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Archive for the ‘Three Guineas’ Category

The Bulletin of the New York Public Library dating from 1897 through 1977 is now online and includes the Virginia Woolf Issue, Issue 2, Winter 1977.

This issue features the Stephen family on the cover, along with multiple articles on The Years and essays that examine Three Guineas.

A special treat in the issue is Woolf’s hand-drawn genealogy of the Pargiter family that appears on the reverse of the Contents page, Page 155 in the PDF. Issue 2 begins on page 152 in the PDF numbering.

Thanks to Vara Neverow and the VWoolf Listserv for news of this online resource.

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There are mysteries to be solved in the world of Woolf. And Virginia Woolf scholars have their magnifying glasses out.

The 24th Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf: Writing the World, held in Chicago June 5-8, was the fifth I’ve attended. And, as always, what struck me most was that, as always, there are new things to learn about Woolf and her contemporaries.

Robyn Byrd of Northern Illinois University, one of the graduate assistants who helped organize the conference.

Robyn Byrd of Northern Illinois University, one of the graduate assistants who helped organize the conference and who was on hand throughout the week.

This time, the new things were steeped in mystery, mysteries that such scholars as Suzanne Bellamy of the University of Sydney, Julie Vandivere of Bloomsburg University, Susan Wegener of Southern Connecticut State University, and Denise Ayo of the University of Notre Dame are busy uncovering.

Mystery number one: Woolf’s sentences

Suzanne Bellamy, a visual artist from Australia, kicked off the mysteries as part of a panel chaired by Judith Allen titled “Propaganda, Codebreakers, and Spies.”

Bellamy, appearing remotely via video and Skype, covered the codebreaker piece of the panel in her discussion of Edith Rickert, a Chaucer scholar who had what Bellamy called “a cypher brain.” Rickert worked as a codebreaker in both world wars. She also supervised a student thesis at the University of Chicago that has prompted Bellamy to do some further sleuthing.

The 1930 thesis, written by Elizabeth McKee and titled “A Study of the Style of Mrs Virginia Woolf with Special Emphasis on her Thought Patterns,” was the first academic piece done on Woolf, as it predates Ruth Gruber‘s 1934 work, Virginia Woolf: The Will to Create as a Woman. McKee’s thesis focused on Woolf’s sentence structure. Without computers, McKee analyzed Woolf’s sentences and worked up complicated graphs that illustrated her findings. According to McKee’s research, Woolf wrote two kinds of sentences: groping sentences searching for clarity and descriptive sentences where every word has meaning.

Suzanne Bellamy via Skype with Judith Allen and Patrizia Muscogiuri

Suzanne Bellamy via Skype with Judith Allen and Patrizia Muscogiuri

Once Bellamy discovered McKee’s work, she was intrigued by the connections it helped her make between code breaking, sentence structure and modernism. But she remains mystified by the lack of available information about what McKee did after she graduated from the University of Chicago in 1930.

Bellamy continues to investigate that mystery so she can flesh out McKee’s story for her doctoral work on early textual readings of Woolf. In it, she focuses on McKee’s work and the work of three other early Woolf scholars, two Americans and two Australians.

Mystery number two: Pepita’s origins

I can’t even brush the surface of the complicated story of paternity, deception, inheritance and intrigue that Julie Vandivere presented in a panel on “Vita, Pepita and Orlando.” Vandivere took on Pepita de Oliva, grandmother of Vita Sackville-West and the subject of Vita’s book, Pepita.

In her research, Vandivere works to uncover the marital history of Pepita and the true heir to Knole House and the Sackville fortune. Along the way, documents turned up missing — destroyed or stolen by Pepita or the Sackville-Wests — no one knows, or at least, I don’t. As a result, the true story is missing as well. But Vandivere, using her language skills as a comparative literature specialist, continues working to track them down.

Mystery number three: Woolf’s anti-Semitism

Banuta Rubess of the University of Toronto presents "You're Invited: Performing 'Mrs. Dalloway'."

Banuta Rubess of the University of Toronto presents “You’re Invited: Performing ‘Mrs. Dalloway’.”

In her private writings, Woolf revealed her anti-Semitic feelings. But were her anti-Semitic scenes in The Years more of the same? Or did she purposefully create them to make her readers aware of their own biases at a time when fascism and tyranny were abroad and at home?

Susan Wegener worked to unravel that mystery in her paper, “Processing Prejudice: Writing Woolf’s Jewish World.” By doing a close reading of key scenes in The Years  traditionally seen as anti-Semitic, Wegeman argued that Woolf  created those scenes to reveal stereotypical anti-Semitism.

By the time the novel was published in 1938, Wegener maintained, Woolf was already defining herself by her husband Leaonard’s Jewishness. As a result, she said, “Woolf was aware of her racial biases and processed them in her text.”

Mystery number four: Woolf’s edits

Denise Ayo teased out a mystery with a similar feel in her paper, “Staging (Self-)Censorship: Virginia Woolf’s `Women Must Weep.'” In it, she compared the chopped-up version of Three Guineas that appeared in the May and June 1938 issues of the Atlantic Monthly under the title “Women Must Weep — Or Unite Against War” to the actual text from which they derived.

Denise Ayo

Denise Ayo

She noted that the Atlantic Monthly version is not just an excerpt of Three Guineas. Nor is it a condensation or summary of sorts. Instead, it leaves out material without using ellipsis and includes text that is not in the published version. Its prose is fragmented, leaving words and thoughts hanging.  It contains contradictory meanings. And its organizational structure is disjointed.

So was Woolf temporarily off her mark when she sent her piece to the Atlantic? Did she wearily submit to a bad edit job? Or, once again, was the hash that is “Women Must Weep” done for a purpose?

Ayo argued for the latter. In Three Guineas Woolf complained that journalism was a “mincing machine,” so in her Atlantic piece she did the mincing herself to make a point, Ayo maintained.

According to her, “Woolf meant to communicate to Atlantic Monthly readers that the integrity of her message had been corrupted” by periodical culture that cannot accept a feminist pacifist approach to the world.

No mystery about the depth, breadth of the conference

The conference, sponsored by Loyola and Northern Illinois universities, and attended by more than 200 common readers, students, faculty and independent scholars from around the world, boasted about 63 sessions.

Conference organizers and their graduate assistants: Sarah Polen, Diana Swanson, Pamela Caughie and Katie Dyson.

Conference organizers and their graduate assistants: Sarah Polen, Diana Swanson, Pamela Caughie and Katie Dyson.

That doesn’t include special events — such as a performance of Sara Ruhl’s Orlando pulled off by students after just three weeks of rehearsals — or “Performing Woolf: ‘A Mark on the Wall'” by Adrianne Krstansky of Brandeis and Abigail Killeen of Bowdoin College.

The conference also included a thought-provoking keynote roundtable discussion on Woolf and violence with Mark Hussey of Pace, Ashley Foster of CUNY, Sarah Cole of Columbia, Christine Froula of Northwestern, and Jean Mills of John Jay College and keynotes by Maud Ellman of the University of Chicago and Tuzyline Allan of Baruch College.

The Virginia Woolf Players line up to read Woolf.

The Virginia Woolf Players line up to read Woolf.

The social finale for most conference participants was the Saturday night banquet, preceded by drinks and appetizers in the Mundelein Hall Courtyard and topped off by the traditional readings of favorite Woolf passages by the Virginia Woolf Players.

Stalwarts stayed on for Saturday morning sessions before packing up and heading out to home countries ranging from the UK to Japan.

More conference links

 

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three guineas websiteIn the 1930s, Virginia Woolf began to collect newspaper clippings about the relationships between the sexes in England, France, Germany and Italy. She pasted these clippings into scrapbooks that became the foundation from which she developed two of her works — her novel The Years (1937) and her pacifist-feminist polemic Three Guineas (1938).¹

In 1983, Brenda Silver produced the foundational work on these manuscript materials when she published Virginia Woolf’s Reading Notebooks, a volume that summarized more than 40 volumes of Woolf’s notes, including those compiled during the 1930s. Because Silver’s work covers such vast territory, it can be described as “a dated list of the contents of each of the notebooks.” As a result, it gives us an inside look at what Woolf was reading as she was writing her novels and essays.

Although it is out of print, hard copies of Virginia Woolf’s Reading Notebooks can be obtained from second-hand sellers and libraries. Now Woolf scholars and common readers everywhere can once again obtain access to the notebooks Woolf used when writing Three Guineas through the Three Guineas Reading Notebooks website. The password-protected site requires users to purchase an annual subscription. To do so , send an email to Vara Neverow.

What the site gives subscribers is online access to fragile archival material that one would be forced to travel to England to access. Included are digital images of three of Woolf’s reading notebooks that are part of the University of Sussex’s Monk’s House Papers.

According to Neverow, Merry Pawlowski conceived the concept of preserving these documents digitally in the 1990s. Pawloski and12th Woolf conference collected papers Neverow worked together on the project and originally launched a website created and hosted at California State University, Bakersfield until last year. The website has now been transferred to Southern Connecticut State University.

In addition to the Three Guineas Reading Notebooks, two digital volumes of selected papers from Woolf conferences are also available at the site, and neither is password-protected:

  • Woolf: Across the Generations: Selected Papers from the Twelfth Annual Conference on Virginia Woolf (2002)14th Woolf conference selected papers
  • Back to Bloomsbury: Selected Papers from the 14th Annual Conferences on Virginia Woolf (2004)

Both are downloadable as PDFs at no cost.

¹This is briefly discussed in Mark Hussey’s Preface to Harcourt’s annotated edition of Three Guineas (2006).

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Virginia Woolf participated in the Occupy movement at the University of California at Berkeley last week.

It’s true that her involvement appeared to be limited to a sign carried by Celeste Langan, associate professor of English at UC Berkeley. But I think her presence was more substantial than that.

The sign held by Langan, a teacher and a student of Thoreau, read:

We’re Afraid for Virginia Woolf

We should be afraid. Langan was yanked out of a crowd of protesters by her hair and arrested.

In his piece in Huff Post College, Michael Roth quoted Langan as saying she “was defending liberal education in Sproul Plaza.” She was “defending an idea of the university that is being dismantled by political and education leaders who support only the most narrow forms of instrumental training.” Her “idea of the university emphasizes the links between the practice of free thinking and the cultivation of freedom in the years after graduation.”

I can easily link this to Woolf’s ideas expressed in Three Guineas. She talks about the “adventurous college,” one that combines learning and learners instead of separating them, one in which “teachers should be drawn from the good livers as well as from the good thinkers” (49-50).

Was Woolf on UC Berkeley’s Sproul Plaza last Wednesday? Was she there on Nov. 15 for the Mario Savio Memorial Lecture? And will she participate in tomorrow’s all-out occupation of NYU and Hunter and Queen’s? I think so.

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It’s D-Day in Conneaut, Ohio. And as I sit here at my kitchen table under a sun-drenched window, I can hear — and feel — the loud drone of airplanes overhead and the gunfire nearby.

The invasion, complete with a beach landing, explosions in the sand, shots fired by opposing forces and airplanes flying low overhead, started promptly at 3 p.m., right on schedule.

The D-Day reenactment has been staged in Conneaut since 1999. The location was chosen because the township park’s 250-yard-long public beach and adjacent sloping terrain are said to closely resemble Omaha Beach in Normandy, France.

As I sit just four blocks away from the battle site and listen to the sounds of make-believe war, I wonder: What was it like for those who actually lived through World War II and experienced the sounds of a real war overhead?

Virginia Woolf described it this way in “Thoughts on Peace in an Air Raid” (1940):  “It is a queer experience, lying in the dark and listening to the zoom of a hornet, which may at any moment sting you to death. . .The drone of the planes is now like the sawing of a branch overhead. Round and round it goes, sawing and sawing at a branch directly above the house…A bomb drops. All the windows rattle.”

I could walk down to the park bluff to get closer, to see the “invasion” myself. But it’s easier to imagine the reality here in my kitchen than at the actual site.

From past experience, I know that the crowd of spectators sipping cold drinks and licking ice cream cones makes it difficult to imagine a real battle, where people kill and are killed. And the uniformed volunteers who portray the German and Allied soldiers of June 6, 1944, take so much obvious enjoyment in the weekend’s events that they prevent me from suspending my disbelief in the proceedings.

Last night, for example, we saw a man in full uniform riding through town in an open military Jeep. His posture, his heavy wool uniform on a hot summer afternoon, the jaunty tilt of his cap and the expression on his face as he suavely steered the vintage vehicle, said it all. He was so puffed up with the importance of his imaginary role in the upcoming “battle” that my companion and I turned to each other and laughed. Out loud.

Under the laughter, though, I recalled Virginia Woolf’s statement in Three Guineas (1938) that “wearing pieces of metal, or ribbon, coloured hoods or gowns, is a barbarity which deserves the ridicule which we bestow upon the rites of savages.”

My fear that some of those watching the events today may think that war is exciting, glorious, even fun, also prevents me from attending. I remember that in Three Guineas Woolf recognizes that “war is a profession; a source of happiness and excitement.”

And I read with dismay that as part of the event, children will build their own miniature Omaha Beach in the sand. I am not sure what to make of that.

It is true that veterans are recognized and honored at the events of this weekend in our small city. And a few remaining WW II vets in town have been interviewed for a commemorative DVD.

But I remember Woolf’s response to war, and I am forced to stop and think again. I recall the fear she shared in her diaries as she heard — and sometimes watched at close proximity — German planes fly over the Sussex countryside during the second World War. And I recall her plea for peace in “Thoughts on Peace in an Air Raid.”

Those thoughts sound more loudly in my head than the airplanes. Or the gunfire. Or the explosions on the beach. And Woolf says such thoughts are more powerful than all three.

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A year or so after the war…it cannot be said that it is war…it cannot be said that it is war, it cannot be said that it is peace, it can be said it is postwar.

 Stevie Smith
The Holiday

While I was working on my master’s degree at Monmouth University, my favorite course was Dr. Kristin Bluemel’s seminar on intermodernism. Not surprisingly, intermodernism is a term coined by Dr. Bluemel for the, arguably, pretty neglected years between between the two world wars (although Intermodernism cannot only be defined by time).

During this time, novels, memoirs, and essays are being written by writers as varied as George Orwell, Storm Jameson, Dorothy Richardson, Stevie Smith, and Stella Gibbons. Virginia Woolf certainly could, and I would argue, be claimed as an intermodernist writer (we read Three Guineas, and I used it to write my seminar paper, working towards defining an intermodern sex-gender system using Woolf alongside Phyllis Bottome’s anti-fascist, feminist, novel The Mortal Storm).

Bluemel began writing about and attempting to define what Intermodernism is in her 2004 book George Orwell & the Radical Eccentrics: Intermodernism in Literary London. She also edits The Space Between, an academic journal dedicated to the literature and culture of the years between the wars.

In her book, and during our seminars, she argued the writers of this time period fashioned their work and reflected on the emotions of a nation in the aftermath of World War I. Readers of Woolf certainly see this influence in Three Guineas and, especially, Mrs. Dalloway.

Intermodernist writing was often focused on the working and middle classes, socialist and/or “radical” political leanings, and a more “middlebrow” writing style. Often, these writers are somehow “othered” based on their sexuality, ethnicity, or lack of class privilege.

In George Orwell & The Radical Eccentrics, Bluemel argues that these writers are “grounded in the experiences of England’s working-class and ‘working middle-class’ cultures” which do not fit into the same categories that popularized, privileged writers like W.H. Auden, T.S. Eliot, and James Joyce do (Bluemel 2). Their writing attends to politics, whether the domestic life in Woolf or Bottome’s novels, the working class of Orwell’s The Road To Wigan Pier, or the caste system of Mulk Raj Anand’s Untouchable.

Critics have struggled to place many of these writers within the canon. Many, like Woolf, share some aspects of the modernist aesthetic, but cannot truly be prescribed to that label. Intermodernism isn’t quite just a time period that begins and ends between the wars, but more a style of socially conscious writing and discourse shared amongst writers of varying ethnicities, genders, levels of privilege, and politics. Many of these writers, Woolf included, have drifted in and out of the canon, fates after their death attached to those outside of academia.

Bluemel continues the discussion of this fascinating literary period in the new anthology she edited Intermodernism: Literary Culture in Mid-Twentieth-Century Britain, which brings together leading scholars on the period to further discuss the merits of the period. If the Blogging Woolf community is interested, I have plenty more to say about Intermodernism.

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It’s summertime, and the reading should be easy. At least once in a while.

In the past few days, while sitting lakeside, I read three books, a luxury for me.

The first was a heavy-hitter. I stumbled across War in Val D’Orcia: An Italian War Diary 1943-1944, while browsing in The Lion Bookshop on Rome’s Via dei Greci. It was written by Iris Origo, an Anglo-American who came from privilege to marry an Italian landowner in the 1920s and settle into a new agrarian life on the family’s Tuscan estate.

After years spent cultivating the land and setting up a health center and school for the local farmers and their families, Iris and her husband Antonio found themselves caught up in deadly conflict. Her diary, meticulously kept during two of the worst years of World War II, tells the story of how everyday Italians helped protect refugees from their own country — and soldiers from the countries of their “enemies” — from both the Germans and the fascists. 

Duomo Baptistry in Firenze

Having just returned from Italy, where we spent a week in Tuscany, I found Origo’s war diary particularly compelling. I could picture the settings she described and recognized some places she mentioned. When she writes of the massive bronze doors of the Duomo’s Baptistry being removed and hidden far from Florence to save them from wartime damage, I remembered their golden beauty. When she speaks of the battles at Monte Cassino, I recalled my husband pointing out the ancient Italian monastery as we zipped along the autostrade on our way to Sorrento.

The best thing about Origo’s wartime diary is that it gives us a woman’s view of war, which is a rare thing. We often hear the accounts of generals and commanders and even foot soldiers. But the voice of average civilians, especially women, is usually silent. In Origo’s diary, we get her first-hand account “in real time,” as we say nowadays. She wrote her story as it happened, finding enough stolen moments to convey the facts and the feelings of her own wartime experience as a mother, a humanitarian and a citizen of the world.  

The message her story conveyed to me is that civilians are the most damaged by war. It is civilians who are the oft-ignored victims.

That is a fact that Virginia Woolf certainly recognized. As I type this post, I recall her words from Three Guineas, words that haunt because they, too, convey images of war.

Woolf describes a photograph of the Spanish Civil War sent by the government that shows “dead bodies for the most part … a man’s body, or a woman’s; it is so mutilitated that it might, on the other hand, be the body of a pig. But those certainly are dead children, and that undoubtedly is the section of a house” (14).

A sobering subject for a summer read, which wasn’t my intention today. But Woolf’s influence will prevail. And my brief, airy reviews of the other  books I read this week will have to wait for another day.

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