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Archive for the ‘Virginia Woolf’ Category

The writing resource Every Writer has posted a list of Virginia Woolf quotes to inspire writers. The list unfortunately fails to list sources of the quotes, which means ringers can sneak in, like the debatable and doubtful one that begins: “Writing is like sex.”

These, of course, are just a drop in the bucket, but it’s a good start and well intended. They plan to add more over time, maybe my favorite:

“The way to rock oneself back into writing is this. First gentle exercise in the air. Second the reading of good literature. It is a mistake to think that literature can be produced from the raw.” (Diary 8/22/22)

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Here’s an April Fool from Virginia Woolf, courtesy of Maggie Humm via Facebook.

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As we reflect on the anniversary of Virginia Woolf’s death, it’s heartening to imbibe the vision in this poem by Billy Collins, see her paddling her canoe for all eternity.

Constellations

Yes, that’s Orion over there,
the three studs of the belt
clearly lined up just off the horizon.

And if you turn around you can see
Gemini, very visible tonight,
the twins looking off into space as usual.

That cluster a little higher in the sky
is Cassiopeia sitting in her astral chair
if I’m not mistaken.

And directly overhead,
isn’t that Virginia Woolf
slipping along the River Ouse

In her inflatable canoe?
See the wide-brimmed hat and there,
the outline of the paddle, raised and dripping stars?

River Ouse

 

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Today, on the 78th anniversary of Virginia Woolf’s death, we are sharing two things: a Facebook post from Emmaa Woolf, great-niece of the acclaimed author, and a blog post from Peter Fullagar, author of Virginia Woolf in Richmond.


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Was Virginia Woolf a feminist? Sometimes she identified as such. And sometimes she didn’t. But Google searches on her name today, International Women’s Day, make it clear that in the eyes of today’s world, she was, indeed, a true feminist.

London’s feminist mural featuring Virginia Woolf

Eight hours ago, from the other side of the pond, Woolf scholar and novelist Maggie Humm reported that there were 27.7 million references to Woolf on Google today, International Women’s Day, a day first celebrated in 1911, during Woolf’s lifetime. A few moments ago, that number had risen to 29.2 million. Those numbers are nearly double those of less than two years ago.

No wonder. Online references to quotes and books for the day include Woolf’s, and blog posts mention her as well. The Norwegians have even named her a tail fin hero in honor of the day. 

Woolf search results on the rise

The number of search results for Woolf’s name varies over time and has been on the rise since I began noting it in 2007.

That year, a Google search on Woolf’s name resulted in 2.4 million hits, according to Jane Wood in “Who’s Afraid That Feminism is Finished? Virginia Woolf and Contemporary Commodification,” published in the Virginia Woolf Miscellany 73 (2008) (22-24).

My search two and a half years later, on 27 June 2009, came up with 2.7 million results. Three years down the road, on 10 May 2012, nearly 4.1 million hits resulted. And five years after that, on 12 May 2017, my search showed a whopping 14.9 million hits, a 520 percent increase in 10 years. And now 29.2 million hits less than two years later. I can’t help wondering how high that number will go.

Woolf as feminist icon

Interest in Woolf on a day identified with feminism is fitting, as Woolf has become an iconic feminist in both pop culture and academic circles, despite the fact that she had contradictory feelings about identifying as such.

Woolf’s changeability

Her views about feminism — as a concept and as a label — were changeable. Woolf herself did not consistently identify as a feminist. The word “feminist,” for example, shows up infrequently in her private and public writing but it does appear just often enough to indicate her complicated and changeable attitudes about identifying as one.

And when the word does show up in her diaries and letters, it always appears in connection with politics and war, paralleling the way feminism and anti-militarism are linked throughout the history of the women’s peace movement.

In a 23 January 1916 letter to lifelong friend and fellow feminist and pacifist Margaret Llewelyn Davies, Woolf notes her growing feminism in response to the Great War and its coverage in the popular press:

I become steadily more feminist, owing to the Times, which I read at breakfast and wonder how this preposterous masculine fiction [the war] keeps going a day longer—without some vigorous young woman pulling us together and marching through it (L2 76).

In a 17 October 1924 diary entry, she considers making a feminist response to a political brouhaha covered in the popular press. But this time she speaks of her own feminism in the past tense. She notes,

If I were still a feminist, I should make capital out of the wrangle” (D2 318).

Woolf’s conflicted feelings about her feminist polemics

Five years later, in the same month that she publishes her openly feminist polemic, A Room of One’s Own, Woolf clearly expresses the conflict she feels about being identified as a feminist.

While her text bravely makes a long public argument about the inequities between the sexes – and makes it with what she describes as “ardour and conviction” – she is privately insecure about how the book will be received if she is identified as an advocate for womankind. She frets that her friends will respond with only evasion and jocularity. She worries that the book has a “shrill feminine tone.”

She is concerned she “shall be attacked [by critics] for a feminist” (D3 262). If she is subject to such attacks, though, she has a self-protective strategy steeped in stereotypically feminine behavior at the ready. She will simply dismiss the book as “a trifle” (262).

In a letter to pioneering suffragette and composer Ethel Smyth dated 15 April 1931, Woolf mentions listening to “two love lorn young men” who “caterwaul—with an egotism that, if I were a feminist, would throw great light on the history of the sexes—such complete self-absorption: such entire belief that a woman has nothing to do but listen” (L4 312).

Woolf’s reluctance to be branded as a feminist even while she is writing a feminist tome shows up again in 1932 as she is working on Three Guineas. In a diary entry dated 16 February, she speculates about a title for a book that she is “quivering & itching to write.” What should she call it, she wonders? She suggests a title, “Men are like that.” But she immediately scraps that idea as “too patently feminist” (D4 77).

For more on this topic, see my essay, “Taking Up Her Pen for World Peace: Virginia Woolf, Feminist Pacifist. Or Not?” in Virginia Woolf Writing the World: Selected Papers from the Twenty-fourth Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf, 2015, edited by Pamela L. Caughie and Diana L. Swanson, and published by Clemson University Press.


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Join Waterstones and the Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain for the third annual celebration of DallowayDay on Saturday, June 14, this year with the theme of “Queering.”

The day in London will start at Waterstones Gower Street. Participants will follow in the footsteps of the Bloomsbury group on their home turf, then look at how Mrs. Dalloway has been adapted for stage and ballet, while later exploring queerness in the Bloomsbury circle and beyond.

All-event tickets include the walk and are limited to 25. However, the panel events (including refreshments) can be booked separately.

Schedule for DallowayDay 2019: Queering Dalloway

2 p.m.:  Jean Moorcroft Wilson, author of Virginia Woolf, Life and London: A Biography of Place, will lead a Queer Bloomsbury walk

3:15 p.m.:  Tea and cake in the yard: homemade cake from a Bloomsbury recipe

Jean Moorcroft Wilson on the doorstep of 46 Gordon Square, Woolf’s first Bloomsbury home, during DallowayDay2018.

4 p.m.:  Adapting Mrs. Dalloway discussion panel with Thomas Bailey and Hal Coase, director and adapter respectively of the recent Mrs. Dalloway play at the Arcola Theatre in Hackney and Uzma Hameed, dramaturge for Wayne McGregor’s Woolf Works for the Royal Ballet. Chaired by Lucy Scholes, literary critic and reviewer

5:15:  Wine & nibbles, which includes a Nino Strachey book signing

6 p.m.:  Queer Bloomsbury discussion panel with Nino Strachey, author of Rooms of Their Own: Eddy Sackville-West, Virginia Woolf, Vita Sackville-West, and head of research at the National Trust; Stuart N. Clarke, independent scholar, editor of the Virginia Woolf Bulletin and of many of Woolf’s works, including Orlando: The Holograph Draft. Chaired by Maggie Humm, emeritus professor of Cultural Studies, University of East London, and author/editor of a number of books about Woolf and Bloomsbury.

7:30 p.m.:    DallowayDay2019 closes

8: p.m.:    Waterstones Gower Street closes

Get tickets

  • All events: walk and panels and two refreshments (maximum 25): £30/£24 VWSGB or Waterstones members
  • Adapting Mrs. Dalloway with tea and cake in the yard: £10/£8 VWSGB or Waterstones members
  • Queer Bloomsbury with wine & nibbles: £10/£8 VWSGB or Waterstones members

Book through the Waterstones website.

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Happy 92nd birthday to Cecil Woolf, nephew of Leonard and Virginia Woolf who still runs Cecil Woolf Publishers, a small London publishing house in the tradition of the Woolfs’ Hogarth Press.

At dinner with Cecil Woolf at the London home he shares with wife Jean Moorcroft Wilson after the 2018 Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf.

As the oldest living relative of Virginia and Leonard, Cecil attends annual Woolf conferences as often as possible, where he displays his most recent volumes in the Bloomsbury Heritage series. He is often featured as a speaker at those events. And the reminiscences about his famous aunt and uncle and the time he spent with them are treasured by conference-goers.

In 2017, Cecil published his reminiscences about Leonard and Virginia. Cecil Woolf: The Other Boy at the Hogarth Press, Virginia and Leonard Woolf as I Remember Them debuted at the 27th Annual International Conference on Virgina Woolf in Reading, England.

Always generous with his time and the ever-gracious host to international guests, Cecil gave me a personal tour of Bloomsbury after the 2016 Woolf conference. After the 2017 event, he and wife Jean Moorcroft Wilson hosted a post-conference party at their London home. And after the 2018 conference in Canterbury, the couple hosted a dinner for Woolf conference attendees still in London.

Cecil also plays a more public role. He is often called upon to assist at ceremonies honoring his Uncle Leonard. In 2014, he planted a Gingko biloba tree in Tavistock Square garden to commemorate the centennial of the arrival of his uncle Leonard in Colombo, Ceylon. In 2014, he spoke at the unveiling of a Blue Plaque commemorating his uncle’s 1912 marriage proposal to Virginia at Frome Station.

And at the Woolf conference in New York City in 2009, he was interviewed by The Rumpus.

Cecil Woolf in his London garden the evening of a dinner party he and wife Jean Moorcroft Wilson hosted after the 2018 Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf.

Hostess Jean Moorcroft Wilson with Patricia Lawrence at the post-conference dinner party in London in 2018.

Dinner is served on the Hogarth Press table at the London home of Cecil Woolf and Jean Moorcroft Wilson.

 

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