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Posts Tagged ‘Hogarth Press Centennial’

A Press of One’s Own: Celebrating 100 Years of Virginia and Leonard Woolf’s Hogarth Press,  a one-time event celebrating the centennial of the Hogarth Press held May 10 at Harvard University, was a big success, according to organizers.

The event was a sell-out and had a long waiting list for people who wanted to attend the workshops, seminar and the exhibition at the Houghton Library.

“In the aftermath of the workshops where we reenacted the Hogarth Press spirit and helped people understand the (high) stakes of letterpress publishing for Virginia Woolf and her circle, I held an interview with the Harvard-affiliated press master and the conceptual artist Ted Ollier who generously commented on what it might have meant for the Woolfs to print at home,” said Mine Ozyurt Kilic.

 You can read the interview online.

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Editor’s Note: This essay, written in March of this year, was contributed by Mine Özyurt Kılıç, a Fulbright Visiting Scholar at the Department of Comparative Literature at Harvard University and co-organizer of Harvard’s May 10 event, A Press of One’s Own: Celebrating 100 Years of Virginia and Leonard Woolf’s Hogarth Press. At Harvard, she currently investigates the connection between the ethical and aesthetic components of short fiction. Her research mostly focuses on contemporary British fiction with special interest in women’s writing. She is the author of the first book-length study on Maggie Gee’s fictionMaggie Gee: Writing the Condition-of-England Novel (Bloomsbury 2013). This academic celebration brings her back to her master’s thesis on the theme of failure in love in T. S. Eliot’s poetry as well as to her lectures on British Modernism.

The snail is a seal of the Hogarth Press, a signature of its focus on nature and the natural against the industrialized literary marketplace! Like this snail with its home on its back, The Hogarth married private and public life with a letterpress machine on a dining table. And that has made all the difference!

The snail that makes its appearance on the first publication of the Hogarth Press, “The Mark on the Wall” (1917), is the very emblem of the Woolfs’ mission. Like Schumacher’s claim for the economy “Small is Beautiful”, the Woolfs suggest that in “express[ing] the rapidity of life, the perpetual waste and repair”: Slow is beautiful!

This first Woolf story they publish can also be read as a fictional manifestation of Woolf’s ars poetica. The narrator first situates herself in the world understanding one truth about it– “what an airless, shallow, bald, prominent world it becomes! A world not to be lived in” — then discerns her calling in it:

I want to think quietly, calmly, spaciously, never to be interrupted, never to have to rise from my chair, to slip easily from one thing to another, without any sense of hostility, or obstacle. I want to sink deeper and deeper, away from the surface, with its hard separate facts.

This quiet, calm, spacious, and uninterrupted mode of deep thinking is the very engine behind Woolf’s Modernist texts that require a different mode of reading, a deliberately slow and effortful one that is like the movements of a crawling snail. The central motif in the story, also visually reproduced in Dora Carrington’s woodcut print to accompany the text, the snail is one of the many lives that the narrator feels committed to describe in detail.

[…] there are a million patient, watchful lives still for a tree, all over the world, in bedrooms, in ships, on the pavement, lining rooms, where men and women sit after tea, smoking cigarettes. It is full of peaceful thoughts, happy thoughts, this tree. I should like to take each one separately.

In a later Woolf story “Kew Gardens” (1919), the snail now becomes one of the central consciousnesses. A single figure among those visitors coming from different walks of life, it makes its way around the flowerbed, thinking whether it is better to move or not, drawing the reader’s attention to the minutiae of everyday life, to a moment of being, from a major to a minor key. As such, it becomes a sign of a special state of consciousness slow enough to attend to details, to the cotton wool of daily life, to moments of being, to epiphanies, to fragments shored against ruins, to marks on walls, flowers, images and smells that memory brings from distant times and places.

In the idiom of Woolf’s snail, the early Hogarth draws its readers’ attention to an eccentric, marginal and extraordinary vision that necessitates a reading slow enough to digest and savor millions of surrounding lives.

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A Press of One’s Own: Celebrating 100 Years of Virginia and Leonard Woolf’s Hogarth Press,  a one-time event celebrating the centennial of the Hogarth Press, will be held on Wednesday, May 10, at Harvard University.

The multi-disciplinary and interactive celebration includes an exhibition of the original early Hogarth books and a round-table discussion at Houghton Library, as well as a hands-on letterpress workshop at the Harvard-related Bow & Arrow Press in Cambridge.

The exhibition will be followed by a seminar with three speakers who will talk about the different aspects of the Hogarth venture and its publications. The final stage is the printing workshop, during which a passage from “The Mark on the Wall,” the first product of the Hogarth (July 1917) will be reprinted.

Organizers hope that the event will raise questions not only about the historic venture of the Woolfs and their circle, but also about the role of independent publishing today.

Nowhere else could we have started the Hogarth Press, whose very awkward beginning had rise in this very room […] Here that strange offspring grew & throve; it ousted us from the dining room […] & crept all over the house. And people have been here, thousands of them it seems to me” – Virginia Woolf’s Diary, 9 January 1924

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