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Archive for the ‘Virginia Woolf’ Category

Today’s Women’s March on Washington has become a global event. As of now, more than 600 marches will take place in 57 countries around the world, including London, England.

Would Virginia Woolf march? Perhaps not. But based on her written reactions to London’s July 1919 “Peace Day” to celebrate the end of World War I, I’m certain she would have been paying close attention. She would then have used her thinking and her writing to share what she saw, heard and read.

In Three Guineas (1937), she decried the sort of nationalism we now see being promoted in so many countries  and in so many ways — from the Brexit vote in England to the Trump win in the U.S. And she would have issued warnings about the rise in fascism that could result.

With that in mind, I have dressed my little Virginia Woolf doll in a Pussy Hat and am taking her on the march. She will be accompanied by Wonder Woman, her next door neighbor on my top bookshelf.

Virginia Woolf riding a wave of Pussy Hats to the Women's March.

Virginia Woolf riding a wave of Pussy Hats to the Women’s March.

Wonder Woman and Virginia Woolf wear their Pussy Hats as they take to the streets.

Wonder Woman and Virginia Woolf wear their Pussy Hats as they take to the streets.

Wonder Woman, Woolf, and some of the words with which she fought.

Wonder Woman, Woolf, and some of the words with which she fought.

 

References:
Virginia Woolf Diary I, P. 291-294
Virginia Woolf Letters II, P. 292
Levenback, Karen. Virginia Woolf and the Great War, P. 27-32.

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London’s Dulwich Picture Gallery will present the first major monographic exhibition of work by Vanessa Bell (1879-1961), Feb. 8 – June 4, 2017.

Here’s a video preview of the exhibition, which includes paintings, textile and book jacket design, and archival material that “will put Bell in her proper place at last,” according to co-curator Sarah Milroy.

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Ali Smith gave a lecture—“Getting Virginia Woolf’s Goat”—at London’s National Portrait Gallery inpublic-library 2014. That also was the year her remarkable novel, How to Be Both, was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and acclaimed by a reviewer: “One might reasonably argue that Ali Smith is among Virginia Woolf’s most gifted inheritors.”

Seeing Woolfian influences in the work of the contemporary post-modernist is no surprise, then; nor are Woolf references in Smith’s recent story collection, Public Library. In “The ex-wife,” the narrator is writing to her former partner after a break-up, accusing her of infidelity, or at least inattention, because of her involvement with Katherine Mansfield, the ex-wife in question.

That’s about all I can say about this marvelously convoluted story. While explicating her litany of objections, the narrator brings up Mansfield’s “friend and rival Virginia Woolf” who was, at the time, writing a book “about a plane that all the people in London look up and see…,” adding, “I have a sense that Virginia Woolf always thought your ex-wife a bit flighty.”

Then there’s “The definite article,” a story about Regents Park that begins: “I stepped out of the city and into the park. It was as simple as that.” The narrator’s visions invoke flora and fauna, Shakespeare and Dickens, the Brownings and the Shelleys, Elizabeth Bowen and Sylvia Plath, to name just a handful, “and Virginia Woolf herself, “howling or furious or sad, doesn’t matter which, walking and walking by the flower-beds till it cheers her up, leaves her happily making up phrases.”

Ali Smith makes up some pretty good phrases herself.

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Virginia Woolf had a complicated relationship with clothing and fashion, one that has been much discussed in academic settings and online.Bloomsbury Heritage monographs

Monographs on Woolf and fashion

Catherine Gregg explores this theme in her Bloomsbury Heritage monograph Virginia Woolf and ‘Dress Mania’: ‘the eternal & insoluble question of clothes’ (2010). She discusses Woolf’s “delight in clothes and interest in conceptions of fashion and femininity” as well as her sense of being an outsider when it came to fashion, as well as her loathing for its artifice (7).

I edited a monograph for Cecil Woolf Publishers, Virginia Woolf’s Likes & Dislikes (2012), that collects conflicting quotes from Woolf’s diaries and letters and categorizes them, including those that relate to clothing. In them she mentions her dislike of buying hats, her love for her fur slippers and her desire for a pair of rubber soled boots to wear on country walks (43).

Magazine offers shopping advice from Woolf

Today’s post on the AnOther magazine website takes Woolf’s “clothes complex” or “dress mania,” as she called it and as Gregg notes, and transforms it into shopping advice. Titled “Virginia Woolf’s Shopping Tips,” the article aims to “take advice from the modernist author on personal style, battling the sales, and the key to surviving the chaos of Oxford Street.” The magazine shared the post via a tweet.

In a nutshell, they are:

  1. Be brave
  2. Enjoy the process
  3. Ponder before you purchase
  4. Quality not quantity
  5. Be open to all possibilities

I think Woolf applied that same advice to her writing.

How to order monographs from Cecil Woolf Publishers

All of the books published by Cecil Woolf Publishers are available directly from:

Cecil Woolf Publishing, 1 Mornington Place, London NW1 7RP, England, Tel: 020 7387 2394 (or +44 (0)20 7387 2394 from outside the UK). Prices range from £4.50 to £10. For more information, contact cecilwoolf@gmail.com.

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Virginia Woolf’s diary entries from around Christmas bring into sharp relief the feelings that the festive season stirs. Her pieces are coloured by the unpredictable shifts of British winter weather, express the pull between social event and solitude, and are self-reflective in their review of the past.

The following entries span the twenty-year period from 1920-40 and express the layered and complex connotations that our annual traditions hold.

woolf-xmas

“A Virginia Woolf Christmas – Monks House Welcome Home” design by Amanda White

19 December 1920, Hogarth House

In 1920, Woolf’s entry anticipates her New Year’s return to Rodmell and the comfort and routine this will bring. She imagines the “soft, grey walk” she will take in the dappled cool winter light on the greyed heather and chalky mud of the Sussex Downs. Woolf weaves this expectation for the New Year with the immediacy of Christmas at the end of the entry where we join her in delighting in an early Christmas gift from Leonard:

So we reach the end of the year; which is for us cheerful, I think. For one thing we want to get to Rodmell; to see what has happened to the garden. I shall like a soft grey walk. Then the post. Then reading. Then sitting in the chimney corner […] (I use my new blotter, just given me by L., for the first time).

26 December 1929, Monks House

In 1929 Monks House delivers the atmospheric weather that Woolf had imagined at the beginning of the century. She writes, moreover, of its changeability and its effect on her – producing a “violent Christmas” which gives way to a “serene Boxing day”. Here we also see her desire for solitude in the face of incessant society and the hope that, for once, this will truly be possible:

And I am sitting in my new room, with curtains, fire, table; and two great views; sometimes sun over the brooks and storm over the church. A violent Christmas; a brilliant serene Boxing day. I find it almost incredibly soothing – a fortnight alone – almost impossible to let oneself have it. Relentlessly we have crushed visitors: we will be alone this once, we say; and really, it seems possible.

21 December 1933, 52 Tavistock Square

Christmas’s habit of repeating itself is hinted at in 1929 where the impossibility of retreat seems to be routine. In 1933, Woolf is particularly reflexive on the patterns of Christmas, calling the morning of preparing to go down to Rodmell a “relic”, seemingly aged and outdated:

This is the relic of a morning when I should tidy, pack, write letters and so on. We lunch at quarter to one, and then go, this yellow cold morning. No longer the great tradition that it used to be.

24 December 1940, Monks House

Woolf’s seasonal self-reflection is also present in our final entry from 1940, which begins by fantasising about living at Alciston Farm House but ends on a note of quiet contentment with home at Monks House:

“We lunched with Helen [Anrep at Alciston]; and again ‘I could have fancied living there’. An incredible loveliness. The downs breaking their wave, yet one pale quarry; and all the barns and stacks either a broken pink, or a verdurous green; and then the walk by the wall; and the church; deep hollows, where the past stands almost stagnant. And the little spire across the fields… L. is now cutting logs, and after my rush of love and envy for Alciston farm house, we concluded this [Monks House] is the perfect place.”

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Fire and Stone by Priscilla Long is an outstanding collection of personal essays encompassingfire-stone Priscilla’s life and family, her reflections on being an activist in Boston in the sixties, forays into science, literary influences, and more. Disclosure: In addition to being a remarkable writer, Priscilla is a good friend and my writing mentor.

I enjoyed reading in her essay “Throwing Stones” about how she “entered into the shadowy realm of American rebellion, into the sixties of pickets and protests and street marches and flag burnings … and danced all night and marched against the war and read Gramsci and Marx and Simone de Beauvoir and Virginia Woolf….”

But I was surprised when I found references to Mrs. Dalloway in two more essays in the same section: “The Musician” and “Dressing.” I knew Priscilla admired Woolf’s work, but I didn’t think she’d been a significant influence. So I asked her, “What’s with this?” She replied that she had written the essays at different times, had assembled the collection in a fitting order, but hadn’t realized there were Woolf references in three closely-sequenced essays.

When I delved into Woolf references in contemporary fiction* several years ago, I noted how they often were positioned to identify a time or a milieu in young women’s lives. They do that in Priscilla’s essays, but these aren’t fiction—Priscilla and her feminist cohort were reading A Room of One’s Own; young women were pondering the life and times of Clarissa Dalloway. I still find fictional references, and I read a number of personal essays every week. I frequently come across writers’ tributes to Woolf’s influence, or references to her novels or characters. Posters still hang in dorm rooms; Mrs. Dalloway and To the Lighthouse are on many a beside table of many a woman, young and old, in fiction and in life.

*Editor’s Note: Alice Lowe’s monograph, Beyond the Icon: Virginia Woolf in Contemporary Fiction, is available from Cecil Woolf Publishers. You can also find more posts about Woolf in contemporary fiction.

 

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Sussex Modernism: Retreat and Rebellion, a free major exhibition of Sussex Modernism at Two Charleston bookTemple Place in London will be held Jan. 28 – April 23, 2017.

Focus of the exhibit

The exhibit examines why radical artists and writers were drawn to the rolling hills, seaside resorts, and quaint villages of Sussex in the first half of the 20th century, according to organizers. It also explores how, in the communities they created, artistic innovation ran hand in-hand with political, sexual and domestic experimentation.

Artists included are Duncan Grant, Virginia Woolf, Vanessa Bell, Lee Miller and Roland Penrose.

Collaborating museums and galleries

The collaborative exhibition is the effort of nine museums and galleries from across Sussex. They include the Brighton Museum & Art Gallery, Charleston,  De La Warr Pavilion, Ditchling Museum of Art & Craft, Farley Farm House, Jerwood Gallery, Pallant House Gallery, Towner Art Gallery and West Dean.

Curated by Dr Hope Wolf, Lecturer in British Modernist Literature and co-Director of the Centre for Modernist Studies at the University of Sussex, the exhibition features more than 120 works from the county.

Sussex provided the inspiration but all these artists and writers were outsiders in their new surroundings. Never settling, some brought unconventional ideas, others found nightmares in the most picturesque of scenes, but ultimately they challenged the idea of Sussex as an idyllic escape. – Exhibit press release

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