Alexandra Harris’s long-awaited Weatherland: Writers and Artists Under English Skies, published by Thames & Hudson, is due out in the UK this week and will be published in the U.S. on Feb. 15, 2016.
On Woolf and weather
Woolf and weather has been a subject dear to my heart since I enrolled in an interdisciplinary graduate program at Kent State University in 2001. The introductory course for the Master of Liberal Studies Program focused on weather. And when we read about England’s Great Frost, I immediately recalled those scenes from Woolf’s Orlando.
When I had read the novel years earlier, I thought Woolf had imagined the weather scenes. Happily, I discovered I was wrong. This made me wonder what Woolf knew about weather, how weather affected her, and how she used it in her writing.
I went on to research and write about Woolf and weather for Cecil Woolf Publishers. At the time, there was nothing written on the subject, so it was wide open for inquiry. I read Ruskin, explored J.M.W. Turner’s art for its depiction of weather, read weather journals kept by rural residents, explored the history of weather science, and looked up weather data from Woolf’s time and Orlando’s. I searched Woolf’s novels, diaries, and letters for reference to weather, finally turning to her essays, where I discovered her theories about weather and literature.
Cecil published my monograph, Reading the Skies in Virginia Woolf: Woolf on Weather in Her Essays, Her Diaries and Three of Her Novels, in 2009. But I knew I had only scratched the surface.
Harris on Woolf and weather
Harris has been researching and writing about weather and literature for years. She spoke about Woolf and weather at the 2012 Woolf conference in Saskatoon and has published several pieces on the topic. This year, she gave the Virginia Woolf Birthday Lecture, delivered at Senate House in London, on “Woolf in Winter.” It was published by the Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain. And on Feb. 15, 2014, she published ‘Drip, drip, drip’, a lead article in The Guardian, on the topical subject of rain in literature.
Now Harris’s new book promises to uncover so much more about Woolf’s use of weather and the role weather plays in English literature from the eighth century onward. In a June 2012 email to me, she promised her book would include a chapter on Woolf. Harris’s Sept. 11 piece in The Guardian, “Making the Weather in English Writing and Art,” gives us a taste.
Harris will team up with Frances Spalding for the book launch at the London Review Bookshop, where it is displayed in their windows, on Wednesday. She will also give a lecture on the topic at the British Museum on Oct. 19.
In a sweeping panorama, Weatherland allows us to witness England’s cultural climates across the centuries . . . Weatherland is a celebration of English air and a life story of those who have lived in it. -Thames & Hudson