Wow! That is my overwhelming response to the Virginia Woolf conference that ended yesterday afternoon in New York City.
The comments I heard throughout the four-day event tell me that Woolf and the City left everyone buzzed. Anne Fernald and her team of volunteers from Fordham University — Megan Branch, Elizabeth Foley O’Connor, Kelly Spall and Sarah Cornish — put together a dynamite event that sparked many ideas in the minds of Woolfians from around the world.
Here are some highlights:
- Fifty fabulous panels featuring the work of Woolf scholars and common readers from around the globe,
including Bloomsbury biographer Frances Spalding of Newcastle University, Pace University’s Mark Hussey of Virginia Woolf from A to Z fame, Alice Lowe of San Diego, artist Suzanne Bellamy of the University of Sydney, Sarah Prieto of SUNY New Paltz, Katarzyna Rybinska of Wroclaw University in Poland and Iolanda Plescia of Roma Tre University in Rome.
- Dr. Ruth Gruber. Yes, Dr. Ruth Gruber. The 97-year-old journalist, photographer and author of Virginia Woolf: The Will to Create as a Woman, was part of a conversational panel led by writer and broadcaster Katherine Lanpher. She shared fascinating stories of her 1930s experiences as a journalist who visited the Soviet Arctic and a writer who met Virginia and Leonard Woolf in their Tavistock Square flat.
- Susan Sellers, author of Vanessa and Virginia, the novel based on the relationship between sisters Vanessa Bell and Virginia Woolf, which is receiving rave reviews in the U.S. after its recent release, was also part of the Lanpher conversation. When she read a passage from her novel, I wasn’t sure what impressed me more — the words she read or the liltingly beautiful English accent with which she read them. Maybe it was the combination.
- Kris Lundberg, founder of Shakespeare’s Sister, a New York theater company for women that also focuses on community literacy. She did a dramatic reading of Woolf’s words that made a hush fall over the audience.
- Keynote speaker Rebecca Solnit, a prolific author whose soothing voice left her audience in a state of suspended animation while her intriguing ideas left their minds in a state of excitement.
- Tamar Katz of Brown University who spoke about the importance of “pausing and waiting” in life and in Woolf.
- Anna Snaith of King College, London, who shared her views regarding the meaning of street music in The Years — and treated us to audio clips of the actual tunes as well.
- Plus a reading from Vita and Virginia and a performance that combined rock-out music from Princeton with dance from the Stephen Pelton Dance Theatre.
- A table full of lovely books for sale from New York’s independent, activist book seller, Bluestockings.
And, of course, what Woolf conference would be complete without the inimitable combination of Cecil Woolf and Jean Moorcroft Wilson and their collection of Bloomsbury Heritage Series monographs, including their two latest.
These monographs, published by their London publishing house, Cecil Woolf Publishers, are always popular at Woolf conferences, as they cover topics often missing in other Woolf scholarship.
Get the full list of books available in his Bloomsbury Heritage and War Poets series.
I will soon be posting an order form as a PDF to make the purchasing process easier. And I promise to keep you updated on other steps Cecil and Jean plan to take to make their monographs more available to their reading public.