Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Woolf and The Power

Speculative fiction, aka sci-fi – a world where at first young women, then all women, discover they have physical powers, superpowers, that enable them to rise up against the patriarchy.

One review of The Power called it “Hunger Games crossed with Handmaid’s Tale.” The author, Naomi Alderman, claims Margaret Atwood and Ursula LeGuin as mentors and models.

I read it with nary a thought of Woolf, caught up in the story and its key characters. So imagine my surprise and delight when I came across this subtle reference, accessible only to those in the know.

A sympathetic male journalist encounters one of the most powerful of the women during an extreme crisis and hopes she will help him:

“A fragment of something he read a long time ago floats through his mind. A flattering looking glass. He has to be a flattering mirror for her, reflecting her at twice her ordinary size, making her seem to herself to be strong enough to do this thing he needs her to do.”

I was able to contact Naomi Alderman and asked if she could say something about her decision to paraphrase this particular concept from A Room of One’s Own. Her reply:

“Firstly because ARoOO is just so so good. Secondly because I found that part particularly relevant to my own life, and how a good Orthodox Jewish girl is supposed to be ‘trained’ to behave – to tell men they’re wonderful all the time. And because it is so horrifying when you realise you’ve been doing it, and because in the moment of writing this scene I understood why in extremis it has been necessary for women to do this, to save their own lives.”

On the subject of women, misogyny and power, it’s ironic that the next book on my stack is Mary Beard’s Women & Power. Same subject but a far different style and approach. But both timely and powerful. When Woolf urged women to write she didn’t say to write futuristic thrillers or feminist manifestos; she said “write what you wish.”

Advertisements

Virginia Woolf walked into the River Ouse 77 years ago today. We will always remember.

The note left for Leonard

Text of the note

Dearest,

I feel certain I am going mad again. I feel we can’t go through another of those terrible times. And I shan’t recover this time. I begin to hear voices, and I can’t concentrate. So I am doing what seems the best thing to do. You have given me the greatest possible happiness. You have been in every way all that anyone could be. I don’t think two people could have been happier till this terrible disease came. I can’t fight any longer. I know that I am spoiling your life, that without me you could work. And you will I know. You see I can’t even write this properly. I can’t read. What I want to say is I owe all the happiness of my life to you. You have been entirely patient with me and incredibly good. I want to say that – everybody knows it. If anybody could have saved me it would have been you. Everything has gone from me but the certainty of your goodness. I can’t go on spoiling your life any longer.

I don’t think two people could have been happier than we have been.

Audio of the note

Past tributes

Clemson University Press is offering two books at a substantial discount until May 1. Download the flyer as a PDF.

An Annotated Guide to the Writings and Papers of Leonard Woolf

The revised edition of An Annotated Guide to the Writings and Papers of Leonard Woolf, by Janet M. Manson and Wayne K. Chapman (2018), 292 pp. (paperback). Normal retail: $34.95. 50% off: $17.50 plus s&h Order the book.

The Annotated Guide is a finding aid to collections of Leonard Woolf papers, which substantially augments previous research tools.

Virginia Woolf and the World of Books

Virginia Woolf and the World of Books, edited by Nicola Wilson and Claire Battershill (forthcoming, 2018), 310 pp. + (hardcover). Normal retail: $120. 70% off: $34.95 plus s&h Order the book.

Although it is not identified as such, this book contains the selected papers from the 27th Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf, held last June at the University of Reading in Reading, England.

Just over 100 years ago, in 1917, Leonard and Virginia Woolf began a publishing house from their dining-room table. This volume marks the centenary of that auspicious beginning.

Inspired by the Woolfs’ radical innovations as independent publishers, the book celebrates the Hogarth Press as a key intervention in modernist and women’s writing and demonstrates its importance to independent publishing and book-selling in the long twentieth century.

Female friends are special. I often wonder what I would do without them. So I like to take note of stories about longtime women friends.

This was particularly true during the past week. Knowing that today I was on the blog tour schedule to publish a review of A Secret Sisterhood: The Literary Friendships of Jane Austen, Charlotte Brontë, George Eliot, and Virginia Woolf, by Emily Midorikawa and Emma Claire Sweeney, stories of women’s friendships kept popping out at me.

I’ll share just two of them before adding the promised review.

Akron Beacon Journal article featuring the lifelong friendship of two women, now 94 and 100.

Women friends on a local level

Yesterday, the front page of my local newspaper featured such a close friendship.  It told the story of two women — one black, one white — who led a Girl Scout troop in an all-white community back in 1954 and became fast friends, as did their daughters.

Women friends on a national level

Last week, a lecture I attended by Rebecca Traister, author of All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation (2016) spoke of the importance of women’s friendships throughout U.S. history. She also emphasized how those intimate friendships sustained and supported women when their marriage relationships, often entered into solely for financial reasons, did not.

Women’s literary friendships

Women writers had sustaining friendships with female friends, too. But as  Margaret Atwood says in her foreward to A Secret Sisterhood, female literary friendships have often been overlooked.

Midorikawa and Sweeney bring them into the limelight in their 2017 book, A Secret Sisterhood. Now out in paperback in the UK, it explores the “secret sisterhoods” entered into by Jane Austen, Charlotte Brontë, George Eliot and Virginia Woolf. My focus will be on the book’s final section, whose three chapters explore the ambivalent friendship between Woolf and Katherine Mansfield.

Woolf and Mansfield: friends or foes, cat or mouse?

Anyone who studies Woolf knows that there is much discussion of the love-hate relationship between Woolf and Mansfield. In Secret Sisters, Midorikawa and Sweeney bring it into clear focus.

They are careful to describe the complicated relationship between the two, showing us how and why Woolf considered Mansfield both her “bitter opponent and beloved friend — unrivaled by any other” (260). They use excerpts from letters, diaries and more to compile a detailed timeline that clarifies the relationship without oversimplifying its nuances.

The authors follow the relationship between the two writers from its spring 1917 beginnings in Mansfield’s humble Chelsea flat, where Woolf offered Mansfield the opportunity to have her work published with the newly formed Hogarth Press, to the news, delivered by Woolf’s maid Nellie Boxall in January 1923, that Mansfield had died.

In between, Midorikawa and Sweeney document the ups and downs of their professional alliance, as well as their personal relationship. Among them are Garsington gossip, the rivalry between the two to use the Garsington garden as the setting for a short story, and the ways they supported each other’s literary careers while engaging in creative competition.

We also get an inside view of Mansfield’s ill health and financial challenges, Woolf’s mixed feelings about Mansfield’s work, and the insecurities each woman had about the other as both a trusted friend and literary sounding board.

A Secret Sisterhood lays out the intimate inner workings of the friendship and competition between Woolf and Mansfield, setting theories and rumors to rest and illuminating a relationship characterized by a “rare sense of communion” (250) that has interested their readers for decades.

It’s official. Dalloway Day is the third Wednesday in June on both sides of the pond.

After years of discussion and advocacy for a day that gives Virginia Woolf’s Clarissa Dalloway equal weight with James Joyce’s Leopold Bloom, both the Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain and the International Virginia Woolf Society have designated the third Wednesday in June as #DallowayDay.

Finally, we have an officially recognized day for celebrating Clarissa Dalloway’s walk across London in Woolf’s 1925 novel Mrs. Dalloway to “buy the flowers herself.”

This year it’s June 20

This year the third Wednesday falls on June 20, and events are already being planned on the official date and those surrounding it. Here are those we know about so far.

  • The Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain is getting together with Waterstones, as it did last year, to arrange a walk, discussion and talk on Saturday, June 16. It will be announced on the new VWSGB website and Facebook page, and by Waterstones as well.
  • Many members of the International Virginia Woolf Society will be together and on their way to Knole House and Sissinghurst Gardens for the pre-conference outing on June 20, the day before the 28th Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf begins. I imagine we will celebrate the day in some way and I welcome your ideas.
  • Places and Paces: Walking with Mrs. Dalloway, June 20, 4-5 p.m., at the British Library. Sponsored by the library and its Royal Society of Literature. Hermione Lee will discuss the novel’s walks and follow its paths into dreams, memories, and moments of revelation. Ticket prices range from £5 to £8 and can be booked online.
  • Dalloway Day with Sarah Churchwell, Alan Hollinghurst, Hermione Lee and Elaine Showalter, June 20, 7-8:30 p.m. at the British Library. Sponsored by the library and its Royal Society of Literature. The event will include a discussion on the significance of the novel and its effect on literary culture with Woolf’s biographer Lee; novelist Hollinghurst; literary critic Showalter, author of the seminal A Literature of their Own, and Churchwell, chair of public understanding in the humanities at the School of Advanced Study. Ticket prices range from £10 to £15 and can be booked online.
  • Monk’s House is holding an event on June 20, and the details will appear on the Monk’s House page of the National Trust website once they are settled.
  • The Italian Virginia Woolf Society is organizing an event dedicated to Woolf in June called “Una giornata tutta per lei” (A Day of Hers Own) on June 9 at the Casa Internazionale delle Donne, the International House of Women, the society’s home base.

Tell us about your #DallowayDay event

We urge you to add your own events in the comments section below or by sending an email to bloggingwoolf@yahoo.com, whether they are on the official date or another date. And please use the hashtag #DallowayDay in your social media posts so we can track them.

Watch out for The New Yorker

After June 20, keep your eyes out for The New Yorker magazine. A writer and editor for that publication has been in touch with Woolf societies and Blogging Woolf to discuss our plans for Dalloway Day. It turns out he is interested in traveling to England in time for Dalloway Day celebrations so he can cover it for the magazine.

His piece, if the idea is given the go-ahead, would appear in both the print and online editions, with photo coverage online. If so, this would make 2018 a banner year for dear Virginia — a Google Doodle and an official day of Clarissa’s own, covered in The New Yorker!

Oh, to be in London next week! The book launch of From Omega to Charleston: The Art of Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant 1910-1934 will take place at Hatchards Piccadilly, 187 Piccadilly, London, W1J 9LE, March 14.

A panel discussion with Piano Nobile will be held at 5 p.m.  The book launch is 6 – 8.30 p.m. Limited seating is available. RSVP by emailing events@hatchards.co.uk

About the book

Added below is information provided by the Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain:

The book is published to accompany the exhibition From Omega to Charleston: The Art of Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant, 1910-1934, this fully illustrated catalogue includes an essay and catalogue entries by Richard Shone (author of Bloomsbury Portraits (1993) and curator of The Art of Bloomsbury, Tate, (1999), the book explores the unique creative relationship shared by Bell and Grant through rarely seen works from private collections, some of which are reproduced for the first time, and a selection of loans from The Charleston Trust.

Famous Women Dinner Service

The second half of the publication focusses exclusively on The Famous Women Dinner Service. Begun in 1932 at the request of the art historian and director of the National Gallery Kenneth Clark and his wife Jane, these fifty plates were decorated with images of famous women through the ages, from Sappho to Greta Garbo.

Considered lost by art historians for nearly 40 years, the dinner service forms an impressive testament to Bell and Grant’s close working partnership. A ground-breaking essay by Hana Leaper is succeeded by closer scholarship dedicated to the individual plates. Produced in partnership with the Paul MellonCentre for Studies in British Art, this research is published in print for the first time.

The glorious catalogue is available for view on the Issuu website.

To read words from Woolf on this auspicious day, check out this post that includes a popular quote from Woolf cited on this date three years ago, along with her diary entries for this date from 1918-1941.

%d bloggers like this: