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Posts Tagged ‘Alexandra Harris’

Alexandra Harris’s long-awaited Weatherland: Writers and Artists Under English Skiespublished byharris Thames & Hudson, is due out in the UK this week and will be published in the U.S. on Feb. 15, 2016.

I’ve been eager to read this book since I first heard about it in 2010, particularly when I learned Harris would be discussing Woolf’s use of weather.

On Woolf and weather

Woolf and weather has been a subject dear to my heart since I enrolled in an interdisciplinary graduate program at Kent State University in 2001. The introductory course for the Master of Liberal Studies Program focused on weather. And when we read about England’s Great Frost, I immediately recalled those scenes from Woolf’s Orlando.

When I had read the novel years earlier, I thought Woolf had imagined the weather scenes. Happily, I discovered I was wrong. This made me wonder what Woolf knew about weather, how weather affected her, and how she used it in her writing.

I went on to research and write about Woolf and weather for Cecil Woolf Publishers. At the time, there was nothing written on the subject, so it was wide open for inquiry. I read Ruskin, explored J.M.W. Turner’s art for its depiction of weather, read weather journals kept by rural residents, explored the history of weather science, and looked up weather data from Woolf’s time and Orlando’s. I searched Woolf’s novels, diaries, and letters for reference to weather, finally turning to her essays, where I discovered her theories about weather and literature.

Cecil published my monograph, Reading the Skies in Virginia Woolf: Woolf on Weather in Her Essays, Her Diaries and Three of Her Novels, in 2009. But I knew I had only scratched the surface.

Harris on Woolf and weather

Harris has been researching and writing about weather and literature for years. She spoke about Woolf and weather at the 2012 Woolf conference in Saskatoon and has published several pieces on the topic. This year, she gave the Virginia Woolf Birthday Lecture, delivered at Senate House in London, on “Woolf in Winter.” It was published by the Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain. And on Feb. 15, 2014, she published ‘Drip, drip, drip’, a lead article in The Guardian, on the topical subject of rain in literature.

Now Harris’s new book promises to uncover so much more about Woolf’s use of weather and the role weather plays in English literature from the eighth century onward. In a June 2012 email to me, she promised her book would include a chapter on Woolf. Harris’s Sept. 11 piece in The Guardian, “Making the Weather in English Writing and Art,” gives us a taste.

Harris will team up with Frances Spalding for the book launch at the London Review Bookshop, where it is displayed in their windows, on Wednesday. She will also give a lecture on the topic at the British Museum on Oct. 19.

In a sweeping panorama, Weatherland allows us to witness England’s cultural climates across the centuries . . . Weatherland is a celebration of English air and a life story of those who have lived in it. -Thames & Hudson

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A Walk of One’s Own: Virginia Woolf on Foot is available on the BBC Radio 4 website.Screen Shot 2015-09-01 at 2.17.48 PM

The four walks feature 15 minutes of audio from a sometimes breathless Alexandra Harris as she follows Woolf across favorite paths, accompanied by such guests as Woolf biographer Hermione Lee and Scarlet Baron of University College London. The walks cover Woolf territory in Spain, Kensington Gardens, Cornwall and Sussex.

Harris’s audio includes background sounds — of seagulls, waves, boots crunching on the path — all set off by references to Woolf prose.

As writer Michael Bird says as he accompanies Harris on the Cornwall walk, “I brought my copy of To the Lighthouse and suddenly it makes sense.”

Local history is part of the programs, too, as the walkers discuss such things as the age of the cliffs and the reach of the Godrevy Lighthouse beam as they traipse along.

They also describe the scenery — from the mica particles in the rock to the shimmer of the water — as they speculate about Woolf’s walking habits.

The bit I have listened to so far has given me goose bumps. But of course I am touched by all things related to Virginia and her crowd. I even liked Life in Squares.

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There are still places available for the Virginia Woolf 2015 Birthday Lecture,  “Woolf in Winter,” by Alexandra Harris.

Alexandra Harris

Alexandra Harris

Co-sponsored by the Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain, the event will be held Saturday, Jan. 24, at 2 p.m. in Senate House, University of London, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU.  Tickets are £15 for VWSGB members and £20 for non-members.

The event includes a wine reception following the lecture and a copy of the lecture when printed.Bookings may be made via the Institute of English Studies website. For further details, contact Lindsay Martin on 020 8245 3580 or at lindsay@lindsaycmartin.co.uk

The topic of Woolf in winter is a natural for Harris, as she is in the midst of writing The Weather Glass, which discusses the British preoccupation with weather. The cultural history of English weather, which will include a chapter on Woolf, will be published by Thames & Hudson in autumn 2015.

In 2011, Harris was named among the 10 New Generation Thinkers by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and BBC Radio 3 for her new research on how the weather has influenced English art, music and literature.

Read Harris’s February 2014 essay in The Guardian that discusses English literature’s use of rain, torrential or otherwise: “Drip, drip, drip, by day and night.”

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If you live in the UK, you have 20 more days to watch Alexandra Harris discuss Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway on the Sept. 16 broadcast of the BBC Four program, The Secret Life of Books.

If you live anywhere besides the UK, you are just out of luck, however. Sadly, as a U.S. resident, I couldn’t even watch the three brief video clips on the website. In one, Harris visits Monk’s House and is filmed inside Woolf’s writing Lodge. In another, she talks about Woolf’s creation of a new kind of novel. And in a third, she examines the first draft of Dalloway, then titled The Hours.

In the 30-minute program, produced in partnership with Open University, Harris shows how Woolf produced a newly imagined novel when she wrote MD. Citing original manuscripts, diaries and notebooks, Harris argues that Woolf’s writing process also allowed her to stay sane as she channeled her own mental illness into the character of Septimus Warren Smith.

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Screen Shot 2013-08-22 at 9.00.04 PMRun, don’t walk, to the nearest newsstand to purchase the September issue of Harper’s Bazaar, UK edition. The reason is Woolf. The magazine will include a reprint of her short story “Lappin and Lapinova,” which she wrote exclusively for the magazine in 1939.

To introduce it, Woolf biographer Alexandra Harris recalls her literary love affair with Woolf and describes the true story behind the short story.

The link to Harris’s recollection was shared on the VWoolf Listserv. Here is what readers had to say:

my enchantment was triggered by `Lappin and Lapinova’ when I was a senior in college. I was mesmerized by the fairy tale of a failed marriage and then ended up writing my final paper forand `Mr Bennett and Mrs Brown. And the rest is history.”

“I was in graduate school in Madison at the University of Wisconsin, working on  Renaissance (as we called it then) literature.  I had never even heard  of Virginia Woolf.  A woman to whom I was entirely attracted asked me if I read her and I tried not to answer. I went right to the library and got To the Lighthouse because the object of my crush had mentioned that title.  I was completely stunned and amazed and just kept reading. As soon as I had a little wiggle room as a professor, I began teaching her to other young people who didn’t know who she was. The relationship with the woman only lasted 7 years, but my connection to Virginia continues to grow as I continue to age.”

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Screen Shot 2013-07-29 at 1.09.27 AMYou can join the waiting list for Nights Out: Drinks with Virginia Woolf, an evening in a secret Hampstead apple orchard that includes a conversation with Woolf biographer Alexandra Harris. But the July 30 event is sold out.

The author of Romantic Moderns “will share her favourite ideas and themes from Woolf’s writing on pleasure, love, sorrow, wonder and London” and guide participants “through a menu of conversation topics she has designed especially for us around Woolf’s life and work.”

The event, which begins at 7 p.m. and costs £35, takes place at Fenton House Garden. Fenton House in Hampstead, central London, is a seventeenth-century merchant’s house, garden and orchard managed by the National Trust.

Harris, a literature professor at the University of Liverpool, is currently writing a cultural history of the English weather. It will, of course, include Woolf.

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Bitch magazine has taken on Virginia Woolf. Well, not the real Woolf. And not exactly “taken on.” But the feminist magazine has published an online review of Alexandra Harris’s biography of Woolf.

In the publication’s “BiblioBitch” column, writer Katie Presley calls the Harris biography “bold” for presenting Woolf’s work and life in just 10 short chapters totaling 192 pages. Read the full review: “BiblioBitch: `Virginia Woolf,’ Abridged and Alluring.”

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