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Archive for the ‘A Room of One’s Own’ Category

This afternoon, as part of our Literature Cambridge course on Virginia Woolf’s Gardens, we visited Newnham College in search of Virginia Woolf. We found her in several places.

Garden walk

Lottie Collis leads us on a garden tour.

First, we found her in the gardens, as we were led on a walking tour of the college’s four gardens by Lottie Collis, head of the garden team. We went from the original mid-Victorian garden with winding paths to the Arts and Crafts garden focused on form and function, to the sunken rose garden. All were in place in 1928 when Woolf visited.

Each garden was peaceful and beautiful in its own way, providing sensual stimulation to the eye as well as the nose, particularly when among the roses. In that outdoor space, the air smelled like heaven.

Site of the talk

But the most exciting part of the tour for me was our visit to Newnham’s dining hall, the site where Virginia Woolf gave her October 1928 talk on women and fiction. That talk, along with one given at Girton College, became A Room of One’s Own (1929), a landmark text for feminists worldwide.

The size, grandeur, and light-filled beauty of the room took my breath away. It was a room fitting for someone of Woolf’s current stature and the women who came before her. It was completely unlike the small, dim setting I had imagined for Woolf’s famous talk about the poorly treated women students she described.

Reactions to Woolf’s Newnham College talk

Woolf came to Newnham at the invitation of the Newnham Arts Society. Her audience that day is estimated at roughly around 40, but since no records were kept of the luncheon menu or the participants, it is difficult to be certain of the number or of the food served at the lunch.

Reactions to her talk about women and fiction were mixed. The first, published in the student magazine Thersites during the Michaelman Term of 1928, was positive. The next one, published years later in A Newnham Anthology of 1970, was not.

The woman who led our tour of the dining hall shared them both with our class and with Blogging Woolf. And we share them below, along with photos from our garden tour and our visit to the dining hall.

Exhibit of Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group

The Newnham College Library has a special exhibit of Hogarth Press books by Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group on the second floor of the new wing of the library. We viewed the exhibit. But sadly, photographs were not permitted. All of the materials are housed in the library’s special collections.

1928 commentary on Woolf’s talk.

Commentary on Woolf’s talk published in the Newnham Anthologies of 1970.

Mid-Victorian style garden outside Newnham’s Old Hall.

Students in the Literature Cambridge class, Virginia Woolf’s Gardens, walk the path on a tour of Newnham College gardens.

Just one view of one of the Newnham Hall gardens.

Students in the Literature Cambridge Virginia Woolf’s Gardens course In the Sunken Rose Garden at Newnham College.

Closeup of a yellow rose in bud in the Sunken Rose Garden at Newnham College

A perennial bed at Newnham College

The Newnham College dining hall where Virginia Woolf gave her famous talk on women and fiction in 1928.

Another view of the Newnham College dining hall where Woolf spoke in 1928.

A view of the elaborate, light-filled dining hall ceiling at Newnham College.

Alcove in the Newnham College dining hall.

View of the gardens from along the corridor leading to the Newnham College dining hall where Woolf gave her famous 1928 talk.

 

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To mark the 90th anniversary of the first publication of Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own, Malvern Garden Buildings has created  a writing retreat inspired by Woolf’s writing lodge at Monk’s House in Rodmell for the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, which runs through May 25.

VW's writing Lodge

Virginia Woolf’s writing lodge at Monk’s House

The shed, which was created with the help of the Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain and Monk’s House, was unveiled by Woolf’s great-niece Cressida Bell on Press Day, May 20.

It is painted a dove grey color and features double French doors opening onto a deck, as does the Monk’s House Lodge.

Inside, the lodge is furnished with a desk in the spirit of Woolf, an armchair with a tray, and a bookcase filled with a set of volumes covered in marbled paper — as was Woolf’s Shakespeare collection. Completing the look are writing paraphernalia and other objects from the 1920s and 1930s.

Once you view Malvern’s creation, I guarantee you will want one for your own back garden. I know I do.

Read more about the project and view photos as well.

A screenshot of the Malvern Garden Buildings Facebook post, as shared by the Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain.

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Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own has inspired a two-story bronze sculpture, “Beyond Thinking,” which apparently has a double meaning and is prompting discussion on social media and beyond.

It will be unveiled at Newnham College, Cambridge, on the 70th anniversary of the first degree ceremony for its female graduates, held in 1948.

Positioned at the entrance to the College’s new Dorothy Garrod building, named after the pioneering archeologist, the sculpture is the first thing that students and visitors will see.

Artist Cathy de Monchaux commissioned artwork inspired by Virgina Woolf’s ‘A Room of One’s own’ at Newnham College, Cambridge photographed by Alun Callender.

Former Turner Prize nominee Cathy de Monchaux, who is known for using vulvas in her work, created the piece, which stands out in relief from a wall and repeats an intricate motif. It is one that — depending upon the viewer — can be seen as a vulva or an open book.

While The Guardian reported that the sculpture depicts the female vulva, the college says it depicts a tower of books.

Two views

The sculpture is “standing out in relief from a wall . . . [and] repeats an intricate genital motif which can also be seen as an open book, the pages lined with the branches of a tree of knowledge,” writes The Guardian.

The sculpture “shows a vertical column of open books set into the fabric of the building. Instead of words, a vine-like structure is embedded in the pages. The spine of each open book holds a female figure gazing out at the world,” says the college news release.

Take the poll

You can decide for yourself by viewing additional photos and taking the online poll available on this CambridgshireLive post.

A Room of One’s Own (1929) was based on a talk Woolf gave to the female students of Newnham and Girton Colleges, Cambridge, in 1928.

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A digital version of the original manuscript of Virginia Woolf’s groundbreaking polemic A Room of One’s Own (1928) is now online, thanks to the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, which is hosting the last stop on the tour of an exhibition that celebrates Woolf’s writing and art.

According to the BBC, curator Suzanne Reynolds calls Room, “one of the founding texts of 20th Century feminist thought.”

The free exhibition is titled “Virginia Woolf: An Exhibition Inspired by Her Writings,” opens tomorrow at the Fitzwilliam and runs through Dec. 9. It celebrates Woolf’s writing while showcasing the works of more than 80 artists on the themes of female identity, domesticity and landscape.

Cambridge is the third and final stop of the exhibition, which has traced a path of Woolf’s life from the Tate St Ives in Cornwall to Pallant House in Sussex.

 

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Share a photo of your room of your own with Virginia and Leonard Woolf’s Monks House.

The National Trust property in Rodmell, East Sussex, is creating a Woolf installation in her writing lodge, and there are two ways you can get involved:

  • Send an image of “A Room of Your Own” and briefly describe what you do in the space.
  • Donate your copy of the book, highlighting your favorite word, lines, or passage. Doodles, highlights and margin notes are welcome!

All images used will be added to a database and combined with other images to create an audio-visual installation. Books will not be returned.

Find out more about the A Room of One’s Own project.

This project explores the significance of the room in Virginia Woolf’s text as a creative space, be it real or psychological. – National Trust website

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Speculative fiction, aka sci-fi – a world where at first young women, then all women, discover they have physical powers, superpowers, that enable them to rise up against the patriarchy.

One review of The Power called it “Hunger Games crossed with Handmaid’s Tale.” The author, Naomi Alderman, claims Margaret Atwood and Ursula LeGuin as mentors and models.

I read it with nary a thought of Woolf, caught up in the story and its key characters. So imagine my surprise and delight when I came across this subtle reference, accessible only to those in the know.

A sympathetic male journalist encounters one of the most powerful of the women during an extreme crisis and hopes she will help him:

“A fragment of something he read a long time ago floats through his mind. A flattering looking glass. He has to be a flattering mirror for her, reflecting her at twice her ordinary size, making her seem to herself to be strong enough to do this thing he needs her to do.”

I was able to contact Naomi Alderman and asked if she could say something about her decision to paraphrase this particular concept from A Room of One’s Own. Her reply:

“Firstly because ARoOO is just so so good. Secondly because I found that part particularly relevant to my own life, and how a good Orthodox Jewish girl is supposed to be ‘trained’ to behave – to tell men they’re wonderful all the time. And because it is so horrifying when you realise you’ve been doing it, and because in the moment of writing this scene I understood why in extremis it has been necessary for women to do this, to save their own lives.”

On the subject of women, misogyny and power, it’s ironic that the next book on my stack is Mary Beard’s Women & Power. Same subject but a far different style and approach. But both timely and powerful. When Woolf urged women to write she didn’t say to write futuristic thrillers or feminist manifestos; she said “write what you wish.”

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Ane Thon Knutsen with her hand-bound volume “A Printing Press of One’s Own,” introduced at this year’s Woolf conference in Reading, England.

Ane Thon Knutsen combined two loves with her project A Printing Press of One’s Own — her love of Virginia Woolf and her love of typesetting.

The two come together in her hand-set volume by the same name, which she debuted at the 27th Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf at the University of Reading in June.

It includes Ane’s personal, heartfelt essay about her experience finding a space of her own in which she could pursue her passion — typesetting. Her search occurred at a personally challenging time, soon after becoming a mother.

The intersection of the two — and the rescue role Woolf played in it — comprise her story. It includes her experiences conducting research at the British Library, which allowed her to handle the first volumes Virginia and Leonard printed on the Hogarth Press.

About that, she writes:

What contrasts! In some cases they have really tried to print appealing books, but in others they have not made the effort, or investment of time. Inkblots. Everything off-kilter. The complete disregard for the sanctity of the type area. Scraps of paper crookedly pasted on to cover up misspelled names. Damaged types which had not been replaced. These are not books considered worthy of dignified display alongside William Morris and Gutenberg’s bible. This smacked more of punk rock and anarchy. The books bear the marks of temper and a strong will. I was touched.

The essay also includes Ane’s ruminations on why Woolf did not write about the time she spent with the typecase. As Ane puts its,  “She, who could name the feelings, details and experiences we let slip by unmentioned, was perfectly qualified to describe the meditation of typesetting.”

Thoughts of her own

According to Ane, “The book is an essay referring to A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf. The essay reflects upon women’s role in letterpress, and the importance of a room of one’s own in artistic practices.

“In this book I am investigating the first books printed by Virginia Woolf at the Hogarth Press, both in practice and in the written ‘dialogue’ between Virginia Woolf and myself, as we are both self-taught typesetters.”

Two versions

The illustrations throughout both the English and Norwegian versions of the volume are linocuts by Ane’s artist sister, Ylve Thon. All text is hand set and printed together with linocuts on a proofing press.

The English version has a blue cover, is digitally printed, and contains handprinted linocuts and is hand-bound. Both are for sale, with the English version priced at £18. The handset Norwegian version is £75.

Ane’s volume is part of her artistic research project in graphic design at Oslo National Academy of the arts, where she works on a project investigating tactility in printed matter.

You can follow her on Instagram @anetutdelaflut.

“A Printing Press of One’s Own” by Ane Thon Knutsen – Photo courtesy of Ane Thon Knutsen

A look inside – Photo courtesy of Ane Thon Knutsen

Linocuts in the volume are by Ane’s sister, the artist Ylve Thon. – Photo courtesy of Ane Thon Knutsen

Ane’s books among some of her typesetting equipment. – Photo courtesy of Ane Thon Knutsen

Ane met Cecil Woolf at the conference, and he graciously signed a limited edition Hogarth Press centenary keepsake of Woolf’s “The Patron and the Crocus,” available from Whiteknights Press.

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