L-LIN/10 - 9 CFU - 2° Semester

Teaching Staff


Learning Objectives

The course intends to advance the students’ reading and interpretive skills with the aim of developing a critical competence concerning the aesthetic configurations and ethico-political implications of literary texts. In particular, the course pursues the following aims: 1) to consolidate the contextual and specific knowledge of important authors (in the Restoration age and Modernism) and of their relationship with the literary canon; 2) to offer methodological guidelines to literary criticism’s various trends, including Cultural and Gender Studies.

Course Structure

Lectures delivered in English; reading and analysis of texts will be carried out in group and workshop form.

Detailed Course Content

Module A (4 ECTS)

The Age of Aphra Behn. Women and Writing in the Seventeenth Century

Module A offers an in-depth study of playwright, novelist and poet Aphra Behn, who is considered the first professional woman writer in English literature. We will read Behn’s biography written by Vita Sackville-West, with a selection of her texts, including extracts from her comedy The Rover (1677), in order to examine the reasons for Astrea’s fame, her unconventional life, her success in the world of the theatre and the literary marketplace dominated by men. We will focus in particular on the protofeminist themes that inform her work, and on the material and cultural context of its production.


Module B (3 ECTS)

Virginia Woolf’s Modernist Fiction

This module offers a reading of Woolf’s theoretical texts on “Modern Fiction” and various critical interpretations in order to enhance and consolidate the students’ knowledge of British Modernism. In particular, we will examine the structural, thematic and narrative elements of Woolf’s novel Mrs. Dalloway (1925). Our critical approach will focus on the consonance between Woolf’s modernist narrative experimentalism – her project to radically “re-form” literary conventions and genres – and her socio-political vision in the historical context of Great Britain between the wars. Mrs Dalloway, as a “city symphony” novel, allows for a multiplicity of readings which reveal its rich tapestry of themes and visions: pacifism, anti-imperialism, critique of patriarchy, lesbianism, resistance to medical, psychiatric and sexological discourses, all of which are intertwined with poetical and philosophical reflections on time, reality, life and death.


Modulo C (2 ECTS)


This module, which serves as trait d’union between module A and B, focuses on Woolf’s essay A Room of One’s Own (1929), the founding text of feminist literary criticism. This essay will provide a lens through which we will examine the social and material conditions that, historically, have hindered women’s access to writing and/or their inclusion in the literary canon (see the case study on Aphra Behn); at the same time, we will analyse the critical vision of a number of writers, including Woolf, who have opposed the dominant ideology in their literary works.

Textbook Information

Module A

The Age of Aphra Behn. Women and Writing in the Seventeenth Century

Primary Text

- Sackville-West, V. Aphra Behn. L’incomparabile Astrea, a cura di S. Arcara, Milano, Vanda Edizioni 2021 (with English text)

Critical Essays

- Aughterson, K., Aphra Behn: The Comedies, Palgrave MacMillan 2003. Selected passages: ‘Introduction’, pp. 1-3; ‘Openings’, pp. 7-14; ‘Endings’, pp. 31-38; ‘Heroines and Whores’, pp. 80-87; 100-102; ‘Rakes and Gallants’, pp. 108-111; 122-123; ‘Carnival and Masquerade’, pp. 167-174; ‘General Conclusions Part 1’, pp. 202-203; ’Behn’s Literary Career’, pp. 207-220.

- Hobby, E., ‘Introduction’, in Virtue of Necessity. English Women’s Writing 1649-88, Virago 1988, pp. 1-13.

- Portelli, A., ‘Un principe nero per l’Europa’, Alias, 11, 1998, p. 17.


Module B Virginia Woolf’s Modernist Fiction

Primary Text

- Woolf, V., La signora Dalloway. Testo inglese a fronte. A cura di M. Sestito, Venezia, Marsilio 2012 (or any complete edition in English)

Critical Essays

- Barrett, E., “Unmasking Lesbian Passion: The Inverted World of Mrs. Dalloway”, in E. Barrett, P. Cramer eds., Virginia Woolf: Lesbian Readings, New York U.P., 1997, pp. 146-164

- Goldman, J., “Contexts” e “Mrs. Dalloway”, in The Cambridge Introduction to Virginia Woolf, Cambridge UP 2006, pp. 33-36 e pp. 53-58 [available from the library]

- Goldman, J., “From Mrs. Dalloway to The Waves”, in S. Sellers ed., The Cambridge Companion to Virginia Woolf, Cambridge UP, 2010, pp. 49-59
- Marcus, L., “Virginia Woolf and The Cinema: Modernity and Montage”, in id. The Tenth Muse: Writing about Cinema in the Modernist Period, Oxford UP 2007, pp. 139-143

- Squier, S., Virginia Woolf and London: the Sexual Politics of the City, University of North Carolina Press, 1985, pp. 91-116.

Module C Methodology

- Woolf, V., Una stanza tutta per sé / A Room of One’s Own, ed. M.A. Saracino, with English text, Einaudi, 1995 (or any complete edition in English).

- Goldman, J., “A Room of One’s Own (1929)” in The Cambridge Introduction to Virginia Woolf, Cambridge UP 2006, pp. 97-103 [available from the library].


Multimedia resources

- BBC Radio 4 – “Mrs. Dalloway - Melvyn Bragg discusses Woolf’s novel with Hermione Lee, Jane Goldman, Kathryn Simpson” (podcast, 46 min.) https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b048033q

- Bradshaw, D. “Mrs Dalloway and the First World War” (article, British Library)

- Cenni biografici su V. Woolf (Yale University)
- Taunton, M., “Modernism, Time and Consciousness: the Influence of Bergson and Proust” (article, British Library)

- Showalter, E., “Exploring Consciousness” (video, 18 min., British Library) (https://www.bl.uk/20th-century-literature/articles/exploring-consciousness-and-the-modern-an-introduction-to-mrs-dalloway


Please remember that in compliance with art. 171 L22.04.1941, n. 633 and its amendments, it is illegal to copy entire books or journals, only 15% of their content can be copied.

For further information on sanctions and regulations concerning photocopying please refer to the regulations on copyright (Linee Guida sulla Gestione dei Diritti d’Autore) provided by AIDRO - Associazione Italiana per i Diritti di Riproduzione delle opere dell’ingegno (the Italian Association on Copyright).

Books listed in the programs that cannot be consulted in the Library will be available through Studium.

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