Spotlight on: Bloomsbury and 20th Century English Culture

It is ‘boom time’ for the Bloomsbury group, with a new burst of public interest in the lives and work of its members. This influential set of intellectuals continues to fascinate us, but we still can’t decide: were they geniuses that heralded a new type of art or a bunch of ‘sexually incontinent snobs’?

Bloomsbury and 20th Century English Culture allows students to explore these questions. The course is led by Peter Jones, who welcomes students of History, English and Art History to take part, alongside those who would like to study literature and art as part of wider English culture.

PKP student working in King's College library this summer

PKP student working in King’s College library this summer

Students start the course by reading two iconic novels: Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse and E. M. Forster’s A Passage to India. On arriving in Cambridge they find themselves in the perfect place to explore the topic further; Bloomsbury was born in Cambridge and just down the road is its London home.

In King’s College, where Peter Jones is a Fellow and Librarian, the walls are lines with original Bloomsbury works of art. In addition, the rooms of Keynes and Rylands have been restored to their original decorative schemes.

E.M Forster at Cambridge

E M Forster at Cambridge

As well as looking back at the group’s work, and the contemporary reactions to it, the course looks at the impact of Bloomsbury on the cultural life of Britain, from films like The Hours (2002) to novels like Zadie Smith’s On Beauty (2005).

Art, literature, journalism, criticism, film and more all come together to make this course an exciting chance to reanimate the characters and conversation of the original Bloomsbury group.


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