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“Shakespeare’s Sisters” is an essay in Rachel Cusk’s 2019 collection, Coventry (and the first one I turned to, for obvious reasons). She begins by asking, “Can we, in the twenty-first century, identify something that could be called ‘women’s writing’?”

In that context she discusses The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir and Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own. “Between them,” she says, “they shaped the discourse of twentieth-century women’s writing,”

War vs. feelings

Eighty years later, as Cusk sees it, “a book about war is still judged more important than a book about ‘the feelings of women.’ Most significantly, when a woman writes a book about war she is lauded: she has eschewed the vast unlit chamber and the serpentine caves; there is the sense that she has made proper use of her room and her money, her new rights of property.

The woman writer who confines herself to her female ‘reality’ is by the same token often criticized. She appears to have squandered her room, her money.”

Just another women’s novel

Men have always written about the female experience–Madame Bovary and Anna Karenina come immediately to mind, as well as a number of novels by contemporary authors. I’ve seen some of these works praised to the skies, touted as the latest incarnation of the great American novel. Yet, still, too frequently, the women creating these novels are dismissed as writing just another woman’s novel.

The road to the ERA leads to Virginia, including Virginia Woolf. For although it was the state of Virginia that today became the 38th state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, Virginia Woolf would surely approve.

When I read that news less than an hour ago, tears came to my eyes. If I hadn’t been at work, I probably would have let them fall. But I restrained myself and took to social media and this blog instead.

What happened today has been a long time coming. The ERA has a long history. It was nearly 100 years ago that Alice Paul crafted the amendment, which was first introduced in Congress in 1923 and subsequently reintroduced in every congressional session for half a century.

And the fight is not yet over. A Facebook friend who is also an attorney explained,

Now the legal battles begin. An opposing group has already filed for an injunction to prevent presentation to Congress based on the deadline. They will also say it is just plain too late, that the whole thing must start over. Proponents argue that the deadline was arbitrary, singular and an unconstitutional part of the process, inserted separately after the body of the Amendment was passed in an effort to scuttle it, and that a different Amendment (27) was ratified after 200 years of dormancy. Several red states that voted to rescind their ratification will also challenge, but there is no mention in the Constitution of a rescission process, only reversal as happened with Prohibition, plus, wouldn’t it be too late for that, too? (There are efforts in Congress to remove the deadline retroactively but, doubtful that will happen with this Congress. ) WHEW! I hope I am around to see a successful conclusion to an issue I have worked on for so long. And maybe even a woman President.

Meanwhile, thanks to the state of Virginia, Alice Paul, and all who came after her, including Virginia Woolf, whose feminist polemic A Room of One’s Own (1928) is part of the canon that propels us forward toward full equality.

In England? Near Cambridge? Then you might be able to attend one or both of these talks on Virginia Woolf, presented by Literature Cambridge and Lucy Cavendish College. Here are the details:

Woolf and The Waves

Tuesday, 4 February, 1 p.m.: Rute Costa on ‘All is rippling, all is dancing’: Adapting The Waves into performance.  Founders’ Room, Lucy
Cavendish College, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, England.

Woolf and Katherine Mansfield

Tuesday, 10 March, 1 p.m.: Clare Nicholson, Literature Cambridge and
ICE, The Ambivalent Friendship of Virginia Woolf and Katherine
Mansfield: ‘A Public of Two’. Venue: Wolfson Room, Lucy Cavendish
College, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, England.

Both talks are free and open to all, town and gown.

A table full of Literature Cambridge T-shirts and information as students check in for one of the program’s 2019 summer courses. Literature Cambridge offers two new courses, Woolf’s Women and Reading the 1920s, this July.

This is the third in a new series of posts that will offer a global perspective on Woolf studies, as proposed by Stefano Rozzoni at the 29th Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf. If you would like to contribute to this series, please contact Blogging Woolf at bloggingwoolf@yahoo.com.

Editor’s Note: Feb. 1 is the deadline for the call for papers for the 30th Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf: Profession and Performance, which will be held at the University of South Dakota in Vermilion, South Dakota June 11-14. Get the details.

By Profa. Dra. Maria Aparecida de Oliveira

The Woolf Conference happens in a friendly, warm and welcoming environment. It really enhances the sense of community. It is an international community of scholars from different parts of the globe to share knowledge on a writer we all love. The conference enriches our knowledge not only about Woolf, but also in relation to other writers and to different approaches, theories and tendencies.

Stefano Rozzoni of Italy and Maria Oliveira of Brazil at the 29th Annual International Virginia Woolf Conference at Mount St. Joseph University in Cincinnati, Ohio, June 6-9, 2019.

The great quality of papers forces and challenges us to do our best. Consequently, it helps us to improve our research. By following how famous scholars undertake their own researches, it teaches us new ways to develop our studies.

I joined the conference in 2011 in Glasgow and it has been such a huge pleasure, because it inspires my work and my research on Woolf. It has also been a great space for collaboration. I met many people to whom we have collaborated in different panels, projects and books.

Thinking against the current

The 29th Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf aimed at discussing Virginia Woolf and Social Justice and was a great opportunity for us from Brazil to denounce the atrocities happening in our country under the administration of the current president, the unnameable.

Davi Pinho and I were thinking against the current and thinking back through Three Guineas to discuss our three dots: Education, LGBTQ+ and the Environment. That was only June and our situation has just been worse and worse, first fire in the Amazon, now an oil leak on the precious beaches of Northeast.

The conference was an invitation to think together about social justice, inclusivity, utopias and the future of humanities in our current political climate.

It must be emphasized that Brazil’s political situation is an effect of what is going on in the United States. So, we are together in this conference as sisters in solidarity, fighting and resisting the tyrants in power.

In what follows, I will present my view of the conference. Unfortunately, it is limited, because I could not attend all the panels, as I wished.

Woolf, age, ageism, and activism

Beth Rigel Daugherty, Leslie Hankins and Diane Gillespie presented a panel on “Portraying and Projecting Age, Ageism, and Activism” on day one.

The first panel I attended was “Portraying and Projecting Age, Ageism and Activism,” by Diane Gillespie, Leslie Hankins and Beth Daugherty, Woolf’s muses.  Diane Gillespie’s paper was a very interesting one, on Leonard and Woolf and Age/ism.  Leslie’s subject was about silent movies and the suffragette movement, it was an impressive panel, as always.

Following that, Beth Rigel Daugherty gave a very moving talk on “Virginia Woolf’s Aging Women and Me,” how Woolf’s novels are populated by women who struggle with the battle of aging – Mrs. Dalloway, Mrs. Ramsay, Miss La Trobe, Mrs. McNab, Lady Parry, the lady by the window – all of them losing their minds. The author reminds us that “aging is also a fight, a great battle on a daily basis.”

Woolf, African-American Modernism and Utopias

Sayaka Okumura of Japan and Maria Oliveira at the 29th Annual Conference on Virginia Woolf.

Elizabeth Abel in her brilliant lecture “The Smashed Mosaic: Virginia Woolf and African American Modernism” talked about Woolf in relation to James Baldwin’s A Biography. Again, utopia was the main issue when she discussed “Cruising Utopia: The then and the of Queerness Futurity.” She said that Queerness is our future and hope.

Abel stated: “Forget the room of one’s own, write in the kitchen, lock yourselves in the bathroom…” and I continue… write in the bus, in a library, in a café, in a garden, by the sea, in a forest, by the river… but write yourselves, inscribe your bodies in history.”

J. Ashley Foster gave an inspiring paper on “Three Guineas and Developing the Standing and Digital Humanities Exhibition Surveying Utopias: A Critical Exploration,” linking war and peace to a feminist and modernist pedagogy inspired by Woolf.

Foster brought up Jane Marcus to say that a feminist pedagogy allows us to navigate between past and present, a kind of communication that enables us to perceive history in a different way. How can feminism construct another plot for history, social justice and hope? In this case, utopia is more than necessary.

Woolf, #MeToo, and suffragists

Dr. Anne Fernald and Dr. Tonya Krouse presented a delightful discussion on the plenary session “Woolf in the Era of #Metoo movement, asking how do we think of women in this frame? How do we connect Woolf, the second wave of feminism and the movement #Metoo?

They reminded us that in the 1970s, the feeling was of shame, women were not to be believed, so they remained silenced. Now, women are learning how to speak up, how to get together and fight. The authors also reminded us of the transformative power of literature to fight for social justice.

In the panel “Suffragist, Public and Private,” Eleanor McNees delivered a provocative and stimulating paper “Women’s Rights and Family Feuds: A Room of One’s Own, The Pargiters and Suffragist Responses to James Fitzjames Stephen,” linking Woolf to the first wave of feminism and to founding texts of that time, such as Subjection of Women, by John Stuart Mill and James Fitzjames Stephen, who fought for liberty, equality and fraternity. Moreover, McNees discussed Woolf’s participation in the women suffrage journal, her lecture for the London National Society for Women’s Service in 1931.

Mi Jeong Lee in her brilliant paper “Re-mapping Public and Private Specters of the Suffragette in Mrs. Dalloway’s Urban Parks,” analyzed the parks as public spaces for male imperialists, while women occupied domestic spaces, when women appear in the parks, we have the homeless, the old woman, the beggar in Mrs. Dalloway, a woman of no age, no sex.

Woolf and inclusivity

During the plenary Erica Delsandro and Kristin Czarnecki argued about “Woolf and Inclusivity” and they raised many questions:

  • Who is included and how?

    Erica Delsandro and Kristen Czarnecki at a plenary on Woolf and inclusivity at the 29th Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf last June.

  • As you engage in the work of inclusivity, or more particularly, the work of decolonizing the academy, what challenges are you encountering?
  • Are inclusive projects legible to our professional communities?
  • How are such projects approached, read and valued?
  • Are we shaking, challenging the scholarly canon?
  • What are the benefits of undertaking inclusive reading projects, projects that often cut across the conventional analytical categories in the field?
  • Does this approach to reading and research impact your teaching and your pedagogical choices? If so, How?

Adriana Varga presented a very instigating paper about “Alienation: A View of Social Justice in Tony Morrison’s Reading of Mrs. Dalloway” that raised a lot of discussions on the anxiety of influence, but also on how we can read Woolf backwards, reading Woolf through Tony Morrison and, in my case, through Clarice Lispector. That paper brought a lot of food for thought. It was really inspiring.

In the last day we had a plenary discussion “Woolf and the Future of the Humanities in our Current Political Climate,” with Mark Hussey, Vara Neverow, Madelyn Detloff, Benjamin Hagen, Susan Wegener, and Laci Mattison.

That was a moment to think about Woolf and utopia, since we live in moments that we are fighting and resisting and there are moments of paralysis, of hostility, of political despair. That is the Brazilian scenario right now, a moment of political despair and we doubt about our future.

Is the Woolf conference headed to Brazil as we fight against the mainstream across the globe?

We finished the plenary discussing Woolf and inclusivity, how much is it including or excluding? Isn’t time for us to discuss Woolf’s racism, imperialism and anti-Semitism?

We talked about Woolf in global studies and Woolf in different languages, as Stefano argued. I know that now there is an Italian Virginia Woolf Society and another one in Korea.

I would love to take the Woolf conference to Brazil and we are starting to organize that. It would be also be divine to see a conference in China, India, Africa. At the end of the conference, I feel that social justice led us to utopia, to hope for better days and to keep fighting and thinking against the mainstream.

Read more in the series:

Comaraderie among natty young Woolf scholars at the Saturday evening banquet at the 29th Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf. L-R Todd Nordgren of the U.S., Cecilia Servatius of Austria, and Michael Schrimper of the U.S.

Are you a feminist scholar? If so, you may want to know about two calls for papers offered by the feminist journal Signs: : Journal of Women in Culture and Society.

The 2021 Catharine Stimpson Prize for Outstanding Feminist Scholarship

The University of Chicago Press and Signs announce the competition for the 2021 Catharine Stimpson Prize for Outstanding Feminist Scholarship. Named in honor of the founding editor of Signs, the prize recognizes excellence and innovation in the work of emerging feminist scholars.

It is awarded biennially to the best paper in an international competition. Leading feminist scholars from around the globe will select the winner. The prizewinning paper will be published in Signs, and the author will be provided an honorarium of $1,000. All papers submitted for the Stimpson Prize will be considered for peer review and possible publication in the journal.

Eligibility: Feminist scholars in the early years of their careers (fewer than seven years since receipt of the terminal degree) are invited to submit papers for the Stimpson Prize. This includes current graduate students. Papers may be on any topic that falls under the broad rubric of interdisciplinary feminist scholarship. Submissions must be no longer than 10,000 words (including notes and references) and must conform to the guidelines for Signs contributors.

Deadline for Submissions: March 1, 2020.

Please submit papers online at http://signs.edmgr.com. Be sure to indicate submission for consideration for the Catharine Stimpson Prize. The honorarium will be awarded upon publication of the prizewinning article.

Signs Special Issue: Rethinking “First Wave” Feminisms

During the past several decades, scholarship in a variety of disciplines has challenged the “wave” model of feminism. Inspired by the 2020 centennial of the Nineteenth Amendment, this special issue seeks to rethink “first wave” feminisms in a heterogeneous and expansive way—by pushing geographic, chronological, and ideological boundaries and by broadening the definition of whom we usually think of as early feminists. While contributions on the Nineteenth Amendment in the United States, and the suffrage movement worldwide, are welcome, the publication also encourages submissions that consider early manifestations of feminism and feminist movements in broad and global terms. Scholars from all disciplines are encouraged to submit their work.

The editors invite essays that consider the questions you will find here.

Deadline for submissions: Sept. 15, 2020. The issue will be guest edited by Susan Ware, general editor of the American National Biography and Honorary Women’s Suffrage Centennial Historian at the Schlesinger Library, and Katherine Marino, assistant professor of history at UCLA.

Please submit full manuscripts electronically through Signs’ Editorial Manager system at http://signs.edmgr.com. Manuscripts must conform to the guidelines for submission available at http://signsjournal.org/for-authors/author-guidelines/.

A Virginia Woolf Word Portrait by Akron, Ohio artist John Sokol received as a Christmas gift in 2016. The words of “A Room of One’s Own” form her visage.

How did Virginia Woolf celebrate Christmas? What thoughts did that day bring to her mind? I thumbed through the edited versions of her diaries to find out.

Editor Anne Olivier Bell includes explanations of where Virginia and Leonard were at Christmas through the years. But while the edited diaries include three entries for days near Christmas, only two of Virginia’s entries were written on either Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.

Here is a synopsis of where the Woolfs spent Christmas from 1917 through 1940, along with what they did and what Virginia wrote.

1917: Leonard and Virginia are at Asheham for Christmas, the rented country house in East Sussex where they spent weekends and holidays from 1912 until 1919. (D1 93)

1916-1922: No mention of the Woolfs’ Christmas is included in Volumes I or II of the edited diaries.

1923: Leonard and Virginia spend Christmas at Monk’s House in Rodmell, Sussex, the 16th-century home they began occupying in 1919. (D2 278)

1924: The Woolfs are again at Monk’s House, arriving on Christmas Eve and bringing Angus Davidson with them. Virginia had collaborated with Quentin Bell to produce a Christmas Supplement to the Charleston Bulletin. It recorded scenes in the life of Duncan Grant. (D2 327)

1925: The Woolfs spend Christmas at Charleston, since Monk’s House is in the midst of alterations. Virginia and Quentin again collaborated on a written piece, this time depicting scenes from the life of Clive Bell. (D3 53)

Vanessa Bell painting of Woolf knitting in an armchair at Asheham

1926: Virginia and Leonard spend Christmas in Cornwall at Eagle’s Nest, Zennor with Ka and Will Arnold-Forster. (D3 119)

1927: The Woolf take the train from London to Lewes on Christmas Eve, then drive to Charleston. They spend three nights there before going back to Monk’s House. Vanessa and Clive are away, spending Christmas with his widowed mother in Wiltshire. (D3 169)

1928-1930: No mention of Christmas is included in Volume III of the diaries for these years.

1931: The diary for this year includes the only entry written on Christmas Day. It reads in part:

Friday Xmas morning

Lytton is still alive this morning. We thought he could not live through the night. It was a moonlit night . . . This may be the turn, or may mean nothing. We are lunching with the Keynes’. Now again all ones sense of him flies out & expands & I begin to think of things I shall say to him, so strong is the desire for life—the triumph of life…

Talk to L. last night about death: its stupidity; what he would feel like if I died. He might give up the Press; but how one must be natural. And the feeling of age coming over us: & the hardship of losing friends; & my dislike of the younger generation; & then I reason, how one must understand. And we are happier now. (D4 55)

1932-1935: The Woolfs are at Monk’s House for Christmas. In 1933, Vita Sackville-West and her two sons are guests for tea. (D4 133, 195, 266, 360)

1936-1938: Virginia and Leonard are again at Monk’s House. In 1936, they have lunch and tea with Lydia and Maynard Keynes, beginning a Christmas tradition. This year, the tea is at Tilton. In 1937, the Woolfs host lunch for the four of them. In 1938, tea is at Tilton and Christmas dinner at Charleston. (D4 44, 122, 193)

1939: The Woolfs are at Monk’s House and bicycle to Charleston in a fog for Christmas dinner. (D4 252)

1940: At Monk’s HouseVirginia pens a two-part entry dated Tuesday 24 December, which contrasts the soberness of life during wartime with the natural beauty of the countryside.The second portion reads in part:

[Later] 24th Dec. Christmas Eve, & I didnt like to pull the curtains so black were Leonard & Virginia against the sky…and then the walk by the wall; & the church; & the great tithe barn. How England consoles & warms one, in the deep hollows, where the past stands almost stagnant. And the little spire across the fields…

Yes, our old age is not going to be sunny orchard drowse. By shutting down the fire curtain, though, I find I can live in the moment; which is good; why yield a moment to regret or envy or worry? Why indeed? (D5 346)

The doorway to Virginia Woolf’s bedroom on a sunny July day at Monk’s House, Rodmell, Sussex.

This news comes from the Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain. Member Martin Ferguson Smith is the author or co-author of two new articles on pivotal figures in the Bloomsbury Group.

  1. “Clive Bell’s Memoir of Annie Raven-Hill”, English Studies 100 (2019), pp. 823-854. Illustrated. With Helen Walasek.
    The first publication of Clive Bell’s frank recollections of his first lover, the wife of the illustrator and cartoonist Leonard Raven-Hill. The affair began in 1899, when she was 35 and he not quite 18, and continued on and off until 1914, seven years after he married Vanessa Bell. The memoir, fully annotated and discussed by the authors, is published in good time for the centenary of the exclusive Memoir Club, founded on 4 March 1920. Click on http://doi.org/10.1080/0013838X.2019.1658944, then select PDF. Please note that the authors’ allowance of free views via this link is not unlimited.
  2. “A Complete Strip-off: A Bloomsbury Threesome in the Nude at Studland”, The British Art Journal 20, 2 (Autumn 2019), pp. 72-77. Illustrated. The first presentation and discussion of a remarkable collection of nude photographs, taken out of doors, of Vanessa Bell, Clive Bell, and Roger Fry at Studland, Dorset, in September 1911. Accessible online, by kind permission of the editor of BAJ, at (and only at) www.martinfergusonsmith.com under “MODERN, Articles” and “RECENT NEWS, NOVEMBER 2019”.
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