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Literature Cambridge will offer two interesting summer courses next year.

Virginia Woolf’s writing Lodge at Monk’s House

Virginia Woolf’s Gardens will be held July 14-19. The course will emphasize the importance of gardens to Woolf’s life and work, from her early story “Kew Gardens” (1917) to her last novel, Between the Acts (1941).

Other course readings include Jacob’s Room (1922), Mrs. Dalloway (1925), To the Lighthouse (1927), Orlando (1928) and A Room of One’s Own (1929).

Lecturers include Suzanne Raitt, Gillian Beer, Alison Hennegan, Clare Walker Gore, Karina Jakubowicz, Nadine Tschacksch, Trudi Tate, Kabe Wilson and Caroline Holmes.

An optional visit to Monk’s House and Charleston will be offered.

Fictions of Home: Jane Austen to the Present Day will be held July 21-26 at Wolfson College, Cambridge. The course explores ideas of home in literature, from the early nineteenth century until today, from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and Northanger Abbey, through Dickens, Katherine Mansfield, and Virginia Woolf, ending with contemporary refugee writers.

The provisional course reading list includes Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice (1813); Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey (written 1798; published 1817); Charles Dickens, David Copperfield (1850);
Virginia Woolf, Mrs Dalloway (1925); Katherine Mansfield, Collected Short Stories (mainly 1920s);
Viet Nguyen, The Refugees (2017); Viet Nguyen, The Displaced: Refugee Writers on Refugee Lives (2018); David Herd and Anna Pincus, eds., Refugee Tales II (2017).

Instructors include Alison Hennegan, Isobel Maddison, Clare Walker Gore, and Trudi Tate.

Bookings open soon.

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That line from Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park is the first of a number of quotations that Alice Lowe uses in her essay, “My Quarrel with Grieving,” which was published in the Winter 2015 issue of Permafrost. In it, she quotes her number one source: Virginia Woolf.

Source: “She grieved because she could not grieve” | Alice Lowe blogs … about writing & reading & Virginia Woolf

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Cover of "Pride and Prejudice (Oxford Wor...

The weekend after returning from the Woolf conference in Vancouver, I attended a meeting of my local chapter of the Jane Austen Society of North America (JASNA). We don’t have local or regional chapters of the International Virginia Woolf Society (IVWS); JASNA has a membership of around 4,000, IVWS 400, so it’s understandable.

But it’s not about size, I’m not trying to compare the two groups. They’re different but complementary–I’ve read Woolf papers about Austen and Austen papers about Woolf. Woolf reminds us of our debt to Austen.

I’ve never attended a JASNA annual conference, so I was fascinated to read through the program for the upcoming meeting this September in Minneapolis. Plenary speakers and breakout sessions cover literary, historical, theoretical and sociological viewpoints — “The Law of Inheritance in Jane Austen’s Time” and “Mothers and Other Strangers: Images of Motherhood in Pride and Prejudice,” and “Ladies’ Magazines of the Regency Period” are a few examples–as well as the nods to popular culture: we grappled with the impact of “The Hours,” while Austen scholars  and readers consider the movie adaptations of the novels plus “The Lizzie Bennett Diaries,” Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Death Comes to Pemberley, and more sequels and spinoffs than you can imagine.

But I was particularly captivated by the hands-on workshops being offered: English country dancing; crocheting a reticule or knitting a wrist cuff; Jane Austen note cards; bonnets, tams & ribbon headpieces.

We have fun at Woolf conferences, but are we missing something? In fact, it came up at the md shoesplanning meeting for next year’s conference in Chicago when Paula Maggio showed her Mrs. Dalloway shoes and Elisa Kay Sparks mentioned her WWWD (What Would Woolf Do) bracelets. Woolfians may get to show their crafty side yet! And if the Janeites can have whist tournaments, why not lawn bowls for us?

Woolf said of Austen: “The balance of her gifts was singularly perfect. Among her finished novels there are no failures….” With that in mind, it’s time to reread Pride and Prejudice in honor of its 200th birthday and pay homage to our and Woolf’s foremother.

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It’s no surprise to have Virginia Woolf’s name come up in discussions of Jane Austen and vice versa. Austen is, of course, one of Jane Austen Ruined my Lifethe foremothers held up in A Room of One’s One and in a number of Woolf essays. My pleasure is in finding Woolf sightings in fiction, the more obscure the better, but it came as a complete surprise when she appeared in Beth Pattillo’s Jane Austen Ruined My Life.

This charming romp follows the adventures of Emma Grant, an American university professor and Austen specialist. Following her divorce and the loss of her teaching position, she goes to England in search of Austen’s missing letters, the ones her sister Cassandra supposedly burned after her death. She’s wooed by the “Formidables,” a secret society of devoted Janeites, who entice her with a few sample letters and send her on a sort of Austenish scavenger hunt to prove she’s worthy of their cache.

At Austen’s house in Chawton, Emma sees a little table and chair in front of the sitting room window—it’s where Austen wrote. She observes that, “In spite if all the distractions, she’d created her masterpieces with nothing more than paper, pen, and ink. Virginia Woolf was famous for saying that any woman who wanted to be a writer needed to have five hundred pounds a year and a room of her own. Austen had possessed neither of those things, and yet somehow she had outshone authors with far more worldly advantages.”

In all this she also has to deal with a couple of dishy and attentive suitors vying for her affections and inserting themselves into the mystery. The outlandishness of it all reminds me of the movie “An Unmarried Woman,” in which the betrayed wife, Jill Clayburgh, dashwood-sisters-2011-w200has immediate consolation from the likes of Alan Bates. Oh sure, just like real life, huh?

But I won’t quibble. The book was delightful and well written, a perfect weekend escape. Now I’m tempted to track down Pattillo’s other Austen novels–Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart and The Dashwood Sisters Tell All both continuing the successful formula of blending literary mystery with contemporary stories.

Maybe I’ll be rewarded with more Woolf sightings.

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