Posts Tagged ‘Hermione Lee’

Wolfson College

Wolfson College

Leslie Stephen and his brother will be the topic at the next English Association’s series of Fellows’ events at Wolfson College, Oxford, on Saturday, June 22, at 2 p.m. Hermione Lee will speak on “Brotherly Biography.”

Beginning with Leslie Stephen’s life of his brother, James Fitzjames Stephen, the talk will explore the relationship between autobiography and biography when siblings write each others’ life stories.

Lee’s lecture will be followed by High Tea in the College Buttery.

Tickets, which must be purchased in advance, include admission plus High Tea. Prices range from £15 to £20.

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 I finally read Pat Barker’s Toby’s Room. My library’s reservation system is fantastic but does require some patience! Paula first Toby's Roommentioned it here last summer, noting the allusions—in more than the title—to Woolf’s Jacob’s Room, as did Hermione Lee, who reviewed it for The Guardian.

I read Barker’s Life Class around that time before I knew it was the prequel to Toby’s Room, and I posted on the “near sightings,” the Bloomsbury references when the protagonist, Slade art student Elinor Brooke, has tea at Ottoline Morrell’s.

Elinor’s brother Toby, like Jacob before him, dies serving in World War I, and like Jacob is revealed mostly through family and friends. Toby’s Room is still Elinor’s story, in which she seeks to unearth the mysterious details of his death. Woolf appears in entries from Elinor’s diary. She records her impressions from a weekend at Charleston Farmhouse, presumably at the invitation of Vanessa Bell:

“VB was in the drawing room when I arrived, with her sister, Mrs. Woolf. I’ve met her more than once, though I don’t think she remembered me and gave me a lukewarm welcome. Doesn’t like young women, I suspect. I thought the talk would be well above my head, but they were quite relaxed and gossipy and we chatted on easily enough. Or they did. I was too nervous to say much. It was like listening to an old married couple. They’ve got that habit of completing each other’s sentences…”

The other guests are “the conscientiously objecting young men” working at the farm, none of whom, she realizes, are going to be interested in her. There’s talk of the war at dinner, and Woolf talks about “how women are outside the political process and therefore the war’s got nothing to do with them.”

Elinor is struck by Woolf’s observation but finds it less convincing when she later tries to echo the sentiment herself. Barker has no such problem making her case. In both novels, she challenges readers to explore the role of art and artists in time of war, heightening the drama with real, fictional and hybrid characters as she did in her Regeneration trilogy.

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Sally Green posed a question this week on the VWoolf Listserv that asked, “Did Virginia Woolf have anything to say about historical memory, or issues of memory, say, the way Proust thought about memory (or the way we do today when engaging in “memory studies”?

Feedback from the list suggested the following Woolf works that touch on memory:

  • Woolf’s last novel Between the Acts, addresses history as memory.
  • “On Being Ill,” an essay she wrote on the caves of thought one wanders when ill — memories included. Read a Guardian interview with Woolf biographer Hermione Lee on the topic: “Prone to Fancy.”
  • Portions of The Waves alluding to T.S. Eliot’s poem “The Waste Land” touch on collective and historical memory.

Influences on Woolf and memory included:

  • Proust’s Recherche, which she read while writing her major novels.
  • Wordsworth’s “The Prelude,” which she read  while composing The Waves (D 3: 236).

Secondary sources on Woolf and memory included:

  • The Formation of 20th-Century Queer Autobiography by Georgia Johnston
  • Virginia Woolf and the Great War by Karen Levenback
  • Modernism, Memory, and Desire: T.S. Eliot and Virginia Woolf by Gabrielle McIntire.  (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008).
    “Proust, Woolf, and Modern Fiction,” by Pericles Lewis. The Romantic Review 99: 1 (2008). Download the PDF.

I also found these:

Memory is the seamstress, and a capricious one at that. Memory runs her needle in and out, up and down, hither and thither. We know not what comes next, or what follows after. Thus, the most ordinary movement in the world, such as sitting down at a table and pulling the inkstand towards one, may agitate a thousand odd, disconnected fragments, now bright, now dim, hanging and bobbing and dipping and flaunting, like the underlinen of a family of fourteen on a line in a gale of wind – Orlando

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Hermione Lee
Hermione Lee

Hermione Lee’s The Novels of Virginia Woolf is just one of 18 titles that academic publisher Routledge will repackage and republish as part of its Routledge Revivals series on July 15.

Routledge will reissue more than 100 of its key titles from its backlist over the next 12 months, reproducing them using print on demand.

The first 18 titles will be published in hardback at prices ranging from £50 to £100. The majority of the titles will be available through print-on-demand services and for download as e-books.

Amazon.com lists the Lee title with a publication date of Oct. 15 and a price of $122.

Editorial assistant Adam Micklethwaite said, “We have such a distinguished list—it is inevitable that we would use this in the time of an economic recession.” Read more.

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Everywhere I go, I hear it — that hacking cough that people just cannot seem to get rid of this fall.

So how fitting that this week, the Financial Times published a review of Virginia Woolf’s 1930 volume On Being Ill.

As the story goes, Woolf fainted at a party in 1925. During the aftermath, which involved several months of recuperation, she wrote a thoughtful rumination on how illness changes one’s experience of the world.

Those thoughts were published by the Hogarth Press in a slim volume with cover art designed by her sister, Vanessa Bell. It was titled On Being Ill.

The Financial Times review mentions a new edition of the volume, published by Paris Press and with an introduction by Hermione Lee. It is a facsimile of the original, cover art and all.

Five years ago, in 2003, Lee presented the keynote address at the 13th Annual International Virginia Woolf Conference on the essay. The theme that year was “Woolf in the Real World.” Nothing is more real than illness.

The Paris Press edition is not that new. My volume, which I picked up several years ago at my local Borders, has a copyright date of 2002.

Perhaps you can pick up a copy for an ill friend. It just might change his or her experience of the world.

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Anyone who has visited Monk’s House in Rodmell, Sussex knows that much of Virginia and Leonard Woolf’s summer home is off limits to visitors.

When I was there in June of 2004, I was particularly interested in Virginia’s writing lodge. However, I couldn’t get close enough to truly satisfy my curiosity about the small room where she wrote many of her most famous works from 1919 to 1941. All I could do was peer through the window into the space, as it was off limits to everyday visitors like me.

So imagine my excitement when a post to the VW Listserv linked us to an excellent interior photo of the writing lodge and a description of the space written by Woolf biographer Hermione Lee. The article, “Writers’ Rooms: Virginia Woolf,” appears in The Guardian with the wonderful photo.

You can read more about Woolf’s writing habitats — and the queries they generate — here.


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