Coming of age with Virginia Woolf

to the lighthouseI first read Virginia Woolf as a college junior. I started with Mrs. Dalloway for a class and moved on to The Years on my own. My love for Woolf was immediate, but I knew my readings were only scratching the surface.

Over the years, I dipped into more Woolf — To the Lighthouse, A Room of One’s Own, Orlando – all just for fun. It wasn’t until I enrolled in a master’s program and made Woolf my focus that I truly took an in-depth approach to her and her writing.

But that doesn’t mean Woolf can’t be instructive for the common reader, as evidenced by my own experiences and those indicated by three recent pieces I found online. An article in Bustle, “18 Books Every Woman Should Read When She’s 18 (Because I Sure Wish I Had),” argues that every 18-year-old woman should read To the Lighthouse. And in Sydney’s Daily Life piece, “The Truth About Feminism,” Annabel Crabb cites A Room of One’s Own as an explicitly feminist piece she read as an 18-year-old, while a current-day college students cites the book as a feminist classic as well.

Eighty-five years after its publication, Virginia Woolf’s book-length essay A Room of One’s Own continues to inspire women and offer a framework for confronting contemporary challenges. The evidence of this continued influence comes in the form of a recent article about women as writers.

a-woman-must-have-money-and-a-room-of-her-own-if-she-is-to-write-fiction-2In “Writers, Money, and the Economy: Why Time Is the 21st Century’s ‘Room of One’s Own’” published at Flavorwire.com, Sarah Seltzer writes about the barriers contemporary writers (and particularly women writers) face, while making several allusions to A Room of One’s Own. But while Woolf identified money and space as necessities for women writers, as evidenced in her famous line, “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction,” Seltzer asserts that time is the new “room of one’s own.” From the article:

Without a doubt, time to create and dream is the “room of one’s own” of the 21st century. And there’s a sacred myth of pursuing any art form, that contains some truths in a time-strapped world: You do have to give something up, or cut back. Sometimes it’s a career of your own, or financial independence vis-a-vis your life partner, or sleep, or time with family and friends. Sometimes it’s stability, sometimes it’s the inspiration that comes from instability. So yes, an artistic pursuit works well when there’s someone else near you filling in the gaps of whatever it is you give up, as sort of mini collective enterprise of two.


Leonard and Virginia, 1925

Although she highlights lack of time as the major barrier to writing, Seltzer also states that financial support systems are so necessary for writers to succeed that many writers are “sponsored” by spouses who generate the family income. The author references Leonard Woolf as Virginia’s support system, and wonders if modern women can pursue their creativity:

But as someone said on Twitter, it’s also sort of sad to think that these little units of two are orbiting around in space by themselves, embarking on the collectivist mission of creating art and supporting an artist in an indifferent world. Not everyone can find a Vera Nabokov or a Leonard Woolf, nor should they. What if both spouses have creative ambitions? At least in my mind, this strain of thought comes down to the exact same problem as the discussion we have about balancing family and work these days: today’s families are so, so alone. Someone has to sacrifice, the common line goes. We (particularly women) can’t have it all.

Read the full article here.

Jean Luc-Godard’s modern Shakespeare adaptation of King Lear (1987) includes references to Virginia Woolf. The rare arthouse classic will be presented at 7 p.m. Feb. 20 by the University of Wisconsin Cinematheque as part of its Cannon Canon series this semester.

Elizabeth F. Evans

Elizabeth Evans

Elizabeth Evans will give a lecture titled “Virginia Woolf’s Airplanes: Air Power and Aerial Views Between the World Wars” at 6 p.m. on Feb. 17 in Technology Building Room 301 at Purdue University North Central. It is free and open to the public.

Evans, assistant teaching professor at the University of Notre Dame, will examine the effects the growing importance of military air power had on British art and literature during the interwar years. Her research focuses specifically on Woolf’s work, specifically Mrs. Dalloway (1925) and The Years (1937).

In a 2013 essay, “Air War, Propaganda, and Woolf’s Anti-Tyrrany Aesthetic,” which appeared in Volume 59, Issue 1 of the journal Modern Fiction Studies, Evans argues that Woolf is both attracted to and troubled by the unique point of view the airplane provides. She admires its aesthetic possibilities but is disturbed by its seemingly inevitable links to warfare.

Evans edited Woolf and the City: Selected Papers from the 19th Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf (2010). She is now at work on a book about aerial views in British and Anglophone writing from the early twentieth century to the present.

For more information, contact Dr. Heather Fielding, PNC Assistant Professor of English, at hfieldin@pnc.edu or at 219-785-5327.

Letters AloudIf you live in or near Seattle, there is a Woolf event for you. It’s called “With or Without You: Letters of Loving, Longing and Leaving,” and it includes the public reading of “steamy letters of longing from Virginia Woolf.”

Here are the details:

Dates: Feb. 13 at 7:30 p.m. and Feb. 14 at 2 and 7:30 p.m.
Location: 12th Ave Arts building (1660 12th Ave.) in Capitol Hill, Seattle, Wash.
Tickets: Range from $20-$30 in price and are available from Brown Paper Tickets.

25th annual conferenceNews from the 25th Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf, which will be held June 4-7 at Bloomsburg University in Bloomsburg, Pa., includes the following:

  • Extension of the deadline for submission of paper proposals to midnight Saturday, Jan. 31.
  • Clarification that proposals focusing solely on Woolf are welcome.
  • A call for entries in a juried exhibition of small works on paper that is fittingly woolf_callforentriestitled Mark on the Wall. The entry deadline for those is April 20. The international call for works on paper was inspired by visual artists who focus on Woolf, such as Elisa Kay Sparks, and Bloomsburg University’s new art gallery, according to conference organizer Julie Vandivere.
  • An announcement that Cassandra Laity, who will start a new journal on modernist women writers, will be at the conference to talk about the project and recruit a variety of voices for the new venture.

Get the conference highlights.

Originally posted on SuchFriends Blog:

…Thoby Stephen, 20, is hosting his sisters, up from London, and his cousin, acting as their chaperone, for tea in his rooms.

Virginia, 19, and Vanessa, 22, have to be accompanied by their cousin Katherine Stephen, 45, vice-principal of Newnham College, one of only two Cambridge colleges to admit women.

On previous trips, Thoby had introduced them to some of his university friends, Clive Bell, 19, who came from a good family, and the eccentric Lytton Strachey, 21, a fellow member of the ‘secret’ Cambridge society, the Apostles. This time, one of his other Apostle friends, Leonard Woolf, 20, at Trinity on a classical scholarship, also stops by Thoby’s rooms:

 I also met Thoby’s two sisters, Virginia and VanessaStephen, when they came up to see him. The young ladies—Vanessa was 21 or 22, Virginia 18 or 19—were just as formidable and alarming…

View original 124 more words


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