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

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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I’m not a literary snob—well, maybe a bit—but I’ve never had any interest in John Grisham’s blockbuster novels. I’d heard they’re page-turners, well written even though formulaic, good distractions if that’s what you’re after.

Then a friend told me that his new novel, Camino Island, wasn’t his typical corporate/legal skullduggery, that it was summer fun—a beach read—about the theft of Scott Fitzgerald’s manuscripts from the Princeton Library. The story focuses on a novelist and a bookseller in a Florida island community. Sounded promising, and the deal-maker was a Virginia Woolf reference.

Grant, a bookstore owner and collector of rare books, is showing some of his favorite acquisitions to Mercer, whom he’s trying to seduce and who is a plant, hired by Princeton’s insurer to spy on Grant for any possible connection to the stolen manuscripts. He extracts his most valuable book from safekeeping, a signed first edition of Catcher in the Rye (prized because Salinger seldom signed his books). Mercer mentions that she taught it once but that it’s not a favorite. She prefers female writers. He then brings out the rarest book he has by a woman, A Room of One’s Own.

 Mercer: “I love this book. I read it in high school and it inspired me to become a writer, or at least give it a shot.” She recites the key line: “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.” They discuss Woolf—“so brave,” “a tortured soul”—and writers’ sufferings and destructive behaviors.

Mercer has been struggling to write a second novel, several years after the success of her first. Now, with free time and the windfall she’s getting from the insurance company, the narrator observes: “With a room of her own and some money in her pocket, perhaps she could settle in and write some fiction.”

The beginning grabbed me—the heist—but it was disappointing after that, with a bit of punch at the end. I tried to enjoy it, but I found Mercer a not very interesting and not very convincing protagonist. It was a quick read, and I did stick with it until the end to find out what happened to the manuscripts. But, like Mercer, I prefer to read women authors.

Still, there was Woolf—existing in the lofty presence of Fitzgerald and Salinger, Hemingway and Faulkner, holding her own with all that testosterone.

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In the video posted here, Fiona Shaw does a masterful reading of “Shakespeare’s Sister” from Virginia Woolf’s feminist polemic,  A Room of One’s Own (1929), which was based on a series of lectures Woolf gave at Cambridge University in October 1928.

Woolf’s speech is one of several featured in the digital project Figures of Speech,” presented by the Almeida Theatre in London.

The project places history’s greatest speeches centre stage through a series of films read by well-known actors speaking the words of important historical figures and moments, to explore how they resonate in 2017.

Besides Woolf’s speech, the project also includes talks by:

  • Labour Party Politician Neil Kinnock spoken by Ashley Walters
  • American politician Harvey Milk spoken by Ian McKellen
  • Nelson Mandela spoken by Lucian Msamati
  • AIDS activist Elizabeth Glaser spoken by Nicola Walker

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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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A Virginia Woolf Word Portrait arrived this morning. Created by Akron artist John Sokol, an admirer of Woolf and her writing, the portrait is entirely made up of Woolf’s words from A Room of One’s Own. Across her forehead: “But, you may say, we asked you to speak about women and fiction”. And so she did. Best. Christmas. Present. Ever. 

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