Date of Award

Spring 2000

Project Type


Program or Major

English Literature

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Romana Huk


Reading for Class is a feminist materialist study of three twentieth-century British writers: Virginia Woolf (1882--1941), Rebecca West (1892--1983), and Sylvia Townsend Warner (1893--1978). In triangulation, Woolf, West, and Warner provide the specific grounding for the project's more general exploration of the intersections between class issues and literature. The Introduction forges the eclectic critical method defined as reading for class, and articulates the historical-political purposes of the method and of the study itself. In Chapter One, analyses of two of Woolf's lesser-known texts, the "Introductory Letter" to the collection Life as We Have Known It (1931) and Nurse Lugton's Golden Thimble (1965), are juxtaposed with a reading of Mrs. Dalloway (1925). In Chapter Two, West's early journalism is linked with her novel The Return of the Soldier (1918), which is explored at length. Chapter Three reviews Warner's early novels, her 1931 poem Opus 7, and her 1959 lecture "Women as Writers," and offers an extended discussion of her second novel, The True Heart (1929).

Class differences are represented within the writing produced by these authors in this period, but class is of equal significance in our critical appraisals of their work. In its double layering of class analysis, the dissertation reads for class not only in literary texts, but also in interpretations of them. In the postmodern context, class is a particularly illuminating difference. The method developed in Reading for Class reveals and repoliticizes class within a nexus of discourses that shape literary and critical texts.