I am late with this. After attending Woolf in the City in 2009 and Woolf and the Natural World in 2010, I posted about the conference the very next day. But this year, I haven’t been able to pull my thoughts together. I can think of a couple of reasons why.
Tweeting the conference
Maybe tweeting the conference as woolfwriter pushed any deep thinking about it out of my head. Throughout the 23rd Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf: Woolf and the Common (Wealth) Reader in Vancouver, I posted 140-character conference updates and photos under the hashtag #vwconf23 tweets.
Now I wonder if posting these brief tweets served to empty my mind of the interesting things I was hearing. Things like “Waves are metaphor for empowerment and change. -Muscogiuri #vwconf23 pic.twitter.com/NPDSpSaB8y” and “Wonderful resource: UCL Bloomsbury Project http://ucl.ac.uk/bloomsbury-pro … #vwconf23”
Or maybe the fact that I took off for another conference — this one in Toronto — a few days after arriving home from Vancouver diverted my attention.
Some scattered thoughts
Despite my scattered thoughts, some things from the conference do stand out, and here they are:
- After listening to Kristin Czarnecki‘s paper on “Proportion, Conversion, Transition: War Trauma and Sites of Healing in Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway and Leslie Marmon Silko’s Ceremony,” I am convinced that Silko’s 1977 novel, the story of a Native American WWII veteran, is a must-read.
- On the same panel, Aurelea Mahood shared “A Short History of Woolf’s Literary Work as Reviewed in Time and Tide,” prompting my interest in the magazine launched in 1920 by suffragist Lady Rhonda whose life is documented in her 1933 memoir This Was My World.
- Christine Froula‘s plenary talk on “War, Peace, Internationalism: The Legacy of Bloomsbury” was riveting and made me want to know more. It’s a topic that deserves a book-length discussion.
- Fittingly enough, the panel on “Woolf’s Troubled and Troubling Relationship to Race: The Long Reach of the White Arm of Imperialism” sparked a lively discussion among panelists Lisa Coleman and Evan Zimroth and their audience, with Zimroth detailing Woolf’s anti-Semitism as well as the anti-foreigner sentiments sparked by ballerina Lydia Lopokova.
- A polite difference of opinion between Patrizia Muscogiuri and Melissa Rampelli about Rhoda’s agency in The Waves also threw up some sparks, which made their papers and the resulting discussion more interesting.
- A brilliant plenary talk by Sonita Sarker on “Virginia Woolf in the British Commonwealth” in which she discussed ways in which Englishness and whiteness are part of the Commonwealth and how writing makes people self-conscious and class-conscious.
- Vara Neverow‘s powerful analysis of fascism in Woolf’s Three Guineas and Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale in which she compared Woolf’s 65 pages of footnotes at the end of TG to the 12 pages of “historical notes” set in a post-Gilead world that accompany Atwood’s 1985 dystopian novel. Neverow’s passionate feminism that underlay her discussion of fascism as it relates to women’s lives in both works made her argument even more compelling.
- And of course, there was the Saturday evening banquet, with charming readings of “A Pair of Scissors” by Sharon Thesen and “Oscar of Between” — complete with current-day references to Woolf’s Orlando — by Betsy Warland.
- Dramatic readings of favorite Woolf quotes — and I do mean dramatic — from the International Virginia Woolf Society Players topped off the evening. And here I give a special tip of the hat to Suzanne Bellamy, Catherine Hollis and Erica Delsandro.
Facebook and the conference
I didn’t find anyone else’s tweets about the conference, but participants did share their thoughts on Facebook, and here are a few of their comments:
“Greetings from Vancouver. Bad internet connection, but now that I’m about to leave it’s working at last … better late than never, I guess. Anyway, another amazing Woolf Conference is over, great papers and keynotes, stimulating exchange of ideas but most inspiring of all was meeting my woolfians friends and colleagues. In the midst of many things not going exactly well (flights, etc., etc., etc.), you were wonderful as ever – can’t thank you enough for that.” – Patrizia Muscogiuri
“Just got back from a fabulous time at the 23rd annual Virginia Woolf conference held in Vancouver, B.C.! Many thanks to Helen Wussow and co. at Simon Fraser University for organizing a wonderful conference.” – Diana Swanson
Suzanne Bellamy posted daily accounts of the conference on her Facebook wall:
“Arrived in Vancouver for the International Virginia Woolf conference. Stunning city, we are in a
hotel with amazing views of the harbour. An always exciting few days are ahead but my presentation is this morning so I will feel better after that is done. Great to see all the marvellous friends who come annually to this special community of scholars.
“Day 2 in Vancouver. Something happens at these Woolf events that stretches time. A day is so dense with new meanings, ideas and encounters. All panels and the two keynotes were excellent, and the first big reception up on the roof of the hotel blew the air through our brains, with the harbour and snow on the mountains. What planet are we on??? Its gorgeous indeed. In particular Rosemary Ashton from Univ College London gave a wonderful keynote on old Bloomsbury before the Stephens ever moved in, a site of radical experiment and dissent that is still a model for resistance.
“Morning of day 3 Vancouver Woolf conference. I hope my second wind kicks in, already stretched out brain, feel great. Yesterday brilliant again. Several great panels extending the conf themes of common(wealth), war, internationalism, Christine Froula’s great keynote on war and Bloomsbury showed us there is still new material to discover, new mss, recombining, setting up new collages of thinking. A wonderful escape in the late afternoon, ferry across the harbour, still a working fishing and trade port, vistas of snow and intense urbanscapes, like a little HongKong but with a metal and glass coolness. A lush conf visit to the Bill Reid Gallery, First Nations treasure, indigenous food. I couldn’t eat the bison, like I can’t eat kangaroo either. But for those Australians out there, you will understand that the joyful thrill of the day for me was a stunningly good and hilarious paper (“From Bloomsbury to Fountain Lakes”) by Melinda Smith, a Tasmanian by birth but now at Univ of Hawaii, about Kath and Kim’s episode based on The Hours, when Fountain Lakes presented a musical about Virginia Woolf. I sat there in awe that she had magically brought Kimmy and her mother the foxy Kath to a Virginia Woolf conference, equipped with brilliant theoretical analysis of layers and layers of re-performing and making over taking the colonial piss out of the dominant culture but celebrating the shared creativity of brilliant women over time. I laughed and laughed. What a funny day to have. More to come. All amazing.
“Vancouver last day of VW conf. Yesterday teeming with encounters, panels and keynotes, too much to write. Plans take shape for next a performance work for next year in Chicago, collaborations set up from Brazil to Italy, fusion of Woolf with Stein’s 4 Saints in 3 Acts with lots more, jazz and set work all in the planning now. The day never seemed to end, the banquet, the VW Players show, then the bar afterwards; how I love this annual fest, I have been coming every year since 1997, next year Chicago.
“Yesterday the last sessions of the Vancouver Woolf conf, great plenary about the dark side of Brooke and the war poets, their attraction to fascism, neo-paganism. I chaired the final panel with the all-time stars of experiment and innovation, Leslie Hankins, Diane Gillespie and Elisa Sparks. As always they dazzled us with new methods and ideas around type itself, money itself and the new app. The unpacking of Woolf is never-ending, for me a life time of provocative joy continues.”
Read about past Woolf conferences
- In unequivocal praise of the Contradictory Woolf Conference, June 13, 2012
- Woolf conference 2012 in pictures, June 11, 2012
- Take a look at the 21st Conference: Contradictory Woolf, June 14, 2011
- Swimming in deep water with Virginia Woolf, June 8, 2010
- Hello, mountaineer, I’m weather, June 9, 2010
- In the aftermath of Woolf and the City, one word — Wow!, June 8, 2009
- Listing of Woolf conferences