Bloomsbury and 20th Century English Culture

Peter Jones

See this course profiled on the PKP 2015 blog!

BloomsburyThis course will explore the contribution of Bloomsbury to English cultural life. It will focus not just on Bloomsbury’s authors and artists from Virginia Woolf, E. M. Forster, Lytton Strachey and Maynard Keynes to Roger Fry, Duncan Grant, and Vanessa Bell, but on the places in which the Bloomsbury phenomenon was first created – Cambridge and King’s College, Bloomsbury in London, and Bloomsbury on its country weekends at Charleston, Rodmell or Ham Spray.

Seminars will be held in King’s, where many Bloomsbury works of art are on display, and the rooms of Keynes and Rylands have been restored to their original decorative scheme.

Bloomsbury in London is easily reached from Cambridge, to see the squares where the Bloomsburies lived and worked, and follow Mrs Dalloway’s walk (

A visit will be made to the Fitzwilliam Museum to see Bloomsbury pictures and manuscripts.

Finally the course will consider the Bloomsbury legend, the role of its own members in creating that legend, the critics of Bloomsbury, and its impact on cultural life in England. Films (A Passage to India, Orlando, Carrington, The Hours), TV and journalism will all be considered as new media were enlisted later in the twentieth century to reanimate the characters and conversation of the original Bloomsbury in the light of new sensibilities and concerns

This course is aimed at: Students majoring in History, but also in English and Art History. Other enthusiastic students who would like to study literature and art as part of wider English culture are also welcome.

Pre-requisite knowledge required: No specific knowledge is assumed, but some acquaintance with English literature or art of the twentieth century will be an advantage.

Transferable Knowledge and Skills: The close-reading skills you develop will be useful for later studies in any Humanities subject, and will definitely be beneficial for any English or History major. You will also gain a general knowledge of English cultural and intellectual history of the twentieth century.

Required Pre-Arrival Reading

To be compulsorily read before the start of the programme

  • Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse
  • E. M. Forster, A Passage to India

Further Pre-Arrival Reading

Strongly recommended, but not mandatory.

  • Virginia Woolf, A Room of one’s own
  • John Maynard Keynes, The economic consequences of the peace
  • A Roger Fry Reader, ed. Christopher Reed
  • Zadie Smith, On Beauty

Full details of the reading to be undertaken each week during the course will be available with the syllabus, along with extra suggestions for background reading


  • A Passage to India (1984)
  • Orlando (1992)
  • Carrington (1995)
  • The Hours (2002)


1 Final Essay (2,500-3,000 words): 50%

1 Final Exam: 50%

Lecture Hours: 12 x 1 hour 15 minutes (total 15 hours)

Seminar Hours: 8 x 1 hour 15 minutes (total 10 hours)