Academy of Lifelong Learning





Jim Block


Mondays, September 11 – October 16 (six weeks)

4:15 – 5:15 pm

Moderated Discussion

*This course is limited to 20 participants.


Woolf’s finest novel, To the Lighthouse, upends ordinary narrative conventions. Those methods certainly worked well enough before the Great War transformed European culture. Afterwards, continuity and predictability diminished. Ordinary connections between women and men, between children and parents, between ideals and reality, even between humans and their experience, altered, certainly not always—necessarily—for the better. Artists, writers, composers knew they must create new methods—to express the new.


In To the Lighthouse, Wolf’s stream-of-consciousness narration examines the post-war problem of the increased separation between people. Her novel both expresses that separation of people and unifies them. The narration takes the reader deeply and immediately into the heads and hearts of others. It shifts readers from one character or scene to another, demanding a reader’s close attention. However much we change points of view or scenes, in the long run, we are made to know that everyone is connected to everyone else. Some of the book’s other issues are the relation between art and experience, and the problem of what happens to a kitchen table when you aren’t there. 


In lecture-free class meetings, we will read (often aloud) key passages and then examine them in great detail, often looking at the prose as if it were verse. Participants will receive some background material and a first reading assignment before the course begins. Required text: To the Lighthouse, annotated and with an introduction by Mark Hussey, Harcourt Harvest, 2005. We must all have the same page numbers for discussions. The book can be purchased at the WC-ALL office.


JIM BLOCK studied English literature at the University of Virginia, went to sea for two years on an aircraft carrier in the Pacific, and then took an M.A. in English at the University of Iowa. He then taught English and newswriting, coached, advised, talked with, and lived with teenagers at Northfield Mount Hermon for 43 years. He spent a year teaching at Marlborough College, Wiltshire, U.K., and another at Robert College in Istanbul. He fell in love with Woolf’s novels Mrs Dalloway and To the Lighthouse long ago. That romance continues.