100 Years of Women’s Suffrage: Celebrating a Century of British Feminist Literature

"Women if you want to realize yourselves — you are on the eve of a devastating psychological upheaval — all your pet illusions must be unmasked—the lies of centuries have got to go — are you prepared for the Wrench — ?" Mina Loy, 'Feminist Manifesto'

Dates: 4, 11, 18, 25 May; 1 June

Fridays: 10.30 - 12.30

Course code: 17TON345

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Composed in 1914, Loy's 'Feminist Manifesto' forecasts the 'Wrench' of 20th century feminist investigation. Taking its inspiration from the centenary of British women's right to vote, this short course will commemorate the diversity of literature written by women in the UK. Exposing participants to a range of genres, including novels, poetry and feminist theory, we will explore the psychological, social and political forces at play in modern British women's writing.

Each core text represents a significant moment in British feminist literature of the 20th century. Placing well-known literary figures, such as Virginia Woolf and Zadie Smith, alongside lesser-known writers such as Mina Loy,  we will trace the evolving articulations of gender. How did British writers perceive and construct new versions of womanhood? How did such constructions operate through different literary forms? Starting with Loy's radical proclamations of independence, we will discover how feminist ideals mutate and collide, culminating in our reading of Sara Ahmed's celebrated 2017 text Living a Feminist Life.

Course content

  • Workshop and seminar-style classes.
  • Smaller class groups.
  • Participants will learn to assess a variety of different types of written materials and their relation to political and social forms, over the course of seminar discussions.
  • Gain an understanding of the different historical and literary trajectories of British feminist writers.
  • An ability to apply close reading techniques to a range of literary texts and to make comparisons between them.
  • Develop approaches to concepts such as gender, intersectionality and gain a grounding in feminist theory.

The course will examine the following texts:

  • Week 1: Mina Loy "Feminist Manifesto' and 'Love songs to Joannes' (1917)
  • Week 2: Virginia Woolf A Room of One's Own (1929)
  • Week 3: Jean Rhys Wide Sargasso Sea (1966)
  • Week 4: Zadie Smith NW (2012)
  • Week 5: Sara Ahmed Living a Feminist Life (2017)

Course tutor

Dr. Claire Hurley is an Associate Lecturer in the English department at the University of Kent, having previously taught at Queen Mary and Goldsmiths University of London, where she was nominated for 'Teacher of the Year'. She completed her PhD on 20th century feminist poetry in 2017, and she has published on the writers Adrienne Rich and Gertrude Stein. Her most recent research interests include performance and embodiment in black British poetry, as well as experimental pedagogies in seminar teaching. "We all love working with Claire... She is one of the most talented, original and passionate lecturers working in her field and student feedback confirms that."

Dr Michael Collins, Senior Lecturer in American Literature; Director of Graduate Studies, Centre for American Studies, University of Kent.


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