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We all know that Woolf’s works are notably challenging to read and teach because of her unconventional themes and plots, innovative structures, non-traditional narrative forms, historical and literary allusions, and avant-garde techniques.

approaches to woolfjpgAs a community college teacher of literature, one technique I have found to combat the challenges of teaching Woolf is to review, at the start of each semester, some of the pedagogical guides that help teachers of Woolf bring our students closer to the author, such as Approaches to Teaching Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway (2009, edited by Eileen Barrett and Ruth O. Saxton).

But at the start of this fall semester I found myself in a new position in my department and my new office brought new duties, new expectations and new stresses. In my past visions, sitting in my office on my first day as a full-time instructor would feel warm, shiny and successful. I would be hopeful. I would be energetic. I would bring Woolf into every class.

Instead, on the first day of school I sat in the academic room of my own and stared at the photo of Woolf that I taped to my wall and then at the calendar filled with meetings, conferences and due dates. I didn’t feel shiny and hopeful; I felt overwhelmed and exhausted. I didn’t need a new teaching technique this semester. I needed a new inspirational technique.

kew gardensI chose to not review pedagogical guides on Woolf. Instead, I turned to my past students’ responses to “Kew Gardens”. My students’ positive reactions to Woolf reminded me of why we work so hard to bring her words to readers, to challenge our students with unconventional literature and to stimulate students’ imaginations; of why we sometimes dedicate a whole class to discussing beauty; of why we go home felling like failures when some don’t seem to “get it.”

Reading the reactions my community college students in Las Vegas had upon their first encounter with Woolf revived my passion for teaching this challenging author:

I think Woolf is a beautiful writer. Her work is filled with passion, love, beauty and the depth seems to draw in hungry intelligent minds. I appreciate any writer who challenges her readers to think outside of the mundane society around them and see the beauty in their surroundings. -Erica

Virginia Woolf’s writing is so unconventional and brave. It is admirable that she had the courage to break out of formal conventions. All the while, she managed to capture the assortment of everyday interactions in one short story. -Ian

I quite like Kew Gardens! The unconventional plot and intimate look into each character’s conversations not only makes for an interesting read, but made me ponder as to what one might hear if they were to listen in on any one of my personal conversations at any given time. Additionally, while reading Kew Garden’s I couldn’t help but imagine that the brief glimpses of narration must be something like what God hears as he checks in on our lives. –Sara

Where does your passion for Woolf come from?

Take tea at the Morton

In conjunction with the National Portrait Gallery’s exhibit, “Virginia Woolf: Art, Life and Vision,” London’s Morton Hotel is promoting its traditional afternoon tea served in the Library lounge bar, which it bills as being “designed to reflect the spirit of the Bloomsbury Group.”

The tea includes a selection of sandwiches, freshly baked scones served with strawberry jam and clotted cream, an assortment of cakes and a pot of tea or coffee. The cost is £15 per person.

The Morton Hotel is located in Bloomsbury, a short walk from the Russell Square tube station, at 2 Woburn Place. Call in advance for a reservation at 0207 692 5600.

The Morton also offers Bloomsbury Bedrooms, Charleston Apartments, and an Omega Suite. Rates range from £185 to £405 per night.

 

Sarah Blake of the Cabinets of Curiosity Theatre Company, will present her interpretation of Virginia Woolf’sVirginia-Woolf-poster-jpeg-websize-244x300 A Room of One’s Own in two performances on Friday, Sept. 12, at this year’s Ripon International Festival.

The 2:30 performance is sold out, but tickets for the 6:30 p.m. show are still available. Prices are £10 and £5 for students. The venue is Thorpe Prebend House, Ripon.

A new novel about the Stephen sisters, Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell, will be out late this year.

Vanessa and Her Sister novelVanessa and Her Sister, written by Priya Parmar and published by Ballantine Books, opens in 1905 as the Stephen siblings move from Kensington to the famous Bloomsbury. Conflict ensues when Vanessa falls in love, Virginia spirals into madness, and Vanessa must decide whether she should pursue her own life or put her sister first, according to a Bookreporter review. Read more review comments on this new piece of historical fiction.

However, it’s not the first novel written about the two famous Stephen sisters. Susan Sellers published her acclaimed version, Vanessa and Virginia, in 2009.

Installation of the "Virginia" series in the Mythopoesis exhibit

Installation of the “Virginia” series in the Mythopoesis exhibit

In “Virginia,” one of six photo series in Mythopoesis, the MA degree show at the University of Brighton, Annalaura Palma displays photos retracing Virginia Woolf’s steps from Monk’s House in Rodmell, Sussex, to the River Ouse where she drowned herself March 28, 1941.

Palma explains that since no one knows the exact path Woolf took to the river or the precise spot she entered, the walk embodied an imaginary element.

Between spring and summer, Palma went on foot from Monk’s House to the River Ouse many times. In the process, she noticed swamps and bogs hidden by weeds that evoked a ghostly body shape.

“The water creates crevices in the land that evokes a ghostly body shape. I looked for Virginia Woolf ’s presence in her beloved landscape and  I found her in the water. In my photographs, she became water: I imagined her like a water spirit who inhabits the landscape of the Ouse Valley which once she described ‘an inland sea’. – Palma

virginia07low

“Virginia” exhibit photo from the catalogue, as provided by the artist

In an email, Palma said the photos in her “Virginia” series, which are handmade C-type photos, are just the start of a longer photographic project about Woolf and the English landscape. She is based in the UK and considers an investigation around the relationship between text and the photographic image is central to her work, according to her website.

Show dates for Mythopoesis are Sept. 12-19, with an opening reception Sept. 12, 5:30 to 9 p.m. at the Faculty of Arts Grand Parade. Palma’s photographs will also be published in a magazine.

Woolf on pain relief

Woolf quote on recording

Woolf around the Web

A few recent Woolf sightings:

  • A history project in San Francisco’s gay district that honors Virginia Woolf. The last bronze plaque of the 20 in the Rainbow Honor Walk will memorialize Woolf as a deceased person in the LGBT community who left a lasting legacy. Author Armistead Maupin will dedicate her plaque, which will be located near the Twin Peaks bar at the corner of Castro and 17th streets.
  • An open letter to Woolf: To the Late Virginia Woolf by Erin Lin published Aug. 29, 2014. Screen Shot 2014-09-01 at 11.56.58 AM
  • Book recommendations from a Berkeley-based bookstore with a Woolf-related name, Mrs. Dalloway’s Literary & Garden Arts. The shop offers Mrs. Dalloway’s Better Than a Book Club Selections and the Welcome to Clarissa’s Bookshelf young adult blog.
  • Dr. Claire Nicholson’s exploration of  Woolf’s often ambivalent relationship with clothes and fashion as part of the National Portrait gallery’s exhibit on Virginia Woolf. The Luncthtime Lecture, Virginia Woolf: A Woman of Fashion?, is free and will be held Sept. 4 at 1:15 p.m. at the NPG.
  • Insurrections of the Mind, coming Sept. 16 from Harper Perennial, collects 70 essays from the influential The New Republic magazine that includes one from Woolf.
  • A review of the documentary Secrets from the Asylum that mentions Laura Stephen, Woolf’s half-sister.
  • Orlando was sold out in Akron, Ohio.
  • Woolf broke a grammar rule regarding accusative predicates.
  • This list of “Six Best Books” includes Maggie Gee’s Virginia Woolf in Manhattan.
  • What do we see when we read? A take on Lily Briscoe’s painting in To the Lighthouse — and how we see Woolf’s words and Lily’s painting.
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