Virginia Woolf's 'The Common Reader': A Reading Class with a writing component (1868)

Three Thursdays: August 2, 9, 16, 3:15 to 5:15 p.m.

$90.00 (10% off for members)

Samuel Johnson’s The Lives of Poets gave Virginia Woolf the title and inspiration for The Common Reader:  two volumes of short reviews, biographical essays, and commentaries on literary figures and changing tastes collected in 1925 and 1932. In these entertaining volumes, Woolf strove to answer the perennial question of the bookstore patron: “How Should One Read a Book?”

As a girl, Virginia devoured the works her father, the literary critic Leslie Stephen, kept in his leather-backed Cambridge library. Through his books she came to know the Elizabethans, Montaigne, Chaucer, Addison and Defoe; as an adult, she assessed the newer contributions of novelists Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, George Eliot, Henry James, Chekhov, Joseph Conrad, George Gissing and George Meredith, and poets Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Christina Rossetti.  The Common Reader is a luminous container of Woolf’s philosophies on literature, the art of criticism and the function of the novel. In these breezy pieces, the imagination behind To the Lighthouse, Mrs. Dalloway, Orlando and The Waves, reveals itself through biographical sketches and essays. Woolf believed that most books were composed of the ordinary scraps (“rubbish-heaps and find rings and scissors and broken noses”) of everyday chronicle, while literature captures the extraordinary moment, thought, and character in motion. In this class we will discuss a selection of essays from both the first and second series of the Common Reader, and do brief writing exercises to tease out the hidden essayist (anf reviewer) in all of us.


Common Reader, First Series Virginia Woolf (9780156027786)
The Second Common Reader, Virginia Woolf (9780156028165)

Nicole Miller’s prize-winning essays have appeared recently in New Letters and Arts & Letters magazines. Her fiction has been published twice in The Mays, edited by Jill Paton Walsh and Sebastian Faulks. She received an M.Phil. in Victorian Literature from Lincoln College, Oxford; a PhD in English at University College, London; and an MFA at Emerson College, Boston, where she held the Graduate Fellowship in Creative Writing. At The Oxford English Dictionary, she has served as a scholarly reader for British Dialects since 2002. She edits faculty manuscripts in Harvard’s English Department and teaches nineteenth and twentieth century British literature at Politics & Prose in Washington D.C.

REFUND POLICY: Please note that we can issue class refunds up until seven (7) days before the first class session.

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The Common Reader: First Series, Annotated Edition Cover Image
ISBN: 9780156027786
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: Mariner Books - November 4th, 2002

The Second Common Reader: Annotated Edition Cover Image
ISBN: 9780156028165
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: Mariner Books - January 13th, 2003