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Archive for the ‘Woolf and war’ Category

Anne Olivier Bell, editor of The Diary of Virginia Woolf, a 25-year labor of love, has been awarded an MBE in the New Year Honours 2014. She was cited “For services to Literature and the Arts.”

Bell, of Lewes, East Sussex, is also a trustee of the Charleston Trust. In August, an article in The Guardian celebrated her part in repatriating works of art following World War II.

The film The Monuments Men, as those who protected the greatest works of art and buildings were called, will be released Feb. 7. It stars George Clooney as George Stout and Cate Blanchett as Rose Valland, a member of the French resistance who tracked down thousands of stolen works of art.

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SuchFriends Blog

While WB Yeats’ circle were busy organizing the Abbey theatre in Dublin, Virginia Woolf and her friends and family were reinventing art and literature in the townhouses of Bloomsbury and the country cottages of Sussex. Until The Great War intervened, the British sat in drawing rooms, talking over whisky, buns and cocoa, late into the night.

I will be giving a presentation about Britain 100 years ago, before the war, next Monday, 25th November, from 1 to 2 pm, at The Birmingham [UK]  & Midland Institute, Margaret Street, City Centre, http://bmi.org.uk/.

The BMI has agreed to waive the £2 non-member fee to anyone who uses the password ‘Such Friends’ when they arrive. So, if you’re in the area, come along and be sure to say hi. Maybe afterwards we’ll all have our own salon at a nearby pub…

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Mrs. DallowayAs an adolescent, Patrick Stewart was my hero because of his role as Captain Jean-Luc Picard on Star Trek: The Next Generation. I can go on for paragraphs about it, but it would be nothing you haven’t read before from other boys who grew up as science fiction enthusiasts.

My point for bringing up Stewart is his moving response to a woman’s question about domestic violence at a convention recently. Watch it here: 

There are so many things to deconstruct and to focus on in this video, but what I found the most moving was the connection Stewart made to his father’s violence being connected to the shell shock he experienced as the result of World War II. Stewart goes on to discuss how men were supposed to just suck it up and be tough.

My mind immediately snapped to Septimus Warren Smith and how he changed upon coming home from World War I.

When I teach Mrs. Dalloway, which I have had the pleasure to do twice, sometimes my students have a hard time connecting to Septimus’ plight in the novel. They relate to Clarissa or Sally or sometimes both. Or the occasional dissenter finds neither particularly pleasurable, but many find difficulty with Septimus. They understand shell shock is like what we call post traumatic stress disorder, but many students choose not to focus their discussions, papers or research on Septimus. The second time I taught Mrs. Dalloway, this became very noticeable.

In the future, I am going to show them this video of Stewart talking about his own father. I think there is a real teachable moment there to make the connections better if they consider what he is saying in relation to what happens to Septimus in the novel or in their own lives.

Also, it is a means for bringing the novel into a modern context, which is an important part of my pedagogy. I think it is worth investigating.

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Shell Shock and Modernist ImaginationShell Shock and the Modernist Imagination: The Death Drive in Post-World War I British Fiction by Wyatt Bonikowski is just out from Ashgate Press.

It includes a chapter on Virginia Woolf’s novel Mrs. Dalloway (1925) titled “`death was an attempt to communicate’: Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway.” Bonikowski, assistant profess or English at Suffolk University in Boston, presented part of the chapter at a 2008 MLA panel sponsored by the International Virginia Woolf Society.

The book looks at case histories of shell shock, along with Modernist novels by Ford Madox Ford, Rebecca West, and Woolf, to show how the figure of the shell-shocked soldier and the symptoms of war trauma were transformed by the literary imagination.

Bonikowski argues that the authors in his study broaden our understanding of the traumatic effects of war and explore the idea that there may be a connection between the trauma of war and the trauma of sexuality. All three novels are structured around the relationship between a soldier returning from and a woman who awaits him. However, according to Bonikowski’s argument, the novels do not offer the possibility of a healing effect from the reunion.

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School is in, and summer is on the wane. But this week’s Woolf sightings include numerous references to books that are either reminiscent of Virginia Woolf or connected to her in some way. I plan to add a few to my fall reading list, since I am already way behind on my list of summer picks. Perhaps I should call them wish lists instead.
  1. Wives and Stunners: The Pre-Raphaelites and Their Muses, By Henrietta GarnettThe Independent
    Perhaps only the Bloomsbury group can rival them for incestuous pairings, which is why Henrietta Garnett, the daughter of David Garnett and Angelica Bell (herself the daughter of Garnett’s lover Duncan Grant and Virginia Woolf’s sister, Vanessa Bell 
  2. Nilanjana S Roy The writing circusBusiness Standard
    In an essay on Jane Austen, Virginia Woolf reflected how close the other author had come to losing her obscurity — Austen was so close to becoming famous, at the time of her death. “She would have stayed in London, dined out, lunched out, met famous 
  3. Night LifeNew Yorker
    Holter painstakingly crafted the album in the course of nearly three years, and her quasi-liturgical pop ballads are strikingly advanced. The music evokes Kate Bush and Laurie Anderson, while the clever lyrics cite Anne Carson, Virginia Woolf, Frank O 
  4. Her Animating SpiritWall Street Journal
    The skating princess Sasha in “The Great Frost,” adapted from Virginia Woolf’s“Orlando” for the 1977 PBS special “Simple Gifts,” is suffused with feminine mystery. Contrast that with the macho swagger and sharp moves of the violin-playing devil in PBS View the introduction to the film.
  5. Computer Programmers Learn Tough Lesson in SharingWall Street Journal
    Virginia Woolf argued that a woman writer needs a room of her own. In Silicon Valley, some companies are questioning whether software programmers even need their own cubicles. Their method is “pair programming”—where two people share one desk 
  6. ‘NW’ by Zadie Smith, New York Times
    If E. M. Forster’s “Howards End” provided an armature of sorts for “On Beauty,” the ghost of Virginia Woolf’s “Mrs. Dalloway” haunts “NW.” Not only does Ms. Smith employ a Woolf-like, stream-of-consciousness technique to trace her characters’ thoughts 
  7. Umbrella, By Will SelfThe Independent
    In recent interviews he has opined on the high Modernism of Virginia Woolf and James Joyce, and his new book adopts their techniques. Recounted in a series of monologues, Umbrella has no chapters and few paragraph breaks to interrupt the narrative flow 
  8. Interview: Pat Barker, author of new book Toby’s RoomScotsman
    I was also struck by the echo of Virginia Woolf’s Jacob’s Room, in her choice of title, not least because Elinor is on the fringes of the Bloomsbury set, which briefly appears in both novels, and Elinor herself is partially patterned on Dora Carrington 
  9. Letting go — Phase two of a young life beginsBismarck Tribune
    St. Augustine and Dante to Jane Austen and Virginia Woolf. She’ll be too busy to be homesick, I hope, because she is about to discover that you surf through high school on your wits, but in college you actually have to earn your way to excellence and 
  10. Toby’s Room, By Pat BarkerThe Independent
    “What do we seek through millions of pages?” asked Virginia Woolf’s narrator in Jacob’s Room (1922), her elegy for her beloved brother, Thoby. “Oh, here is Jacob’s room.” A room, yes, but no Jacob. Where is he? Who was he? How did we come to lose him?
  11. Dear DiaryPatheos (blog)
    In fact, I modeled my journal on Virginia Woolf’s commonplace book: a place to keep notes on what I was reading, to record daily events and to probe my psyche, and to test out writing techniques. I’d find a metaphor for something I’d experienced, then 
  12. Is the Internet Making Us Forget?Daily Beast
    “What a lark, what a plunge,” opens Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, as Clarissa tosses open her French windows and is transported into her remembered past. “Live in the moment” is a directive we often hear these days in yoga class, but our ability to 
  13. Lisa Cohen (The Bat Segundo Show)Reluctant Habits
    Subjects Discussed: Spending years conducting book research, Esther Murphy, Mercedes de Acosta, and Madge Garland, Garland’s connection to Virginia Woolf,Virginia Woolf’s diaries, the early history of British Vogue, the side effects of spending 
  14. 6 LGBT Labor Day vacation beach readsBoston.com (blog)
    The writing is funny, heartfelt and smart—Bechdel references everything from Virginia Woolf and Adrienne Rich to psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott, with a little Sondheim thrown in for good measure- and the artwork is beautifully detailed. This is a 
  15. No man’s land: Today’s female authors are tackling conflict head onThe Independent
    Or the subplot about the suicidal war veteran in Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway? Are these not, in their way, stories of war too? If women have been writing about experiences of war on but, more often, off the battlefield, they are doing so more than 

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Cover of "Life Class: A Novel"

Pat Barker’s new novel, Toby’s Room, hasn’t been released in the States yet, but I’m looking forward to it eagerly, with its allusions to Jacob’s Room. Instead, I found the 2008 Life Class at the library and snapped it up. Only later did I recall having heard that Toby’s Room is a sequel to Life Class; my reading it first is purely serendipitous.

Barker is in her most familiar territory, World War I, in this story about Paul and Elinor, who meet as painting students at the Slade. When the war starts, Paul leaves his studies to serve as an ambulance driver in France. Toby is Elinor’s brother, a medical student, and he too enlists. Elinor and Paul correspond regularly, and she writes to him about an exciting encounter:

“I’ve been to tea with Lady Ottoline Morrell! I never thought I’d live to see the day. I met her at the Camden Street Gallery and she looked at me very intently for a long time and then she said in that vague way of hers, wafting a jeweled hand about above her head, You must come to tea sometime. Do come to tea….” Elinor is prepared to dismiss this as idle chatter until she receives a written invitation, which she accepts. She describes the encounter to Paul: “She’s not easy to talk to, though she is interested in everything you say. You feel she’s listening, not just waiting for the chance to make some clever remark her self like most of that Bloomsbury crowd….”

A group at Garsington Manor, country home of L...

A group at Garsington Manor, country home of Lady Ottoline Morrell, near Oxford. Left to right: Lady Ottoline Morrell, Mrs. Aldous Huxley, Lytton Strachey, Duncan Grant, and Vanessa Bell. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The acquaintanceship continues. Elinor isn’t totally comfortable; she feels that Lady Ott wants something from her—”She seems to be drawing your soul out of your body … a kind of cannibalism”—but she’s swept up in the milieu. She writes to Paul about a party at which Ott holds up a purple feather boa and hands it to “a tall etiolated man with a straggly beard who wrapped it around his neck and immediately started to dance a minuet….” What do you think—Lytton? Later, Elinor is “seized by a man who looked like a highly intelligent teddy bear and spoke with dry, devouring passion about how the war must stop, now, at once, this instant, keeping his gaze fixed on my bosom the while…” Clive?

Woolf isn’t mentioned, but you sense her in the shadows, perhaps in deep conversation with someone or other on a velvet covered settee. And apparently Elinor will meet her in Toby’s Room.

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Once again, we have a Woolf sighting that connects Virginia Woolf to the 2012 Summer Olympics. This time, we learn that Nike’s Olympic headquarters is located in the British Medical Association House, located in Tavistock Square, where Woolf lived.
  1. London Olympics postcard: Nike’s Olympic headquarters are in an area rich with OregonLive.com
    So did the writer Virginia Woolf. She and her husband lived and worked in a home on Tavistock Square in the 1920s and 30s. There is a bust of her in a corner of the garden inside the square. The home was destroyed in the London Blitz during World War II.
  2. The one thing missing from the Olympic opening spectacle – this country’s Catholic Herald Online (blog)
    This Society, which has been patronised in the past by humanist luminaries such as A J Ayer, Julian Huxley, Bertrand Russell, George Bernard Shaw, Leslie Stephen (father of Virginia Woolf) and Sidney Webb, is an educational charity “whose aims are the 
  3. OrlandoThe Arts Desk
    The first time I saw Orlando, on general release in 1992, I was blown away by the beauty of Sally Potter’s homage to Virginia Woolf. Beginning in 1600 when Orlando (the suitably androgenous Tilda Swinton) is a young man, the film skips and hops through to 
  4. Where Virginia Woolf meets the White SoxChicago Reader
    To take or not to take? Asher Klein; To take or not to take? The office is in shambles. Half-filled crates block the hallways and 
  5. Skirting the issueHindustan Times
    It is apparent that we have traveled quite a bit in time, space and ideas from the time Virginia Woolf’s female narrator in A Room of One’s Own was ordered off the lawns of an Oxford college where she had accidentally strolled, as it was strictly off-limits for 
  6. The 10 best… closing lines of booksThe Guardian
    And she has. Lily’s closing words complete the circle of consciousness. Virginia Woolf was good at last lines and was always a decisive closer. Mrs Dalloway, whose first line famously has Woolf’s protagonist buying the flowers herself, ends with: “It is Clarissa, 
  7. Mother, do you love me?The Asian Age
    So we have excerpts from Virginia Woolf’s To The Lighthouse side by side with the location of her residence in London which is close to the residence of British psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott whose books on object-relations theory — an influential strand of 
  8. A Domain of One’s Own, Wired News
    Virginia Woolf, who wrote A Room of One’s Own. A domain of your own is the root of your personal cloud. Image: Roger Fry/Wikimedia Commons. In the mid-2000s I made some friends in the world of higher education who were starting to think like the web 
  9. Lynne Truss: rereading Four Lectures on Shakespeare by Ellen TerryThe Guardian
    In 1941, the year of her suicide, Virginia Woolf finished two essays. One was on Dr Johnson’s friend Mrs Thrale. The other was on the actor Ellen Terry (1847-1928). According to her diary, she found the Terry essay hard going: on 8 December 1940 she notes 
  10. Travel 101 … RavelloTODAYonline
    Villa Cimbrone is famed as where the authors of the Bloomsbury group – Virginia Woolf, Leonard Woolf, E M Forster and John Maynard Keynes – used to hang out. Villa Rufolo, on the other hand, inspired composer Richard Wagner’s opera Parsifal. Entry costs 

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