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Archive for the ‘in memoriam’ Category

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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David Bradshaw, professor of English literature at Worcester College at Oxford University and a plenary speaker at the 26th Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf held June 16-19 at Leeds Trinity University, died Sept. 13. He had been ill with cancer.

David Bradshaw at his plenary talk at this year's Virginia Woolf conference.

David Bradshaw giving his plenary talk at this year’s Virginia Woolf conference at Leeds Trinity University.

At the conference, Mr. Bradshaw gave a talk titled “‘The Very Centre of the Very Centre’: Herbert Fisher, Oxbridge and ‘That Great Patriarchal Machine’.” In his talk, he quoted Woolf as saying that her contact with Fisher “brought back my parents more than anyone else I knew.”

Vara Neverow, editor of the Virginia Woolf Miscellany, invites those who knew Mr. Bradshaw to share their memories of him for that publication. “The publication of such recollections would be much valued by others, whether they knew David himself or knew only his scholarship,” she wrote in a message to the VWoolf Listserv.

Tributes to Mr. Bradshaw, who has been called “one of the great recent scholars of modernism,” prevailed on the list after news of his death was announced. Here are just a few:

I miss him already – Bonnie Scott

Just joining in the chorus of sorry over this sad news. I had heard he was ill but, I regret to say that I cherished the luxury of denial. I’m just so very very sad. He was such a funny, warm, silly, vital, brilliant, generous person. It was always a joy to see him and I learned so much from him. To this day, whenever I give a paper I remember his admonishment to himself once–“don’t get distracted, David,”–which he uttered aloud to great effect years ago. Sharing his digressive streak, I loved that so much. And, of course, almost every note of his Dalloway appears, with credit, in my edition. I owe him so much. What a terrible loss. – Anne Fernald

His plenary at Leeds was special. I have often and continue to teach from his considerable body of work. This is a terribly sad loss. My heart goes out to his family and many friends. – Jean Mills

Such an unbelievably sad loss. A superb scholar and wonderfully witty and generous man. – Maggie Humm

His colleagues in the Complete Works of Evelyn Waugh project also posted their tributes on the Waugh and Words blog on the University of Leicester website.

Mr. Bradshaw specialized in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century literature and had written many articles on literature, politics and ideas in the period 1880-1945, especially in relation to the work of Virginia Woolf, T. S. Eliot, Aldous Huxley and W. B. Yeats, according to the Worcester College website.

His current projects included an edition of Woolf’s Jacob’s Room (CUP) with Stuart N. Clarke and a monograph “in train” that he said “will examine the ways in which Woolf, Waugh and Huxley challenged the culture of their time through their provocative engagement with the obscene.”

His books related to Woolf include:

  • (Ed.) Virginia Woolf, The Waves, `Oxford’s World’s Classics’ series (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015).
  • (Ed., with Stuart N. Clarke) Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own, Shakespeare Head Press Edition of Virginia Woolf (Chichester and Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2015).
  • (Ed., with Ian Blyth) Virginia Woolf, The Years, Shakespeare Head Press Edition of Virginia Woolf (Chichester and Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2012).
  • (Ed.) Virginia Woolf, Selected Essays, `Oxford’s World’s Classics’ series (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008).
  • (Ed.) The Cambridge Companion to E. M. Forster (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007). I also contributed the chapter on `Howards End’ (see below).
  • (Ed.) Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse, `Oxford’s World’s Classics’ series (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006).
  • (Ed.) Virginia Woolf, Carlyle’s House and Other Sketches (London: Hesperus, 2003). Incorporated into the 2nd, rev. ed. ofA Passionate Apprentice: The Early Journals of Virginia Woolf, ed. Mitchell A. Leaska (London: Pimlico, 2004).
  • Winking, Buzzing, Carpet-Beating: Reading `Jacob’s Room’, 4th Annual Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain Birthday Lecture (Southport: Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain, 2003).
  • (Ed.) Virginia Woolf, Mrs Dalloway, `Oxford’s World’s Classics’ series (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000).

His articles related to Woolf include:

David Bradshaw (center front) with colleagues at the 26th Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf, held June 16-19 at Leeds Trinity University

David Bradshaw (center front) with colleagues at the 26th Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf, held June 16-19 at Leeds Trinity University

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The late Jane Marcus, a revered feminist scholar whose seminal work established Virginia Woolf as a major canonical writer, was honored Sept. 9 with a day-long event organized by her former students and dubbed Jane Marcus Feminist University.

The day included breakout workshops, plenary roundtables and a reception in Marcus’s honor with time for sharing reminiscences and memories. It was held at The Center for the Humanities at The Graduate Center, CUNY.

Topics included:

Jane Marcus memorial at the 25th Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf: Virginia Woolf and Her Female Contemporaries

  • Modernist Women Writers and Activists
  • The Spanish Civil War
  • Feminist Digital Pedagogy
  • Jane’s Scholarly Legacy
  • Jane’s Reading List

Speakers included:

  • Amanda Golden
  • Margaret Carson
  • Conor Tomás Reed
  • Cori L. Gabbard
  • J. Ashley Foster
  • Blanche Wiesen Cook
  • Jean Mills
  • Meena Alexander
  • Mary Ann Caws

For the full program and list of speakers, visit the event website.

According to Vara Neverow, who attended: “I felt very privileged to be able attend. Of the 50 or so people who came to the event, most were Jane Marcus’s former students or her long-term colleagues and friends in the world of scholarship and of them, many were Woolfians (and many of the Woolfians were members of the IVWS). Also attending the event were Michael Marcus, Jane’s husband, and Ben Marcus, her son. Her daughter, Lisa Marcus, was able to participate via a live feed. I wish that everyone who had known Jane, had met Jane even once or had been inspired by her work could have been able to attend.

“I was very glad to discover that Jean Mills is working directly with Michael Marcus on organizing and reviewing Jane’s unpublished work. Thus, we can hope that some of Jane’s scholarly endeavors will be published posthumously. Jane’s contributions to Woolf studies brought into focus the Virginia Woolf we know as a feminist, a pacifist, and a socialist. Jane’s scholarly impact was both immeasurable and invaluable,” Neverow added. 

She also provided these links:

Marcus, distinguished professor emerita at CUNY and author of so much ground-breaking scholarship on Virginia Woolf, Rebecca West, feminism, modernism and other topics, died May 28, 2015, at the age of 76. At the time of her death and at the 2015 Woolf conference in Bloomsburg, Pa., scholars and students paid tribute to Marcus for her scholarship, her feminist integrity and the relationships she nurtured with students and colleagues.

Here’s an update posted today by organizer Ashley Foster:

image

2016-09-09-19-28-07

Conference organizers J. Ashley Foster, Cori Gabbard, and Conor Tomás Reed . Photo by Vara Neverow.

 

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Kristin Czarnecki, president of the International Virginia Woolf Society, posted the noteV Woolf bust Monk's House below on Facebook today to commemorate the 75th anniversary of Virginia Woolf’s death.

To read more about her last note, as well as its social, literary, cultural and scientific contexts, visit this page on the Smith College website.

“On the 75th anniversary of Virginia Woolf’s death, one of my favorite passages from Mrs. Dalloway from one of the most remarkable characters ever created:

Why then rage and prophesy? Why fly scourged and outcast? Why be made to tremble and sob by the clouds? Why seek truths and deliver messages when Rezia sat sticking pins into the front of her dress, and Mrs. Peters was in Hull? Miracles, revelations, agonies, loneliness, falling through the sea, down, down into the flames, all were burnt out, for he had a sense, as he watched Rezia trimming the straw hat for Mrs. Peters, of a coverlet of flowers.

R.I.P. Virginia–and Septimus.

And on Twitter:

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Jane Marcus, distinguished professor emerita at CUNY and author of so much ground-breaking scholarship on Virginia Woolf, Rebecca West, feminism, modernism and other topics, died May 28 at the age of 76. The news was announced by her son Ben. Since then, tributes to her have come in via the VWoolf Listserv, Facebook and Twitter.

Jane Marcus

Jane Marcus: 1938-2015

From Jean Mills:

She was a giant upon whose shoulders we all stand. Jane Marcus asked the important questions. Go back. Re-read her. All of it. There are gems to be mined there that will guide you, test you, frustrate you, but demand that you rethink possible. Her work will remain generative, bold, and meaningful to our own questions and research as we stay up late reading and writing forgetful of the tea kettle on the stove …but somehow certain that we’re on to something, something that matters.

From Christine Froula:

What very sad news. Jane’s pioneering scholarship and devoted teaching as well as her kindness and generosity have encouraged and inspired countless scholars of Woolf, Elizabeth Robins, feminism, modernism, and much more, and the enduring legacy of her own work will keep her spirit alive. We will miss you, Jane.

From Lauren Elkin:

It’s such a loss I don’t even know what to say, apart from simply that she was my mentor, and she taught me how to read, and how to be fierce. I hope I can live up to that legacy with my own students.

From Jan McVicker:

This is very sad news. Jane Marcus was a passionate thinker and her generosity was legend. I imagine there will be a tribute to her memory and legacy at the upcoming conference? I would be willing to help. Condolences to those who knew her well and to her family.

From Elisa Kay Sparks:

In her 1982 ground-breaking critique of traditional approaches to Virginia Woolf, “Storming the Toolshed,” Jane Marcus wrote: “It is an open secret that Virginia Woolf’s literary estate is hostile to feminist critics. There are two taboo subjects: on one hand her lesbian identity, woman-centered life, and feminist work, and on the other, her socialist politics. If you wish to discover the truth regarding these issues, you will have a long, hard struggle. In that struggle you will find the sisterhood of feminist Woolf scholarship” (Signs 13.1, p. 628). The degree to which those two subjects now provide the cornerstones of international Virginia Woolf studies is largely due to Jane Marcus’s long, hard years of struggle to document the full political and social context of Woolf’s writing. We are all forever in her debt.

From Bonnie Scott:

Jane was so many things to so many people, and to the authors she helped us see anew.  Her passion for following new lines of investigation was infectious, and she supported what she inspired?something I came to greatly appreciated when studying Rebecca West. I feel both bereft and blessed this morning.  Much love to the family she was so justly proud of.

From Diana Swanson:

She was and is an inspiration and one of the founding mothers of feminist scholarship and Woolf scholarship. Her contributions are incalculable.

From Allison Lin:

We will miss you, Jane… a wonderful Woolf scholar.

From Angeliki Spiropoulou:

Very sad news indeed. Her work is foundational.

From an unidentified member of the list:

This is terrible news — my very, very best to those who knew her well. Her work has been magnificent; and the generosity and real, insightful interest with which she engaged inexperienced young scholars, and normalized that interest, was wonderful. And she coined “the Virginia Woolf Soap Operas”! She will be missed so much.

I cut my teeth on Jane’s work when I was a fledgling graduate student working on my master’s in liberal studies with a focus on Woolf. I particularly appreciated her work on Woolf and anger, since that is a topic that continues to resonate. Though I never met her in person, I will miss her as well.

Added June 10, 2015:

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It was 74 years ago today, on March 28, 1941, that Virginia Woolf left two suicide notesAfterwords behind, walked out of Monk’s House and across the Sussex Downs and headed for the River Ouse. With a stone in her coat pocket, she waded into the river and drowned. She is still missed today.

Past tributes

Many tributes have been made to her on the anniversary of her death. Eight years ago, a video, The Adventures of Virginia Woolf, was posted on YouTube that speculates on what Woolf would have accomplished if she had chosen to live on that fateful date in March of 1941.

Four years ago, the Elite Theatre Company presented the world premiere of Arthur Kraft’s  drama “Goat,” about what might have happened if a psychologist had prevented Woolf’s suicide.

That same year, her great niece, Emma Woolf, wrote an article for The Independent, “Literary haunts: Virginia’s London walks,” that speculated about what Virginia Woolf would have thought of today’s London.

“The Writer’s Almanac” has payed tribute to her.

Tributes this year

And each year on this day, social media lights up with posts that commemorate her life, her work and her death, making Woolf a trending topic. One example is @HistoryTime_’s Twitter post below that features a photograph of The New York Times coverage of her death.

History Time tweet

The most notable piece so far this year is Maria Popova’s critique of the media treatment of Woolf’s death 75 years ago in her post on Brain Pickings: “March 28, 1941: Virginia Woolf’s Suicide Letter and Its Cruel Misinterpretation in the Media.”

The perfect accompaniment to that is the video of actress Louise Brealey’s poignant reading of Woolf’s last letter to Leonard, which is posted on The Telegraph website. A video of Brealey reading the letter at the Hay Festival is also available on YouTube, but the audio is not as pristine.

Screenshot of Louise Brealey reading Woolf's last letter on The Telegraph website.

Screenshot of Louise Brealey reading Woolf’s last letter on The Telegraph website.

virginia_suicide_letter

 

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