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The Common Reader in Uncommon Times

Free online event

Wednesday 17 Jun 6:30PM

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“A good essay must have this permanent quality about it; it must draw its curtain round us, but it must be a curtain that shuts us in not out” —Virginia Woolf, The Common Reader

Renowned alongside her fiction and letters, Virginia Woolf’s essays grapple with issues of equality, health, literature, and pleasure. Many readers have discovered during lockdown, finding inspiration and solace. In her essay ‘Street Haunting’ Virginia Woolf noted, “we are no longer quite ourselves”, which takes on new meaning a century later, when essays still help us make sense of the world around us.

Join writers Sinéad Gleeson and Mona Eltahawy in conversation with Charleston’s Susannah Stevenson as they discuss the power of modern essay writing, the potential of the form to progress feminism, and the legacy of Virginia Woolf’s work.


Every year on “a Wednesday in mid-June”, the Royal Society of Literature celebrates the work and legacy of Virginia Woolf with Dalloway Day. Explore the full programme here.

Susannah Stevenson is the Artistic Director of Charleston Festival, Small Wonder – The Short Story Festival, and Literary Programmes at Charleston.

Sinéad Gleeson is a writer of essays, criticism and fiction. Her bestselling collection of essays Constellations was shortlisted for the 2020 Rathbones Folio Prize and won non-fiction book of the year at the Irish Book Awards.

Mona Eltahawy is a journalist and author of The 7 Necessary Sins For Women & Girls and Headscarves & Hymens: Why the Middle East Needs a Sexual Revolution.

Presented in partnership with the Royal Society of Literature. 

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