Sixth Form News

Following the immense success of his lecture on ‘Othello’ last year, we were delighted to welcome back Dr Paul Dean to deliver the inaugural Humanities Lecture, the newest addition to our 1887 Lecture Series.

Taking as its starting point an exploration of Virginia Woolf’s ‘Mrs Dalloway and the Modernist Moment’, the lecture focused on Woolf’s so-called ‘moments of being’ – moments of heightened perception that disclose a sudden, crystallising insight or truth; a pattern behind the randomness of everyday life. Taking a comparative approach, Dr Dean proposed that these modernist ideas, in particular this idea of a ‘moment’ which could isolate itself from the ebb and flow of life, had antecedents in the works of Joyce, Proust, Freud, Einstein and Wordsworth. Through this comparison, Dr Dean sought to impress upon the girls that Woolf was not writing in an intellectual vacuum in the 20th century, and that strains of romanticism, impressionist aestheticism, even Darwinist thought, can be found in her exploration of ‘moments of being’. In a concluding twist, Dr Dean finished by suggesting that the abstraction of these isolated moments which exist outside the temporal sequence caused problems for Woolf as a novelist, since the reader has to be told about these timeless moments within the linear experience of the narrative.

Complex and thought-provoking, the lecture was a fantastic opportunity for the girls to experience university style learning, broaden their awareness and knowledge of literature and develop the skills of effective analytical comparison between and within texts.

To find out more about the 1887 Series and upcoming lectures, please click here.

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