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Literature Cambridge has created a popular Virginia Woolf Podcast, a series designed to discover her impact on art, philosophy, and politics in the present day.

In each episode, Literature Cambridge interviews an artist, writer, or academic who has been influenced by Virginia Woolf.

Questions asked include:

  • Why is Woolf such an important figure to you?
  • How has Woolf affected your career?

So far, two podcasts are available online. In the first, “Woolf and Shakespeare: Varsha Panjwani,” Dr. Karina Jakubowicz talks with Dr. Varsha Panjwani about Woolf’s complicated relationship with William Shakespeare. The podcast attracted more than 800 listeners in the first few months alone.

In the second, “Caroline Zoob: Virginia Woolf’s Garden,” Jakubowicz talks with Caroline and Jonathon Zoob about the 10 years they spent looking after Monk’s House and restoring the garden in the spirit of the Woolfs.

Give them a listen.

Garden at Monk’s House, Lewes, Sussex

In 2009 I posted a review of Stephanie Barron’s The White Garden, and a year later about discovering Virginia Woolf’s socks (on Julian Bell) in bed with infamous spy Anthony Blunt. In exploring spy connections, I’d somehow I’d overlooked—until now—the 1983 novel by Ellen Hawkes and Peter Manso, The Shadow of the Moth: A Novel of Espionage with Virginia Woolf.

It’s 1917, mid-World War I, and Woolf’s curiosity is aroused by the report of a young Belgian woman’s suicide. One thing leads to another, as Woolf and an American journalist uncover a clandestine attempt to pass English military secrets to the Germans. Spies and double agents, aristocrats and industrial magnates, MI5 and Scotland yard—all the greedy, power-hungry men; even Maynard Keynes and Clive Bell; even Leonard Woolf by his overprotectiveness of Virginia.

At the end she realizes that “The war might alter everyone’s values but her personal fight had to be on her own terms. She wouldn’t wage it by adopting men’s ways.” Back at work on her novel in progress, what would become Night and Day, she creates the character of Mary Datchet, a spirited, determined, independent woman, to balance the conventional Katharine Hilbery.

I enjoyed this portrait of a spirited, determined, and independent Virginia, but most striking was the authors’ epilogue:

“In 1937, with war once again threatening Europe, Virginia Woolf wrote Three Guineas, her indictment of masculine aggression, German fascism and incipient totalitarianism at home. Four years later, in 1941, her body was found in the river Ouse behind Monk’s House, her home in Sussex. To this day, her death is commonly believed to have been a suicide.”

Here, as in The White Garden, is the supposition that there were other possibilities. In an email exchange, I asked Stephanie Barron (real name Francine Mathews) how she came to question the cause of Woolf’s death. She said her research uncovered what for her were surprises: Leonard announcing Virginia’s death the day after she disappeared; the lack of a full-blown police investigation; Leonard’s identification of her remains alone; the swiftness of cremation; his burial of the ashes by himself.

“It all seemed highly irregular, almost furtive. It smacked of a cover-up. Probably that was due to the stigma of mental illness and suicide. But if one chooses to write speculative fiction, it’s rife with possibilities.”

Woolf scholars have accepted the seemingly incontrovertible evidence of her suicide. Still—and not to succumb to the current fetish for conspiracy theories—it’s hard not to wonder….

Not everyone can say they spent the 4th of July with Virginia Woolf. But Kathleen Donnelly and I can.

Three years ago, on July 4, 2017, Kathleen and I spent a day together in London. While there we visited a life-sized wax figure of Woolf on display in the foyer of the Virginia Woolf Building at 22 Kingsway at King’s College. It was installed Oct. 21, 2015, by artist Eleanor Crook.

Gaining entry

We were not able to walk right in, however, as entry to the building is secure. However, a kind security guard allowed us inside after noticing us standing out front with our noses pressed against the window. There, we were able to look around and take photos of the wax figure and the exhibit that surrounds it.

The location is significant, as Woolf was a student at the former King’s Ladies’ Department where she took classes in Greek, Latin, history and German between 1897 and 1902.

The Virginia Woolf display in the Virginia Woolf Building at King’s College, London, is straight up this set of stairs on the left.

The life-size wax figure of Virginia Woolf in a wardrobe of her own installed in the foyer of the Virginia Woolf Building at King’s College, London.

The Woolf figure holds a copy of “A Room of One’s Own” with a Vanessa Bell cover.

One panel in the Woolf display in the foyer of the Virginia Woolf Building at King’s College, London

A quote on a panel in the Woolf display in the foyer of the Virginia Woolf Building, King’s College, London

 

One day walking round Tavistock Square I made up, as I sometimes make up my books, ‘To the Lighthouse’ – Virginia Woolf.

That quote is the inspiration for an illustrated pamphlet published last month and created by artist Louisa Amelia Albani. Titled A Moment in the Life of Virginia Woolf: A Lighthouse Shone in Tavistock Square, the booklet visually reimagines this ‘moment’ on a summer afternoon in London’s Tavistock Square in 1925.

To do so, it uses Woolf’s own words from her letters and diaries, along with excerpts from To the Lighthouse (1927).

I ordered a copy of Albani’s pamphlet last week. It hasn’t arrived from London yet, but I did get a thank you email for my order directly from Albani — an unexpected but lovely treat.

Art exhibit too

The artist also has an online art exhibition with the same title. The exhibit includes more than a dozen pieces based on Woolf. Many of them are already sold, so if you are interested in an original piece of art connected to Woolf, take a look now.

Below is a video of the project that the artist has posted on YouTube.

 

 

The International Virginia Woolf Society has elected new officers for the 2021-23 term. They are:

IVWS Logo

President: Benjamin Hagen, assistant professor of English at the University of South Dakota and the organizer for the  30th Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf: Profession and Performance, which was postponed until June 10-13, 2021.
Vice President: Amanda Golden, associate professor of English and director of the Writing Program and Coordinator of the Writing Center at New York Institute of Technology.
Historian-Bibliographer: Catherine Hollis, who teaches English at UC Berkeley.
Secretary-Treasurer: Susan Wegener, graduate student in English at Purdue University.

The current officers will serve through the end of the year. The new slate of officers will begin their term on Jan. 1, 2021.

Join the Society

Membership in the IVWS is open to all. Get information on joining.

Members of the Society receive a free subscription to the Virginia Woolf Miscellany, the Woolf Society Newsletter, an annual Bibliography of Woolf Scholarship, and an annual updated list of members.

Members with e-mail addresses are also included in a distribution list that provides early notification of special events, electronic balloting, and electronic versions of the newsletters. In addition, members receive early notification of the Annual Woolf Conferences, and information about other events and publications of interest to readers of Woolf.

Benjamin Hagen, newly elected president of the IVWS, is second from left. Susan Wegener, newly elected secretary-treasurer of the Society, is second from right. Both are pictured at the 29th Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf’s Saturday evening banquet, along with other conference attendees, including Madelyn Detloff at far right.

 

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