Twentieth-Century Women Writers

One English undergraduate has been assisting Dr. Suzette Henke at various stages of a research project that deals with issues of twentieth-century women writers, modernism, and trauma. Dr. Henke describes this project as follows: "In the 1980's, I discovered an unpublished manuscript by Virginia Woolf, entitled "The Prime Minister," in the Berg collection of the New York Public Library. I began transcribing this novella, which had been incorporated by Woolf into her first draft version of The Hours, an early incarnation of Mrs. Dalloway. I felt that this manuscript was extremely significant to Woolf studies, insofar as it portrays an earlier version of Septimus Smith [a character in Woolf's novel Mrs. Dalloway] that is far "crazier" than the later character developed in Woolf's published novel. "The Prime Minister" offers striking evidence of Woolf's life-long tendency toward self-censorship in the process of creating radical works of modernist experimental fiction.

In 2001, Bonnie Kime Scott invited me to prepare a thematic analysis of "Trauma and Modernism" for a Second volume of The Gender of Modernism. This will be an entirely new collection, with emphasis on unpublished archival texts and works that have gone out of print. The section I introduce focuses on fiction by Dorothy Richardson, H.D, and Virginia Woolf and will include extensive selections from Woolf's "Prime Minister." The holograph manuscript of Woolf's pivotal novella has never been transcribed for publication. Working from microfilms and Xerox copies of microfilm text, I have . . .generated a transcription of the holograph, complete with significant deletions made by Woolf, as well as commentary added by her in the MS margins."

An undergraduate research assistant has been involved in every stage of this process, and as a result has undertaken an Honors thesis focusing on the palimpsestic generation of Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway, from the original holograph of "The Prime Minister," through the manuscript of The Hours (transcribed and edited by Helen Wussow), to the final version of the published novel. Student and faculty member have traveled together to New York City to review the holograph of Woolf's "Prime Minister," to check the current transcription against the holograph, and to assess the impact of Woolf's writer's notebook (a small black copybook used in the planning of The Hours) on the production of Mrs. Dalloway.

Other Research Projects