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Virginia Woolf honoured by new Strand Campus building

Posted on 02/05/2013

22 Kingway to become Virginia Woolf Building

King’s has announced that its new building on Kingsway is to be named after alumna Virginia Woolf.

The Virginia Woolf Building will be open fully from autumn term 2013. Arts & Humanities will be the main occupants of the building which will provide Central London accommodation and facilities for academic staff and postgraduate research students.

The writer, novelist and critic, Virginia Woolf (then Virginia Stephen) 1882-1941, was a student at the King’s Ladies’ Department in Kensington from 1897 to 1902, where she took classes in Greek, Latin, German and history. Her sister Vanessa (later the artist Vanessa Bell) also attended.

Professor Evelyn Welch, Vice Principal (Arts & Sciences), said: ‘Our decision to name the building after one of the College’s most famous female students is one that celebrates a great writer whose work is meaningful to the many staff who will come together on Kingsway.’

While the College has been long aware of Woolf’s attendance, it was findings in 2009 that uncovered the broad extent of her studies at King’s. The discovery, made by Dr Anna Snaith, Reader in Twentieth-Century Literature in the Department of English, and Dr Christine Kenyon-Jones, Research Fellow in the Department of English, was made in the King’s Archives and revealed that Woolf had much more experience of higher education than both she and her biographers had depicted.

Dr Snaith said: ‘These startling findings have given us a much more detailed understanding of Woolf’s education: what and with whom she studied and who taught her. Her Greek studies, in particular, are in evidence throughout her oeuvre in novels, essays and short stories.

‘Naming the new building after Woolf also foregrounds the College’s progressive history of women’s education. Woolf would return again and again in her writing to the causes and effects of excluding women from education. Finally, it is fitting that this building will be the new home for staff working in the arts and humanities, subjects of enquiry Woolf placed at the heart of democratic society.’ 

King’s is marking its move into the new Virginia Woolf Building at 22 Kingsway by installing a window display similar to the ‘Hall of Fame’ at the Strand. The Kingsway display is a temporary one, re-using artwork and photographs from the Strand display and it is intended that it will be replaced in due course by a new display as part of the College’s re-branding exercise.

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