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If you’re not following and reading the posts on the Italian Virginia Woolf Society Facebook page during this time of staying at home to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, you are missing out. I know I was.

Virginia Woolf reading at home

I had let many intriguing posts from friend Elisa Bolchi — and former society president — slip through my Facebook feed. So I finally clicked over to her page and on to the Italian Society’s page. There I found some comfort and some inspiration from those whose country is one of the hardest hit during the current pandemic.

Inspiration from Italy

On its page, the society, formed in 2017, has posted inspirational messages from its president, Nadia Fusini, along with those from its founding partners, and another from beloved bookseller Raffaella Musicò.

It has also shared a video of Federica Leuci reading aloud letters from Woolf to various friends like Vita Sackville-West and Clive Bell.

In addition, the society has issued a photo challenge we can meet while staying at home and reading Woolf.

The #Woolfincasa #Woolfathome photo challenge

The challenge posted on Facebook reads: “At this time the right thing to do is stay in the house. What better opportunity to (re)-read a Virginia Woolf book? Take a picture of yourself reading a Woolf book on the couch, the chair, table, bed… wherever you want, as long as you’re home! Then post it and tag us and add the hashtag #Woolfincasa and #Woolfathome, we’ll create the album “The Rooms of Woolf” with all your photos. Good morning 💜 #iorestoacasa #sharingbeauty

A number of followers posted photos of themselves reading Woolf.  A few are shown in the screenshot below of the Italian Virginia Woolf Society’s Facebook page. You might want to post yours on social media as well.

I took mine today when I just happened to be wearing the “Italia” sweatshirt I bought from a street vendor in Rome five years ago. Elisa Bolchi was kind enough to post it for me.

#Woolfincasa and #Woolfathome with Blogging Woolf in Ohio

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This is the fourth in a new series of posts that will offer a global perspective on Woolf studies, as proposed by Stefano Rozzoni at the 29th Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf. If you would like to contribute to this series, please contact Blogging Woolf at bloggingwoolf@yahoo.com.

Editor’s Note: Feb. 1 is the deadline for the call for papers for the 30th Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf: Profession and Performance, which will be held at the University of South Dakota in Vermilion, South Dakota June 11-14. Get the details.

By Profa. Dra. Maria Aparecida de Oliveira

The Woolf Conference happens in a friendly, warm and welcoming environment. It really enhances the sense of community. It is an international community of scholars from different parts of the globe to share knowledge on a writer we all love. The conference enriches our knowledge not only about Woolf, but also in relation to other writers and to different approaches, theories and tendencies.

Stefano Rozzoni of Italy and Maria Oliveira of Brazil at the 29th Annual International Virginia Woolf Conference at Mount St. Joseph University in Cincinnati, Ohio, June 6-9, 2019.

The great quality of papers forces and challenges us to do our best. Consequently, it helps us to improve our research. By following how famous scholars undertake their own researches, it teaches us new ways to develop our studies.

I joined the conference in 2011 in Glasgow and it has been such a huge pleasure, because it inspires my work and my research on Woolf. It has also been a great space for collaboration. I met many people to whom we have collaborated in different panels, projects and books.

Thinking against the current

The 29th Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf aimed at discussing Virginia Woolf and Social Justice and was a great opportunity for us from Brazil to denounce the atrocities happening in our country under the administration of the current president, the unnameable.

Davi Pinho and I were thinking against the current and thinking back through Three Guineas to discuss our three dots: Education, LGBTQ+ and the Environment. That was only June and our situation has just been worse and worse, first fire in the Amazon, now an oil leak on the precious beaches of Northeast.

The conference was an invitation to think together about social justice, inclusivity, utopias and the future of humanities in our current political climate.

It must be emphasized that Brazil’s political situation is an effect of what is going on in the United States. So, we are together in this conference as sisters in solidarity, fighting and resisting the tyrants in power.

In what follows, I will present my view of the conference. Unfortunately, it is limited, because I could not attend all the panels, as I wished.

Woolf, age, ageism, and activism

Beth Rigel Daugherty, Leslie Hankins and Diane Gillespie presented a panel on “Portraying and Projecting Age, Ageism, and Activism” on day one.

The first panel I attended was “Portraying and Projecting Age, Ageism and Activism,” by Diane Gillespie, Leslie Hankins and Beth Daugherty, Woolf’s muses.  Diane Gillespie’s paper was a very interesting one, on Leonard and Woolf and Age/ism.  Leslie’s subject was about silent movies and the suffragette movement, it was an impressive panel, as always.

Following that, Beth Rigel Daugherty gave a very moving talk on “Virginia Woolf’s Aging Women and Me,” how Woolf’s novels are populated by women who struggle with the battle of aging – Mrs. Dalloway, Mrs. Ramsay, Miss La Trobe, Mrs. McNab, Lady Parry, the lady by the window – all of them losing their minds. The author reminds us that “aging is also a fight, a great battle on a daily basis.”

Woolf, African-American Modernism and Utopias

Sayaka Okumura of Japan and Maria Oliveira at the 29th Annual Conference on Virginia Woolf.

Elizabeth Abel in her brilliant lecture “The Smashed Mosaic: Virginia Woolf and African American Modernism” talked about Woolf in relation to James Baldwin’s A Biography. Again, utopia was the main issue when she discussed “Cruising Utopia: The then and the of Queerness Futurity.” She said that Queerness is our future and hope.

Abel stated: “Forget the room of one’s own, write in the kitchen, lock yourselves in the bathroom…” and I continue… write in the bus, in a library, in a café, in a garden, by the sea, in a forest, by the river… but write yourselves, inscribe your bodies in history.”

J. Ashley Foster gave an inspiring paper on “Three Guineas and Developing the Standing and Digital Humanities Exhibition Surveying Utopias: A Critical Exploration,” linking war and peace to a feminist and modernist pedagogy inspired by Woolf.

Foster brought up Jane Marcus to say that a feminist pedagogy allows us to navigate between past and present, a kind of communication that enables us to perceive history in a different way. How can feminism construct another plot for history, social justice and hope? In this case, utopia is more than necessary.

Woolf, #MeToo, and suffragists

Dr. Anne Fernald and Dr. Tonya Krouse presented a delightful discussion on the plenary session “Woolf in the Era of #Metoo movement, asking how do we think of women in this frame? How do we connect Woolf, the second wave of feminism and the movement #Metoo?

They reminded us that in the 1970s, the feeling was of shame, women were not to be believed, so they remained silenced. Now, women are learning how to speak up, how to get together and fight. The authors also reminded us of the transformative power of literature to fight for social justice.

In the panel “Suffragist, Public and Private,” Eleanor McNees delivered a provocative and stimulating paper “Women’s Rights and Family Feuds: A Room of One’s Own, The Pargiters and Suffragist Responses to James Fitzjames Stephen,” linking Woolf to the first wave of feminism and to founding texts of that time, such as Subjection of Women, by John Stuart Mill and James Fitzjames Stephen, who fought for liberty, equality and fraternity. Moreover, McNees discussed Woolf’s participation in the women suffrage journal, her lecture for the London National Society for Women’s Service in 1931.

Mi Jeong Lee in her brilliant paper “Re-mapping Public and Private Specters of the Suffragette in Mrs. Dalloway’s Urban Parks,” analyzed the parks as public spaces for male imperialists, while women occupied domestic spaces, when women appear in the parks, we have the homeless, the old woman, the beggar in Mrs. Dalloway, a woman of no age, no sex.

Woolf and inclusivity

During the plenary Erica Delsandro and Kristin Czarnecki argued about “Woolf and Inclusivity” and they raised many questions:

  • Who is included and how?

    Erica Delsandro and Kristen Czarnecki at a plenary on Woolf and inclusivity at the 29th Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf last June.

  • As you engage in the work of inclusivity, or more particularly, the work of decolonizing the academy, what challenges are you encountering?
  • Are inclusive projects legible to our professional communities?
  • How are such projects approached, read and valued?
  • Are we shaking, challenging the scholarly canon?
  • What are the benefits of undertaking inclusive reading projects, projects that often cut across the conventional analytical categories in the field?
  • Does this approach to reading and research impact your teaching and your pedagogical choices? If so, How?

Adriana Varga presented a very instigating paper about “Alienation: A View of Social Justice in Tony Morrison’s Reading of Mrs. Dalloway” that raised a lot of discussions on the anxiety of influence, but also on how we can read Woolf backwards, reading Woolf through Tony Morrison and, in my case, through Clarice Lispector. That paper brought a lot of food for thought. It was really inspiring.

In the last day we had a plenary discussion “Woolf and the Future of the Humanities in our Current Political Climate,” with Mark Hussey, Vara Neverow, Madelyn Detloff, Benjamin Hagen, Susan Wegener, and Laci Mattison.

That was a moment to think about Woolf and utopia, since we live in moments that we are fighting and resisting and there are moments of paralysis, of hostility, of political despair. That is the Brazilian scenario right now, a moment of political despair and we doubt about our future.

Is the Woolf conference headed to Brazil as we fight against the mainstream across the globe?

We finished the plenary discussing Woolf and inclusivity, how much is it including or excluding? Isn’t time for us to discuss Woolf’s racism, imperialism and anti-Semitism?

We talked about Woolf in global studies and Woolf in different languages, as Stefano argued. I know that now there is an Italian Virginia Woolf Society and another one in Korea.

I would love to take the Woolf conference to Brazil and we are starting to organize that. It would be also be divine to see a conference in China, India, Africa. At the end of the conference, I feel that social justice led us to utopia, to hope for better days and to keep fighting and thinking against the mainstream.

Read more in the series:

Comaraderie among natty young Woolf scholars at the Saturday evening banquet at the 29th Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf. L-R Todd Nordgren of the U.S., Cecilia Servatius of Austria, and Michael Schrimper of the U.S.

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This is the second in a new series of posts that will offer a global perspective on Woolf studies, as proposed by Stefano Rozzoni at the 29th Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf. If you would like to contribute to this series, please contact Blogging Woolf at bloggingwoolf@yahoo.com.

Veronika Geyerová presenting at the 29th Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf at Mount St. Joseph University

When I saw Stefano Rozzoni’s idea about sharing our experience concerning the 29th Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf, I thought that it might be a good way to express my feelings and gratefulness for the great and enriching moments I experienced at Mount St. Joseph University. I would also like to share a few facts about Woolf studies in the Czech Republic as it may sound ”exotic” to some people that Woolf is studied even there.

On the Woolf trail

I started to be a Woolf enthusiast early at grammar school and I decided to pursue my passion for literature at the University of South Bohemia in Budweis where I studied English philology and French philology. I wrote my BA and MA thesis on Woolf and her conception of time and because my longing for knowledge had not been satisfied by then, I decided to continue as a PhD student at Charles University in Prague.

I have just finished the second year of my study in which I again focus on Woolf. In particular, my dissertation deals with material objects and reality in her fiction from the non-dualist perspective of process philosophy.

Unfortunately, I was too scared to submit an abstract for last year’s conference but this year I decided to summon up courage and bingo – my paper was accepted!

As a Woolf conference newbie

Understandably, I arrived at Mount St. Joseph and the Woolf conference pretty nervous because it was my first time in the US and also my premiere in front of the Woolf community. For that reason I really appreciated Drew Shannon’s introductory talk on the first day when he was saying that he felt he was a complete ”misfit” during his first contact with the community – so did I!

However, my worries and nervousness dissolved as soon as I got to know a few people and I understood that the community is incredibly openhearted and welcoming in the Whiteheadian sense – “the many become one and are increased by one.” Moreover, I started to feel like “a fish in water” (as we say in Czech) because I finally met people who are sincerely passionate about the same subject like me.

After I had given my talk, I felt even more relaxed and was able to enjoy the lively atmosphere of the conference. To be honest, I was astonished at the range of topics related to Woolf that were presented at the conference. In addition, It was so refreshing to hear people draw parallels between Woolf and current issues like racism, LGBT community rights, the rising wave of populism all over the world (really, our Czech prezident Zeman and the Prime Minister are not much better than Trump), etc.

Meeting of the minds

Most of all, I wish to thank the organizers of the conference for a really smooth and extremely well-prepared event and for the given opportunity to present my work in front of the people whose feedback is invaluable for me. Thanks to the conference, I have met a lot of wonderful scholars whom I had wanted to meet in person and whose papers and books I read and I highly respect (I do not want to name anyone).

I am also really pleased with a positive feedback on my current research from those who take pleasure in reading literature through the philosophical lens. Indeed, I am more motivated to continue in my research than before the conference because I can see that it is worth being a part or such an inspiring and extraordinary community.

Woolf and Modernism in the Czech Republic

As I have promised, I would also like to provide an insight into Woolf studies in the Czech Republic. Woolf is, of course, a part of obligatory reading at high schools and particularly at English Literature departments at most Czech universities. She is often the author whom BA and MA students choose for their theses.

I was lucky because I studied under an excellent and (not only) modernist scholar Martin Hilský who has written many essays and even one monograph on modernism. His wife Kateřina Hilská is a prominent Czech translator and she is the author of most Czech translantions of Woolf’s novels, diaries and short stories. Thanks to her magnificent translations, Woolf is quite popular with Czech readers. Nevertheless, this modernist author remains one of those artists who are either adored or rejected (from my own experience, even my university colleagues call her a “hyper-sensitive woman” or “suicidal bitch”). 

Woolf in translation — or not

Obviously, Mrs. Dalloway and To the Lighthouse are Woolf’s most known novels in the Czech Republic. However, some novels, for example Night and Day or The Years, have not been translated into Czech yet. On the contrary, my favourite novel The Waves has been translated into Czech, although it is extremely difficult for both the translator and for the reader.

Quite interestingly (a note for my conference colleague Natalia), the Czech edition of Orlando and Three Guineas do not include photos. Unfortunately, there is no official Woolf society in the Czech Republic, which is a pity and something that should be improved in the future. As a result, I have joined the International Virginia Woolf Society last month.

I would like to end my post with personal experience from entrance exams to one of Czech PhD English Literature programmes. At the entrance interview I was introducing my dissertation proposal on Woolf and material reality in her fiction and although I had great recommendation from the previous study and excellent study results,

I was rejected on the basis of choosing Woolf for my research. The committee basically told me that she is a kind of “exploited” author, they asked me about the novelty of my research and recommended opting for another author and apply again the following year. I guess that you can imagine my disappointment after I had been told that I could not study the only author that I really want to study in depth.

Why I read Woolf

I cannot resist saying that Woolf is someone very dear and special to me because she sometimes speaks from the depths of my heart. I strongly believe that this is also the only prerequisite for a successful and lasting academic work. Although Woolf has been discussed by a great number of scholars and from countless points of view, I reckon that every individual response to Woolf is unique and contributes to the vast already existing scholarship.

In my opinion, the talks and presentations given at the conference just prove it and moreover, they justify Woolf’s stable and relevant position among contemporary writers (who are often given preference because they guarantee “novelty” and “originality”).

For this reason, I would like to express my gratefulness to my supervisor Ladislav Nagy, who has always encouraged me in studying Woolf, for giving me the ideas about the philosophical background of my research and for letting me explore the themes that I am interested in without imposing any limitations.

Struggle of the humanities

The sad incident described above undeniably stems from the humanities’ struggle for money and the government’s urge to turn them into ”hard science” (especially in the Czech Republic there is a general tendency to debase the humanities in favour of natural science and technology studies). Hopefully, literary scholarship will survive and flourish thanks to the passionate group of scholars such as Woolf’s community whose motto might be Woolf’s quote from A Room of One’s Own:

Lock up your libraries if you like; but there is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind.

 

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Stefano Rozzoni

As is customary at Woolf conferences, scholars from all over the world traveled to the 29th Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf at Mount St. Joseph University in Cincinnati, Ohio, adding a global perspective to Woolf studies.

Going global

Blogging Woolf snapped photos of some of these scholars at the June 6-9 event. And we share them here as we introduce an upcoming new series of posts.

The brainchild of Stefano Rizzoni, a doctoral student at the University of Bergamo in Italy, the proposed global series will answer questions like these:

  • What are Woolf conferences like? And how do they enhance a spirit of internationalism and community?
  • How do conferences enrich one’s work, vision and knowledge of Woolf and others?
  • How does one’s native country responds to Virginia Woolf studies?

If you would like to contribute to this series, please contact Blogging Woolf at bloggingwoolf@yahoo.com

Joshua Phillips of Scotland, Briany Armstrong and James Kearns of the UK, Jiwon Choi of China, and Maria Oliveira of Brazil.

Sayaka Okumura and Miyuki Tateishi of Japan

Victoria Callanan of Sweden and Maria Viana of Brazil

Anne Marie Bantzinger of the Netherlands

Cecilia Servatius of Austria

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