The Sensuous Pedagogies of Virginia Woolf and D.H. Lawrence

BookThe Sensuous Pedagogies of Virginia Woolf and D.H. Lawrence

The Sensuous Pedagogies of Virginia Woolf and D.H. Lawrence

Clemson University Press


August 4th, 2020

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Though the differences in style and politics between Virginia Woolf (1882-1941) and D.H. Lawrence (1885-1930) are many, they both had formative experiences as teachers. Between 1905 and 1907, Woolf taught history and composition courses at Morley College while Lawrence spent nearly a decade in the field of elementary education between 1902 and 1912. The Sensuous Pedagogies of Virginia Woolf and D.H. Lawrence reframes Woolf and Lawrence’s later experiments in fiction, life-writing, and literary criticism as the works of former teachers, of writers (that is) still preoccupied with pedagogy. More specifically, the book argues that across their respective writing careers they conceptualize problems of teaching and learning as problems of sensation, emotion, or intensity. But the “sensuous pedagogies” Woolf and Lawrence depict and enact are not limited to classroom spaces or strategies; rather, they pertain to non-institutional relationships, developmental narratives, spaces, and needs. Friendships and other intimate relationships in Lawrence’s fiction, for instance, often take on a pedagogical shape or texture (one person playing the student; the other, the teacher) while Woolf’s literary criticism models a novel approach to taste-training that prioritizes the individual freedom of common readers (who must learn to attend to books that give them pleasure). In addition, Sensuous Pedagogies reads Lawrence’s literary criticism as reparative, Woolf’s fiction as sustained feminist pedagogy, and their respective theories of life and love as fundamentally entangled with pedagogical concerns.


'Carefully researched and beautifully written... The risks Hagen takes—by pairing two writers whose pedagogy strikes one at first as unreconcilable and by addressing his readers directly with unapologetic questions about our own investments in the texts we read and teach—ultimately pay off and produce a refreshingly sensitive reading of each author’s openness to their readers’ active engagement with the scenarios or spaces made possible by their prose.'
Madelyn Detloff, Woolf Studies Annual

'Hagen supports his theoretical approach to Woolf and Lawrence through detailed close reading... Hagen’s idea of ‘sensuous pedagogy’ can now be added to a vocabulary that challenges misconceptions of modernism and its ideas as elitist.'
Michael Black, The Modernist Review

Author Information

Benjamin D. Hagen is an assistant professor of English at the University of South Dakota. He teaches courses in modernist literature and the history of literary criticism and theory. His work on Woolf has appeared in the journals Virginia Woolf Miscellany, Modernism/modernity, and PMLA as well as in several edited collections (including Sentencing Orlando: Virginia Woolf and the Morphology of the Modernist Sentence [2018, Edinburgh UP] and The Handbook to the Bloomsbury Group [2018, Bloomsbury]). His scholarship addresses a range of research areas, including modernist literature and pedagogy, affect studies, discourses on love, and depictions of aging across modernist poetry.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Section TitlePagePrice
Introduction: Pedagogy, Feeling, and the Study of Modernism13
1. Feeling Shadows: The Sensuous Pedagogy of Late Woolf 27
2. Failing Students: The Relational Pedagogy of Early Lawrence 51
3. Training Tastes: The Reading Pedagogy of Woolf’s Literary Criticism 95
4. Essaying Affects: The Reparative Pedagogy of Lawrence’s Studies 127
5. Meeting Needs, Making Room: The Feminist Pedagogy of Woolf’s Fiction 153
6. Orienting Desires, Guarding Love: Problems of Queer Tutelage in Lawrence’s Fiction 187
Coda: Last Lesson 219