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Archive for March, 2017

How should we remember Virginia Woolf on the 76th anniversary of her death?

Last year, I published a post that collected pertinent comments and social media posts. This year, I am marking it by advocating for better stories for girls, particularly those about Rebel Girls.

After all, the author of A Room of One’s Own (1929) and Three Guineas (1938) is an icon for Rebel Girls everywhere.

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Georgia Johnston (second from left) shared her insights with the Woolf community at the 26th Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf at Leeds Trinity University in Yorkshire, England last June.

The Virginia Woolf community is mourning the loss of Woolf scholar and friend Georgia Johnston, a professor of English at St. Louis University, who passed away March 20.

Georgia studied the cultures and literature of the early twentieth century. She was particularly interested in Modernist autobiography in terms of sexual theories of the period.

Her 2007 book, The Formation of 20th-century Queer Autobiography, shows how autobiographical forms intersect with theories of desire. Her current book project, which was in progress at her death, was titled Modernism’s Civilizations. It focused on the moment when evolutionary deviancy cannot provide an adequate binary opposition for the meaning of civilization, with resulting changes in textuality, genre, and subjectivities.

She organized and hosted the 1998 Woolf Conference at Saint Louis University.

Memorial service and condolences

A memorial service is scheduled for 11 a.m. this Saturday, March 25, at Trinity Episcopal, 600 N. Euclid St., in St. Louis.

Condolences can be sent to Georgia’s brother, Bill Johnston, care of the English Department, Saint Louis University, 3800 Lindell Blvd., Adorjan Hall Rm. 127, St. Louis, MO 63108.

Obituary

Dr. Georgia K. Johnston, Ph.D., 58, passed away Monday March 20, 2017, after a long battle with cancer. She is the daughter of Arthur Johnston (deceased) and Patricia Johnston, and is survived by her mother; her sister, Margaret Ohlenschlaeger, her niece Ellie Sigers and her husband Matthew, her grandnephews,  Noah and Owen, and grandniece Emily, nephews Zack Overton, Andrew Overton, and Thomas Ohlenschlaeger; her brother, William (Bill) W. Johnston, his wife Susan, niece Katie Johnston; her sister, Elizabeth (Liz) Johnston Arbittier, her husband Douglas, nieces and nephews, Bonnie Arbittier,  Jacob Arbittier,  Rosie Arbittier, and Jonathan Arbittier.  She is also survived by her long time companion Paige Canfield, and many dear friends.

Georgia was a respected professor and scholar at St. Louis University where she taught for over 25 years.  She loved, among other things, poetry, dancing, and trees.

In honor of her memory, donations may be given to the Nature Conservancy, 4245 North Fairfax Drive, Suite 100, Arlington, VA 22203-1606.

Memories from friends and colleagues

We share remembrances posted by friends and colleagues via the VWoolf Listserv, as well as one from an SLU colleague that was sent to her academic community.

From Toby Benis, English Department chair, SLU:

Georgia Johnston came to SLU in 1992 after graduating with a doctorate in British literature from Rutgers University in New Jersey. She was an internationally recognized scholar of modern British literature, specializing in the intersections between women’s writing, psychoanalysis, and constructions of gender.

In addition to her work on behalf of the Department of English, Georgia was a tireless advocate for Women’s and Gender Studies at SLU.  She served as the Women’s Studies Program’s director for two years, and mentored many undergraduate and graduate students engaged in the study of gender and literature.

Georgia was an exceptional teacher, completely committed to her students and to the subjects she taught with passion and intelligence.  She was a particularly effective mentor for English graduate students.  She was recognized by the department’s graduate students five years ago when she received the student award for Outstanding Faculty Mentor.

Georgia has served the University in many other capacities as well, including Interim English Department Chair in 1999, and most recently, Coordinator of Graduate Studies in English. She will be much missed by the English Department, the University, and her many students.

From Kimberly Coates, associate professor of English, Bowling Green State University:

Georgia was a generous scholar and colleague and a beautiful, gentle, warm human being. She was interested, as Gill has said, in everyone. And where you taught, who you were, what you had or had not done never mattered to her. She was always, always warm and welcoming.

From Gill Lowe, course leader, English, University of Suffollk:

Terrible news. Georgia was such a steady, thoughtful and generous person. She was interested in everyone and wrote so beautifully. I think of her as calm, composed and without egotism. I also recall her dry sense of humour. Such a shocking premature loss.

From Maggie Humm, emeritus professor of cultural studies, University of East London:

Such appalling news. Georgia was wonderfully supportive and kind to me (and others). Another great Woolf scholar no longer with us.

From Anne Fernald, associate professor of English, Fordham University:

I am so sad to know this news. Georgia wrote an early and important chapter on Woolf’s essays that helped me conceive of my dissertation and which I re-read many times in the process of working on Woolf’s essays. I am still grateful and humbled by her grace and generosity when we met, decades ago. She treated me like a person who mattered when I was very young, unpublished, and feeling shaky. As many have said here, her kindness, care, and warmth were profound. She was a lovely woman. Very sad indeed that her life ended too soon.

From Bonnie Kime Scott, professor emeritus, University of Delaware:

Such a good spirit and fine scholar.  Remember the orphaned cat found at the end of the St. Louis Woolf Conference?  Of course it got to live out its life with her!

From Karen Levenback:

Shocking news.  I join everyone who knew Georgia in quiet and personal grief,  I remember her VWS Conference in St. Louis–the weather was awful–so much rain–so many flights cancelled or postponed.  And she was admirably focused and unfazed by it all.  She will be missed by us all.

From Jane Garrity, associate professor of English, University of Colorado at Boulder:

She was such a gracious colleague over the years and she and I often talked about ways to broaden the visibility of literature by women modernists. She conceived of a possible annual conference on early 20th-century women writers, which she thought should be held at Saint Louis University in 2017 but then she got too sick to follow through on this fine idea.

From Vara Neverow, associate professor of English, Southern Connecticut State University:

At Georgia’s 1998 St. Louis conference, it was my friend June Dunn who rescued the kitten mentioned a number of times in the remembrances, further cementing my sense of connection with Georgia, though we did not talk very often.

The remembrances of Georgia that have been posted are so accurate, so vivid. They evoke her so beautifully.

Georgia was gracious and gentle, kind and witty, and always, always deeply wise. She was also wonderfully graceful. The angle of her head, her slow gestures, her smile, her elegantly subtle scarves, all glimmer brightly in my memories of her. Of particular intensity is my recollection of her calm and fearless way of coping with the cancer as if it were just a minor obstacle, a mere hindrance, a distraction which she seemingly confronted calmly and fearlessly in its various manifestations over the years.

I first met Georgia in 1992 in New Haven at the second annual conference on Virginia Woolf, Virginia Woolf: Themes and Variations, the conference I had organized with Mark Hussey, Patricia Morgne and my then-graduate student Donna Risolo. I still remember the joy of talking to Georgia for the first time right at the end of the conference.

At Georgia’s 1998 St. Louis conference, it was my friend June Dunn who rescued the kitten mentioned a number of times in the remembrances, further cementing my sense of connection with Georgia, though we did not talk very often.

The last time I saw Georgia was in Leeds at the 26th Woolf conference, Woolf and Heritage, where I was privileged to chair the panel on which Georgia presented her brilliant paper, “The Aesthetic Heritage of the Outsider.” Erin Penner (whose paper was “The Curse of War”) was the only other participant on our two-person panel. It was truly a great blessing to have only the two presenters. We had a good number of attendees and were able to have longer presentations, a very relaxed conversational experience and a really rewarding exchange of ideas. Indeed, the panel lasted beyond the full hour and a half. I am very deeply grateful that I was assigned to chair that panel especially since I was able to spend time with Georgia both before and after the session.

It breaks my heart to know that I will never see Georgia again, and truly I cannot believe it.

Tributes on social media

On Facebook, 47 friends posted comments and photos on Georgia’s timeline. Here are screenshots of a few that show some of the many sides of Georgia.

And from Woolf herself

We conclude with a quote from Woolf herself, shared by Kimberly Coates, who this week is teaching The Waves to an undergraduate class.

But for pain words are lacking. There should be cries, cracks, fissures, whiteness passing over chintz covers, interference with the sense of time, of space; the sense also of extreme fixity in passing objects; and sounds very remote and then very close; flesh being gashed and blood spurting, a joint suddenly twisted beneath all of which appears something very important, yet remote, to be just held in solitude – Virginia Woolf, The Waves, P. 195

Georgia Johnston (second from right) dutifully attending a business meeting of the International Virginia Woolf Society during the Leeds conference last June.

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susan sellers

Susan Seller

Susan Sellers will present “Virginia Woolf and the Essay” Wednesday, April 26, at 1 p.m. as part of the Virginia Woolf Talks, Cambridge, presented by Literature Cambridge and Lucy Cavendish College.

The talk will be held at Lucy Cavendish College, Cambridge. It is free and open to all, town and gown. Enquiries: tt206@cam.ac.uk

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Where I live, winter has been mild this year. Until recently, that is. This week we were hit with five inches of snow, frigid temperatures, and high winds. Farther east, it was worse. So when I came across this Woolf quote, it seemed appropriate to post today.IMG_2218

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This just in: We now have an Italian Virginia Woolf Society. The society has a Facebook page, as well as a website, which society founders are working on making bilingual.

Iolanda Plescia and Valentina Mazzei outside the Antico Caffé Greco in Rome. We speculated that Woolf would have visited the popular spot for artists and intellectuals when she traveled to Rome in 1927.

Founding members are:

  • Elisa Bolchi – President
  • Nadia Fusini – Vice-president
  • Iolanda Plescia – Secretary.
  • Liliana Rampello – Counselor

I recognize one name on this list. I met Iolanda Plescia, a scholar of Woolf and Shakespeare, at my very first Woolf conference at Miami University of Ohio in 2007.

I saw her again when visiting Rome in 2010, and this time our meeting was planned. Together with sculptor Valentina Mazzei, we went on a Woolf pilgrimage of sorts. We visited the Spanish Steps as Woolf did and stopped in at the Hotel Hassler, at the top of the famous steps, where Woolf stayed during her 1927 visit to Rome. We then wandered to the Pantheon for a drink.

For more information about the society, contact info@itvws.it.

The three of us at Rome’s Hotel Hassler, at the top of the Spanish Steps. Woolf stayed there in 1927.

 

 

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This is a call for papers for a workshop which will explore the history of the British Post Office from its monopolization of the telegraph  service in 1869 under control of the state until the privatization of  the telecommunications business as British Telecom.

Background

The history of the Post Office’s communication networks has, until recently, long been one of state monopoly, and the twentieth-century Post Office was both one of  the UK’s largest state bureaucracies and largest employers. However, in contrast, it is apparent that histories of the Post Office are as disconnected as they are diverse, and so this workshop will synthesise these approaches and foreground the Post Office. We are influenced by numerous histories where the Post Office is explored on diverse registers.

For example, Duncan Campbell-Smith (2012) explores the history of the Post Office as a business organisation since its inception, whereas Patrick Joyce (2013) locates the Post Office as central to the networks and systems of the state used to communicate power. Business and the state alone, however, are not our foci: from Frank Bealey’s (1976) observation of the unique position of Post Office engineering staff as Civil Servants, to Iwan Rhys Morus’ (2000) analysis of the telegraph’s
promise of “instant intelligence” to Victorian society and the state, there has long been recognised an intrinsic technological element to the modern Post Office.

How might these histories be synthesised? There are histories which include the Post Office’s role in regulating the emergence of radio astronomy (Agar, 1998), the interaction of computerisation and
mechanisation with gender workplace relations (Hicks, 2017), and with the Post Office Savings Bank (Campbell-Kelly, 1998). There are now projects which explore the Post Office’s role in developing assistive technologies for hearing loss (AHRC/Action for Hearing Loss) and as a site of government research (AHRC/The Science Museum).

This range of subjects will therefore draw on and speak to different specialties: general history, political history, science and technology studies (including history of science and technology), business history, and cultural history. This call for papers recognises this fact, whilst seeking to focus discussion productively by asking for papers that satisfy the following criteria: a) papers that take a primarily
historical approach; b) papers that focus on the British Post Office; c) papers that broadly discuss the Post Office and technology; d) papers that focus on the Post Office commencing from its monopolisation of telecommunications networks.

Topics

Possible subjects include, but are not restricted to:

  • Technological systems and the Post Office
  • The bureaucratic Post Office (the “Government Machine”)
  • The material and visual culture of the telephone and telegraph services
  • The telephone and telegraph services in popular culture
  • Architecture, exchange buildings and sorting offices
  •  Mechanisation, parcel sorting and exchange automation
  • Involvement in wartime science and technology projects (e.g. Colossus)
  • Gender and Post Office telecom, from telephone users to operators
  • The Post Office and assistive technologies (e.g. hearing aids,
    amplified telephones)
  • Financial technologies (“FinTech”) in historical context, e.g. National Giro, Post Office Savings Bank
  • Regulation, broadcasting and the airwaves, from pirate radio to
    radio telescopes
  • The Post Office and privatisation, the creation of British Telecom
  • Comparative/connective national historiographies of the Post Office

Conference location and submission guidelines

‘The British Post Office in the Telecommunications Era’ will take place at The Science Museum on 31st August 2017. Registration will be free.

We invite proposals for twenty-minute papers. Proposals of no more than 350 words, together with the name and institutional affiliation of the speaker, should be sent to Jacob Ward at jacob.ward.12@ucl.ac.uk. The closing date for submissions is 1st May 2017.

The workshop is convened by PhD candidates Rachel Boon, University of  Manchester, Alice Haigh, University of Leeds, and Jacob Ward, UCL, in conjunction with The Science Museum.

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When I first learned, through one of Paula Maggios’s tweets, about the Virginia Woolf inspired art exhibit in Las Vegas, I shifted my calendar around so that I could visit the gallery as soon as possible. I then learned that two of my colleagues from the College of Southern Nevada are a part of the community of women whose work is on display at the Left of Center Art Gallery as part of the “A Room of One’s Own” All Women’s Art Exhibit, and so I went to the gallery immediately!

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The gallery provides a space for women artists to create, discuss, and display their art. This specific exhibit features both literary and visual art pieces. Some of the pieces directly reference Woolf, such as the piece “Freedom” by Yvette Mangual, which quotes “A Room of One’s Own”:

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“Freedom” by Yvette Mangual

Some pieces seemed to allude to Woolf’s misty, Modernist aesthetic, such as Elizabeth Blau-Ogilvie’s gorgeous piece, “Glacial Pour” which gave me visions of James’s, Cam’s and Mr. Ramsay’s final boat ride in To the Lighthouse:

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“Glacial Pour” by Elizabeth Blau-Ogilvie

Dr. Karen Laing and Professor Erica Vital-Lazare are two of the 26 women artists whose works are on display in the Woolf inspired exhibit. After an inspired visit to the gallery, I interviewed Karen and Erica to learn about the ways that Virginia Woolf has inspired them as artists, and to gather their views on being woman artists.

Karen Laing is an activist and artist who teaches English composition and literature at the College of Southern Nevada. My interview with Karen is featured below:

Karen, your poem, “Thanks Sharon” reflects on oppression and resistance. In what ways does your work speak to and for women?

Among my deepest desires for the contribution my work makes in the never-ending conversation about what it means to be human is the hope that women locate ourselves in the center of every discussion, armed with a voice as authentic and indispensable to the outcomes present and prophetic as it is sufficient to the challenges reality places before us. I hope my life and art unleash the initiative of the creator within us so that we create a world worthy of our best and healing of our worst.

Karen, in what ways has Virginia Woolf’s work influenced you? 

Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own inspired me to create spaces in which I could listen for and attend to my heart’s desires. It soon became apparent that for this to be more consistently and sustainably possible, I would need to encourage others to find and forge similar spaces and permissions of their own.

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“Future Primitive” on display at the Left of Center Gallery by artist Lolita Develay.

Erica Vital-Lazare teaches creative writing at the College of Southern Nevada where she is the editor-in-chief of the Red Rock Review literary journal. Our interview is located below:

Erica, you work as a Professor, artist, and editor within the Las Vegas community, so you have a unique view of women artists in Sin City. In what ways do you think that Woolf’s ideas in “A Room of One’s Own” connect to today’s women artists?

In 1929 when Woolf was asked to write about women who write, she raised the artful and sanctioned notables—the pluck of Jane Austen and the blunt-edged realism of George Eliot with the intent of taking the discussion further than those points of comfort to address the gap between woman-art and its creation and recognition. The gap she addresses is parity. The bridge she dares to construct deconstructs. In a time when women are chattel she makes public the keys to artistic freedom when she says a woman must have these things of her own: her own money and her own space within the canon. Agency. Nearly 90 years after Woolf penned “A Room of One’s Own”, women-artists build their own, even though sometimes it just might mean they must first burn down a few houses.

In what ways has Virginia Woolf’s work influenced your own writing?

Virginia Woolf’s fearlessness as a woman-artist in an era when capitulating and cowing under the weight of gender was so deeply embedded in the culture that furniture was specifically designed and appointed in the homes of finer society to catch our feinting and fainting-fragile selves is a wonder and an inspiration to me.  I know many women writers in many genres who think of her and the essay as they carve out space for themselves.

If you are in the Las Vegas area, I highly recommend making a trip to the Left of Center Gallery to enjoy some moving art, as well as to support women artists. The exhibit is free and will continue until March 31. Read more about the exhibit here.

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