To Research Book History, Start with the History

My research in the following weeks will be directed toward finding out more about the connection between women’s rights in Victorian England and the literature of the time period. Although I have yet to narrow my focus, a little poking around online made me interested in the idea of zeroing in on one women’s suffrage leader and examining what they read.

 

During my time online, I stumbled across this website:

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/women.htm

 

I found it helpful because it presents a list of outspoken women’s suffragists in British history, as well as suffrage groups, journals, and more information about historical female lifestyles. Probing through the list of women, I recognized Virginia Woolf and decided to investigate a little further. The site provides a lengthy biography with tons of information (along with a huge and possibly helpful list of primary resources). From this one website, I was able to read about Woolf’s childhood, her growing interest in feminism and her work with concerning the push for suffrage. What interests me most about this figure is the fact that she was a political activist, a reader, and a (now) famous writer – all in one.

 

The positive aspects of this resource – its wealth of information on a variety of people, its bibliographies and connections to other sources, its general overview of the time period – are positive more so in the sense that it provided a gateway to get me thinking more about what narrow topic I wanted to dive into. I can’t yet say if that topic will be someone like Virginia Woolf, and if so, if I will be researching the publishing and readership of Woolf’s writings or what Woolf herself engaged with reading that may have influenced her political and literary activities. There is also the option of looking into who was publishing the suffrage journals to learn more about what they read as well, or maybe the reading habits of whoever was organizing one of the major suffrage groups – all of these names are accounted for on this website. This resource has exposed for me a range of possibilities, the difficult part lies in picking one…

 

In that regard, this website is little more than a starting point to gain a foothold and general overview of information; it puts the “history” in “book history.” I’m likely to use a resource like the Reading Experience Database to gather more direct information – for instance, who was reading Virginia Woolf, and what was Woolf herself reading? (I actually looked it up, and there are a good number of entries that are evidence of her reading habits.)

 

In a perfect world, research projects would be made easy with online material that answer all of our questions in one place (hah – I wish!) For now, I’m pretty satisfied that I found a site that could answer just a few of my questions and lead me to ask even more. 

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3 thoughts on “To Research Book History, Start with the History

  1. I really like your choice in Virginia Woolf. I have read very little of her personally, but I have many ‘English majory’ friends who are obsessed with her. I know that you will be able to find a lot of information (both academic and more personal) on her writing and life. I also think she is a smart choice because she represent a unique blend of both parts of the correlation you explore–she is both book and suffrage. She seems to truly embody the ideals she writes. I am curious though about the timeframe you are going to focus on… Virginia Woolf has a huge legacy of influence, beginning from when she started writing to now. I think you will find cool information across this entire time range, but I do think it would be helpful to narrow your ‘tim’ focus a bit.

  2. I really like your topic and I agree that choosing to narrow it down to one author will help give your paper more focus. I’m curious to see what you find. Although I don’t know too much about Virginia Woolf, I’d be interested to see what you find in connection to women’s suffrage. It seems like you’re on the right path!

  3. I don’t know much about Virginia Woolf, but it’s good to see that you picked someone other than the Brontes or Austen. Not to speak ill of those authors, I just think they are the prototypical Victorian female authors, while Woolf is less spoken about. That said I know nothing about her, but I am interested. I think this will make for good research, picking one author allows so much more depth into a subject. You can really understand the effect of a movement by reading about one author and seeing how her work might have influenced society in a certain way.

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