The conference was cram-packed with fabulous events, plenaries, performances, panels and invaluable opportunities to mingle with friends new and old. The attendees included numerous Woolfian devotees who had been to every annual conference and those who had never been to any conference before. There were internationally famous scholars, independent scholars and those who had just completed their undergraduate degrees. The registrants came from all over the globe and gathered in Glasgow for just four unforgettable days.
The setting of the conference was itself awe-inspiring. As we arrived, those who had never visited before were amazed by “all the domes, spires, turrets, and pinnacles of [the University of Glasgow],” to modify Virginia Woolf’s own words in Orlando. Hunter Halls, the vast space where the registration was located, along with the continental breakfasts and snacks and receptions, boasted leaded windows and stunning Corinthian pillars with gilded capitals.
Books and artwork for sale
There, publishers offered their coveted books at significant discounts (including the amazing price cut offered by Cambridge University Press). Stuart N. Clarke and Stephen Barkway of the Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain displayed VWSGB items as well as the Birthday Lectures pamphlets and an array of highly desirable volumes, including many from the Hogarth Press.
Along with the Oxford and Edinburgh presses, so too Suzanne Bellamy exhibited her artwork for sale and Cecil Woolf and JeanMoorcroft Wilson (wearing, of course, her gorgeous gowns and robes in shades of purple or rose or iridescent green and embroidered or accented with peacock fabric from Liberty) displayed their wares—the Bloomsbury Heritage Series works—which included their most recent publications: Mark Hussey’s I’d Make It Penal’, the Rural Preservation Movement in Virginia Woolf’s `Between the Acts’, Emily Kopley’s Virginia Woof and the Thirties Poets and Mary Ann Caws’ How Vita Matters. Also on display was the newly minted edition of Mark Hussey’s invaluable Virginia Woolf: A to Z. Forms for joining the International Virginia Woolf Society were available as well.
Live on stage in Bute Hall
Bute Hall was the site where artist and Woolf scholar Suzanne Bellamy directed a pageant based on Miss LaTrobe’s event in Between the Acts. The performance included Jane Goldman as both Mrs. Manresa and Queenie D. Leavis, Krystyna Colburn as the Narrator and Mark Hussey as Reverend Streatfield. The audience, at Bellamy’s urging, provided mooing to replicate the cows’ voices in the novel. Bellamy’s massive canvas, which also drew on Between the Acts, was displayed in the space for the entire conference.
Bute Hall, where the plenary events and a number of panels were held, was architectural eye-candy too. An ornate space with lovely stained glass windows honoring men of letters (but, alas, no women), this was the site of the Friday evening production of Vanessa and Virginia, a play by Elizabeth Wright based on Susan Sellers’ novel of the same title.
Plenaries and panels: From politics to pedagogy and more
Among the other plenaries were Judith Allen’s “‘But . . . I had said ‘but too often.’ Why But?,” which investigated the politics of Woolf’s use of repetition primarily in A Room of One’s Own and Three Guineas, and Michael Whitworth’s brilliant talk, “Woolf, Context, and Contradiction,” which addressed explored formalist, political and historical approaches of editing and annotating Woolf’s work.
Other plenaries included Kirsty Gunn’s “Sentence by Sentence: The Art of Making Fiction Real” and the roundtable “Queering Woolf and Pedagogy,” organized by Madelyn Detloff and featuring Erin Douglas, Kathryn Simpson and Nick Smart. On Sunday, there were two plenary events: “Confronting War: Approaches to the Contradictory Topics of War and Peace in Woolf’s Life and Work” (chaired by Karen Levenback and Jane Wood and featuring Eileen Barrett, Stuart N. Clarke, Lolly Ockerstrom and [in absentia], Vara Neverow) and David Bradshaw’s and Laura Marcus’s “Class Contradictions”
The thread of the contradictory was celebrated, not only in the presentations at the plenaries, but in the sheer multiplicities of panels. Reading through the program and trying to decide which panel to attend caused one to wish to possess surrogate selves and send them to several sessions simultaneously. The internal debate for each of the attendees no doubt sounded something like: “Yes, I’ll go to that one—oh, but, no, I have to hear that paper—on the other hand, perhaps….” And then, of course, there were seductive options unrelated to the conference itself like visiting the Charles Rennie Macintosh House.
Banquet in the City Chambers
The traditional culminating events were held on Saturday evening. This year, the event was two-fold: the reception (an event generously sponsored by the Glasgow City Council) and the subsequent dinner. Buses shuttled the attendees to the City Centre where we disembarked before yet another architecturally awesome building, the City Chambers. Cecil Woolf spoke at the beginning of the dinner, and the Virginia Woolf Players read from Woolf’s work at the end. Sated, the gathering of guests dissolved into small groups and returned to their hotels and hostels.
The following day, Woolfians met early before the panels began for a meeting regarding the 22ndConference: Interdisciplinary/Multidisciplinary Woolf, to be organized by Ann Martin at the University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Canada. Through the day, there were farewells and hugs and partings. Some went to airports or train stations; some stayed on a few days and visited friends or explored Glasgow; some went on an adventure to the Isle of Skye. The conference was over.
“Dispersed [were] we” until another year.
Selected conference papers will be published by Clemson
One hopes that those who made the conference possible will be able to take a few short breaths before they fling themselves into other projects. The organizers of Contradictory Woolf deserve the deepest gratitude of all Woolfians—not just those who were able to attend but also those who could not, for all will—thanks to Wayne Chapman and Clemson University Digital Press—be able to read the selected papers of Contradictory Woolf in the conference volume (and by the way, the insert in the conference folder indicates that submissions should be sent to Derek Ryan firstname.lastname@example.org and Stella Bolaki email@example.com) by Aug. 10, 2011.