‘Kew’rious Gardens: Of Literary Isolations, Mobility, and Curiosity in Virginia Woolf’s ‘Kew Gardens’


  • Gaana Jayagopalan Christ University, Bangalore


Woolf, Kew Gardens, literary geographies, spatialities, literary isolations


This piece is a personal reflection of teaching an undergraduate class in a university in Bangalore, India, where we re-read Virgina Woolf’s “Kew Gardens” (1919), as a part of the course “Narratives of Mobility”. At a time when academics is characterized by isolations at large, what does it mean to read and engage with mobility as a framework to understand literary texts? This question led both my students and I to re-map the terrain of the Kew Gardens through its cultural history and locate the narrative space of Woolf’s “Kew Gardens” within the larger space of the Kew as botanical institution. The heterotopic Kew Gardens function as an illuminating background to understand the fleeting mobility of humans and a carefully focused mobility of the snail in Woolf’s story. By providing the snail a clearer narrative space compared to the humans in the story, Woolf is also able to build into her tale a critique of the anthropocentric views of Empire, of Londoners unmindful of crawling snails in the ground. Our reading exercise was informed by Sheila Hones’ frame of literary geographies (Hones 2014), resulting in a community of readership in class which mapped Woolf’s literary cartography with the intersectional readers’ literary geography of the Kew Gardens, thus widening the narrative space. This virtual engagement of extending our literary geographies to accommodate other spatial coordinates was also an exercise in generating embodied, shared imaginary mobilities in virtual classrooms.

Author Biography

Gaana Jayagopalan, Christ University, Bangalore

Gaana Jayagopalan teaches courses in English and Cultural Studies at Christ University, Bangalore. Her core areas of interest include mobility studies; colonial discourses; contemporary Indian fiction, among others.


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