October 18th, 2010 at 9:26AM