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Archive for the ‘Virginia Woolf’ Category

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?

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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.

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The Cambridge Companion to Bloomsbury, edited by Victoria Rosner, is now out.  It’s available inCambridge Comp to BG paperback.

According to the Cambridge website, the volume:

  • Provides the only general introduction to the Bloomsbury Group in print
  • Offers a radically new interpretation of Bloomsbury, with an emphasis on politics, both international and sexual
  • Brings together many of the major scholars of the Bloomsbury Group

You can also find a list of the essays included in the volume on the site. Contributors include Molly Pulda, Victoria Rosner, Katy Mullin, Ann Banfield, Morag Shiach, Christopher Reed, Christine Froula, Gretchen Holbrook Gerzina, Mary Ann Caws, Helen Southworth, Laura Marcus, Vesna Goldsworthy, Brenda R. Silver and Regina Marler.

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Originally posted on SuchFriends Blog:

…In England

War has come to Bloomsbury.

The image of Lord Horatio Kitchener, 64, recruiting young men, appears for the first time, on the black and white cover of London Opinion magazine.

1st appearance of Lord Kitchener's recruiting image

1st appearance of Lord Kitchener’s recruiting image

Bloomsbury friend, critic Desmond MacCarthy, 37, has signed up for the Red Cross Ambulance Service; art critic Clive Bell, turning 33, is trying to figure out how to join a non-combat unit such as the Army Service Corps; and painter Duncan Grant, 29, has entered the National Reserve.

Despite the hostilities in the rest of Europe, the Bloomsberries don’t stop moving. Duncan takes a studio in Fitzroy Square as well as rooms in nearby 46 Gordon Square, where Clive lives with his wife, painter Vanessa Bell, 35. Their friend John Maynard Keynes, 31, writing articles for The Economist magazine, moves to Great Ormond Street; and Vanessa’s sister…

View original 393 more words

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Diary Vol. 3We all know that Virginia Woolf was on the BBC. Her essay, “Craftsmanship,” was  broadcast as part of BBC Radio’s “Words Fail Me” series on 29 April 1937.

The piece took up about 21 minutes of air time, but less than eight minutes were actually recorded. To those of us who love her work, it seems tragic that her voice reading every word  of her essay is not preserved on tape. But tape was expensive, and more of her words were preserved than was typical for such broadcasts. Three to four minutes was the standard, according to the Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain.

But until now, I didn’t know that Woolf also recorded her thoughts about the BBC in her diary — and that those thoughts would be used in a current-day analysis of BBC objectivity. Here’s what Woolf recorded in her diary for 6 May 1926:

There is a brown fog; nobody is building; it is drizzling. The first thing in the morning we stand at the window & watch the traffic in Southampton Row. This is incessant. Everyone is bicycling; motor cars are huddled up with extra people … It is all tedious & depressing, rather like waiting in a train outside a station. Rumours are passed round – that the gas would be cut off at 1 – false of course. One does not know what to do … A voice, rather commonplace & official, yet the only common voice left, wishes us good morning at 10. This is the voice of Britain, to which we can make no reply. The voice is very trivial, & only tells us that the Prince of Wales is coming back, that the London streets present an unprecedented spectacle.

These words of Woolf’s are used to introduce an 18 August 2014 piece in The Guardian that questions whether this trust in the BBC is still well-placed. The article quotes Woolf extensively in its review of BBC coverage of the General Strike of 1926.

One quote shares Woolf’s response to Winston Churchill’s efforts to make the BBC an offshoot to the British Gazette, the government’s short-lived publication that served as an effective propaganda tool for the government. Churchill, a correspondent in the Boer War, shaped the paper’s editorial stance, all while he was serving as Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Winston … said it was monstrous not to use such an instrument [as broadcasting] to the best possible advantage.

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Frome Station

Frome Station in southern England.

According to the Frome Standard, money is being raised to establish one of England’s famous blue plaques at the Frome Railway Station in southern England to commemorate “the journey Leonard Woolf made traveling from Frome to London on Thursday, Jan. 11, 1912, to propose marriage to Virginia Stephen.” Blue plaques are permanent signs that appear throughout the United Kingdom and serve as markers of historical interest to indicate the homes and workplaces of famous people.

leonardandvirginiawoolfwedding

Leonard and Virginia on their wedding day, August 10, 1912.

From the Frome Standard:

“The outcome of this journey was so significant, not just to the two people involved, but to the worlds of publishing, 20th century literature and international politics that a group of people calling themselves the Woolf Plaque Supporters feel it deserves commemorating.”

Supporters of the plaque are asking for 100 people to donate £5 to ensure the establishment of this homage to Leonard’s proposal.

Hogarth House plaque

Fitzroy Plaque

29 Fitzroy Square plaque

Other blue plaques that remember the Woolfs include one at Hogarth House and one at 29 Fitzroy Square.

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Men Explain Things to Me front coverWoolfians who attended the 2009 conference in New York, Woolf in the City, were treated to a keynote address by Rebecca Solnit. In person as in her prose, Rebecca paints beautiful word pictures and reflect thoughtfully on their significance.

Her talk wasn’t included in the selected papers from that conference, but now she has published it as “Woolf’s Darkness: Embracing the Inexplicable” in her newest book, Men Explain Things to Me. The essay’s title in this volume is taken from Woolf’s 1915 diary entry: “The future is dark, which is the best thing the future can be, I think.” In noting the relevance of Woolf’s work today, Solnit says: “Here we are, after all, revisiting the words of a woman who died three quarters of a century ago and yet is still alive in some sense in so many imaginations, part of the conversation, an influence with agency.”

The title essay, “Men Explain Things to Me,” may go down in history as a feminist classic along with Judy Brady’s “I Want a Wife” in the 1972 inaugural issue of Ms. Magazine. And, no surprise, Solnit evokes Woolf in her jibe at male (some, not all, she allows) know-it-allness: “A Freudian would claim to know what they have and I lack, but intelligence is not situated in the crotch—even if you can write one of Virginia Woolf’s long mellifluous musical sentences about the subtle subjugation of women in the snow with your willie.”

Virginia Woolf is clearly a strong influence and appears in almost all of Solnit’s work. In her last book of personal essays, The Faraway Nearby, she is motivated to dig deeper into reflections about her mother by Woolf’s example and words in Moments of Being: “It is only by putting it into words that I make it whole.” Rebecca Solnit puts her stories and arguments into words in a way that does credit to Woolf.

 

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