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In England? Near Cambridge? Then you might be able to attend one or both of these talks on Virginia Woolf, presented by Literature Cambridge and Lucy Cavendish College. Here are the details:

Woolf and The Waves

Tuesday, 4 February, 1 p.m.: Rute Costa on ‘All is rippling, all is dancing’: Adapting The Waves into performance.  Founders’ Room, Lucy
Cavendish College, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, England.

Woolf and Katherine Mansfield

Tuesday, 10 March, 1 p.m.: Clare Nicholson, Literature Cambridge and
ICE, The Ambivalent Friendship of Virginia Woolf and Katherine
Mansfield: ‘A Public of Two’. Venue: Wolfson Room, Lucy Cavendish
College, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, England.

Both talks are free and open to all, town and gown.

A table full of Literature Cambridge T-shirts and information as students check in for one of the program’s 2019 summer courses. Literature Cambridge offers two new courses, Woolf’s Women and Reading the 1920s, this July.

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Editor’s Note: Trudi Tate, director of Literature Cambridge, provided this piece for Blogging Woolf.

Wolfson College at the University of Cambridge

Woolfians are invited to join Literature Cambridge in summer 2020 for a rare opportunity to study Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway (1925) alongside writing by some of her most interesting contemporaries.

Reading the 1920s, held July 26-31 at Wolfson College at the University of Cambridge, will provide a week’s intensive study, with lectures, seminars, supervisions, plus visits to places of interest in Cambridge.

Shaping the 20th century

Reading the 1920s explores some of the brilliant writers working after the First World War. The 1920s is a crucial period in the shaping of the entire twentieth century and its literature. It was an extraordinarily productive decade for Woolf: between 1922 and 1931 she wrote many of her greatest works: Jacob’s Room, Mrs. Dalloway, To the Lighthouse, A Room of One’s Own, The Waves, and more.

Woolf was familiar with the works students will study on this course. Some she knew very well, such as “The Waste Land” (1922) and A Passage to India (1924). She had mixed feelings about Lawrence, but admired the best of his work, noting as she finished The Waves that his writing gave her much to think about. We will study his powerful novella collection of 1923, The Fox, The Ladybird, and The Captain’s Doll, plus his joyous nature poetry in Birds, Beasts, and Flowers (also 1923).

Katrina Jacubowicz reads aloud at the summer 2019 Literature Cambridge course, Virginia Woolf’s Gardens.

Lecturers and topics

  • Alison Hennegan will discuss sexuality and censorship in the 1920s, focusing on The Well of Loneliness (1928). Why was this book by Radclyffe Hall censored while Woolf’s Orlando sold freely?
  • Peter Jones will explore the thinking of Forster’s Passage to India about India, Britain, and the campaign for Indian independence in the 1920s.
  • Trudi Tate will look at some powerful and poignant testimonies from the First World War.
  • Karina Jakubowicz will discuss Mrs. Dalloway and the social system that Woolf so criticized.

This course provides students with a great opportunity to study Woolf, Lawrence, Forster, and others together. The course aims to give a richer understanding of the writings of the 1920s, and of the turbulent history to which they bear witness.

Woolf’s Women July 19-24

Literature Cambridge also runs an intensive summer course on Woolf every year in July. In 2020, from July 19-24, the course will explore Woolf’s Women.

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Literature Cambridge runs an intensive summer course on Woolf every year in July. In 2020, from July 19-24, the course will explore Woolf’s Women.

Students in Literature Cambridge’s Virginia Woolf’s Gardens course in July 2019 visit the Fitzwilliam Museum.

Women as Woolf’s characters

The course will look at some of her fascinating women characters, such as Mrs. Dalloway and her daughter; Mrs. Ramsay and Lily in To the Lighthouse, plus the intriguing figure of Orlando, who leads us to wonder: What is a woman, to Woolf?

Women in Woolf’s life

And what about the women in Woolf’s life who were so important to her writing: her mother Julia Stephen, her sister Vanessa Bell; friends such as writer Katherine Mansfield and composer Ethel Smyth; lover Vita Sackville-West; plus scholars such as Jane Harrison and Janet Case?

What did Woolf think about women and education, and the women’s colleges at Cambridge, in A Room of One’s Own?

Walks, talks and visits

The course, held at the University of Cambridge, will visit the two original women’s colleges, Girton and Newnham, where Woolf gave talks in 1928 which became A Room of One’s Own in 1929. There will be a visit to the Fitzwilliam Museum to see the original manuscript of this ground-breaking book, with a talk by Claire Nicholson.

There will be a rich program of lectures, seminars, supervisions (tutorials), walks, talks, and visits to places of interest in Cambridge. Teachers include: Gillian Beer, Claire Davison, Alison Hennegan, Karina Jakubowicz, Isobel Maddison, Trudi Tate, Claudia Tobin, and Clare Walker Gore.

Marion Dell of the Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain and an expert on Woolf’s family history will give a talk on Julia Stephen. Susan Sellers will read from her acclaimed novel about Woolf and her sister, Vanessa and Virginia. And much more.

Readings for the course

  • Mrs Dalloway (1925)
  • To the Lighthouse (1927)
  • Orlando (1928)
  • A Room of One’s Own (1929)
  • Between the Acts (1941)

Discounts are available for members of recognized literary societies; and for CAMcard holders. To request a booking form: https://www.literaturecambridge.co.uk/bookings

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Painting of Virginia Woolf by Vanessa Bell currently displayed at Monk’s House

Here are the details of three talks on Virginia Woolf and her times, hosted by Literature Cambridge and Lucy Cavendish College during Michaelmas Term 2019.

Each is free and open to all, town and gown. Participants can buy lunch in the Lucy Cavendish dining hall from 12.30 pm before the talk.

What: Reading Ritual in The Waves (1931) with Ellie Mitchell, ADC Theatre, Cambridge
When: Tuesday 15 October, 1 p.m.
Venue: Founders’ Room, Lucy Cavendish College, Lady Margaret Road, Cambridge.

The Waves was variously described by Woolf as a ‘playpoem’, a ‘mystical poetical novel’ and ‘something struggled for’. This talk reads the novel in the light of Woolf’s interest in the anthropologist Jane Harrison’s theories of classical culture, art and ritual.

What: Professor Dame Gillian Beer, Clare Hall, Cambridge, on Modernist Alice.
When: Tuesday 5 November, 1 p.m.:
Venue: Wolfson Room, Lucy Cavendish College, Lady Margaret Road, Cambridge.

The Alice books transform from age to age and place to place. In the period of Modernism in Britain and Surrealism in Europe, they took devious and different directions. The talk will be illustrated with writing and images drawn from Virginia Woolf, James Joyce, Walter de la Mare, Arthur Eddington, Vladimir Nabokov, Andre Breton, and others.

What: All-day reading of The Waves
When: Sunday 27 October, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. with regular refreshment breaks. Come for part of the day or the entire day — your choice.
Venue: Thomas Gray Room, Pembroke College. Free, but please book if possible via Eventbrite

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Mrs Dalloway in slipcase. Courtesy of SP Books

The full-length draft of Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway was waiting for me when I returned in July from the Literature Cambridge course Virginia Woolf’s Gardens. Lucky me.

As I eagerly opened the heavy package, I thought I knew what to expect from this handwritten manuscript of what would become Virginia Woolf’s famous 1925 novel. After all, its publication had been highly publicized by the mainstream press and widely shared on social media.

What I didn’t expect was its beautiful detail, its literal weightiness, and the fact that Woolf’s draft would be so very different from the final product we know, love, study, and write about today.

June 3, 2019, tweet from @BookBrunch

A lusciously weighty volume

Published by SP Books, the volume is luscious and large. Measuring 13″ x 9.5″ it is hand-bound, with linen-textured covers of dark green and a slipcase to match. The lettering on the cover and slipcase, including Woolf’s distinctive signature, is a rich metallic gold. Each volume is hand-numbered from one to 1,000. All of these beautiful features indicate the importance of this limited edition classic book, as well as the author we love.

The manuscript reproduces the three handwritten stitched notebooks, much of them written in Woolf’s trademark purple ink, in which she drafted “The Hours.” Written between June 27, 1923, and October 1924, these notebooks would eventually become her classic novel Mrs. Dalloway.

Virginia Woolf’s Signature. Courtesy of SP Books

Holding genius in one’s own hands

One usually must visit a library, a museum, or some other official place to study Woolf’s writing process in detail. When we visited the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge as part of our Literature Cambridge course, we saw the first draft manuscript for Woolf’s classic feminist polemic A Room of One’s Own (1929). Each of us had a few precious minutes with the manuscript, noting Woolf’s edits and marginal notes and taking photos.

Bookmark. Courtesy of SP Books

Now, however, thanks to SP Press, any of us who can rustle up about £190 or $220, can own our very own Woolf manuscript, giving us the opportunity to study it in detail at our leisure.

The Woolf draft, along with others in the series, provide, “A return to ‘slow reading’ in a digital age” and “offer an intimate insight into the writer’s mind and thought-processes, showing their crossings-out, notes and revisions,” according to SP Press.

Female-centric and revolutionary

I admit that I haven’t had time to read the manuscript from cover to cover. Woolf herself had trouble reading her own handwriting at times, so imagine how difficult it is for the unaccustomed common reader to parse her penmanship.

First page of notebook 2 (purple ink). Courtesy of SP Books

But it’s easy to see from the opening pages that the draft Woolf produced is totally different in focus, tone, and structure from the novel she eventually created. While Mrs. Dalloway focuses on Clarissa, introducing her with the famous line, “Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself” (MD 1),”The Hours” initially focuses on Peter Walsh and includes this opening line:

In Westminster, where temples, meeting houses, conventicles, & steeples of all kinds are congregated together, there is at all hours & halfhours, a round of bells, correcting each other, asseverating that time has come a little earlier, or stayed a little later, here or here. – “The Hours”

So a quote from Michael Cunningham‘s introduction to the SP Books facsimile of “The Hours” certainly rings true: “Had Woolf completed a novel called “The Hours,” it would not have been the Mrs. Dalloway that has become a cornerstone of 20th-century literature.”

The back story

The facsimile edition includes an essay from Woolf scholar Helen Wussow that provides the genesis of the character of Mrs. Dalloway, as well as that of the manuscript itself.

According to Wussow, Leonard Woolf wrote to Vita Sackville-West after Virginia’s death to tell her that her friend and lover had left a manuscript to her. Leonard’s job was to choose which Vita would receive. He decided upon Mrs. Dalloway, sending Vita the entire manuscript on June 21, 1941. The British Library eventually purchased it from her.

Wussow also details the whereabouts of the typescript (not yet found) and page proofs for the novel, as well as Woolf’s working methods.

More on SP Press

Other SP Press limited edition copies of handwritten manuscripts include classics such as The Great Gatsby, Jane Eyre and The Picture of Dorian Gray. Follow them on Twitter @saintsperes.

Title – 1 – 1923. Courtesy of SP Books

1st opening, on the 1st page of notebook 1. Courtesy of SP Books

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Fifty ceramic plates decorated with images of famous women through the ages, from Sappho to Greta Garbo to Virginia Woolf. That describes the Famous Women Dinner Service painted by Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant between 1932 and 1934 that is now on display in the Outer Studio at Charleston.

The series includes 12 dancers and actresses, 12 writers, 12 beauties, and 12 queens, each painted on plain white Wedgwood, in addition to a set of period women and two portraits of the artists themselves. The women are surrounded by bold patterned borders, with Duncan as the only man in the series.

History of the dinner service

Bell and Grant painted the dinner service for Kenneth Clark, the art historian and director of the National Gallery, and his wife Jane. As a friend and patron to Bloomsbury artists, he owned a large collection of their work. The dinner service the Clarks commissioned was made up of 140 pieces and was one of the largest commissioned works produced by the Bloomsbury artists.

Charleston

The service remained a part of the Clark household until a 1956 move to Saltwood Castle. Remarkably, it had already survived the Blitz and numerous changes of address before it went missing.

Historians considered the dinner service lost for nearly 40 years. Last year, officials at the Piano Nobile Gallery were shocked when one of its clients admitted to having the entire set, which was quietly returned to the UK.

It is now owned by The Charleston Trust, thanks to the support of Piano Nobile, generous grants from the Heritage Lottery Memorial Fund and Art Fund, and donations from a circle of remarkable women.

The artistic process and feminist philosophy

The dinner service forms an impressive testament to Bell and Grant’s close working partnership at Charleston. They carefully researched each woman they chose, basing most of their paintings on photographs and portraits.

The design, which places women at the center of the conversation, was left to the discretion of Bell and Grant; the two artists did not need final approval from the Clarks.

The exhibit information at Charleston notes that, “The final 48 famous women make an intriguing and unexpected list, one that demonstrates Bloomsbury’s understanding of gender equality” and “anticipates feminist politics.” As Bell noted to Roger Fry in 1932, the project “ought to please the feminists.”

The research

The series features women with “an overlapping strength of character,” according to Hana Leaper, who has completed groundbreaking scholarship on the series. Her scholarly work  has been followed by closer scholarship dedicated to the individual plates.

This research was published in print for the first time last year as From Omega to Charleston: The Art of Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant 1910-1934 . The book was produced in partnership with the Paul MellonCentre for Studies in British Art.

Four years earlier, in 2014, curatorial interns at Charleston discovered preliminary sketches for the plates and posted the findings of their research on the Charleston Attic blog. The initial designs were carried out on round scraps of paper and card in pencil and ink.

When the Literature Cambridge course on Virginia Woolf’s Gardens ended last month, I was among the students who took a coach trip to Charleston, where we viewed the entire collection.

Very little is known about women,” wrote Woolf in 1929. “The history of England is the history of the male line, not the female. Of our fathers we know always some fact, some distinction. They were soldiers or they were sailors; they filled that office or they made that law. But of our mothers, our grandmothers, our great-grandmothers, what remains? – Virginia Woolf, “Women and Fiction,” 1929

This figure greets visitors to the Famous Women Dinner Service exhibit on display in the Outer Studio at Charleston.

Overall view of the Famous Women Dinner Service at Charleston

Plates depicting actresses in the Famous Women Dinner Service

Plates depicting writers in the Famous Women Dinner Service. The Vanessa Bell plate is in the second row from the top, far right.

More notable women in the Famous Women Dinner Service

Various famous women from throughout history are depicted in this selection of plates from the Famous Women Dinner Service.

The Virginia Woolf plate in the Famous Women Dinner Service, which was hand-painted by Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant between 1932-1934.

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Leonard went over it, and says it’s a most delightful house and strongly advises you to take it . . . It has a charming garden, with a pond, and fruit trees, and vegetables, all now rather run wild, but you could make it lovely.

That was Virginia Woolf’s description of Charleston in a letter she wrote to her sister Vanessa Bell in 1916.

Vanessa took her sister’s advice. She arrived at Charleston in Firle, Sussex, via taxi in October of the same year. She would call it her home for the rest of her life.

She did not arrive alone, however. She was accompanied by her children, Julian and Quentin; fellow artist and sometimes lover Duncan Grant; his lover, David Garnett; a nurse; a maid; a cook; and a dog named Henry who would be memorialized forever on a wall in the home’s library.

Vanessa made the home her own until her death in 1961. During the years of the Great War, she lived there full time. Afterwards, she and her children, who now numbered three and included Angelica, her daughter with Duncan, born on Dec. 25 1918, moved back to London and used Charleston as a summer home.

The golden age of Charleston

During the interwar years, which Quentin Bell described as “the golden age of Charleston,” famous friends from the worlds of literature, art, and politics, visited the home on a regular basis. By the start of World War II, Charleston became the family’s full-time home and a wartime refuge once again.

After the death of Vanessa’s husband Clive Bell in 1964 and Duncan in 1978, Angelica Garnett, lived at Charleston alone until 1980, when the Charleston Trust was formed. It is this entity that set about restoring the house to its current state, circa 1950s, with all of the furnishings and personal items left behind by its occupants preserved intact.

Literature Cambridge road trip to Charleston

We visited Charleston, known as Bloomsbury in the country, as the first charming stop on our coach trip, once our Literature Cambridge course on Virginia Woolf’s Gardens ended last month.

Exterior door to Vanessa and Duncan’s studio at Charleston

We toured the home, with every surface painted and decorated by Vanessa and Duncan — from doors to woodwork to furniture to bathtubs. There was so much to see that it was impossible to take in every detail, even though it was my second trip.

Here’s what we saw as we soaked up the Post-Impressionist beauty and palpable energy of this unique home:

  • Clive’s ground floor study, with its fireplace designed by Roger Fry and its fireplace surround and window embrasure decorated by Vanessa
  • The dining room, with its black walls stenciled in grey and yellow by Duncan and Quentin and its large round wooden table decorated by Vanessa.
  • The second floor bedrooms of Duncan, Clive, and Maynard Keynes, where he wrote The Economic Consequences of the Peace 
  • Vanessa’s first floor bedroom with its en suite bath that scandalized the residents of Firle and its French doors that open to the lavish garden
  • The library, with its book-lined walls and Duncan’s painting of dog Henry below the north wall
  • The green bathroom, with its bathtub decorated with a 1969 painting of a nude by Richard Shone
  • The artists’ studio, constructed by Vanessa and Duncan in 1925, where they worked together until World War II, when Vanessa had her own studio built at the top of the house.

Tour Charleston in words and photos

Photographs are not permitted inside the home, as some of the artwork displayed is owned by private individuals.

But I recommend the book Charleston: A Bloomsbury House and Garden if you want to read more about the home and view its gorgeous, colorful, and individualized rooms. You can also take a room by room photo tour of the home on the Charleston website.

As a result of the ban on interior photos, I had to limit my photography to the outdoor spaces. But the home is famous for its beautiful garden, so scroll down for a pictorial walking tour.

Then take a look at the Blogging Woolf post about our Literature Cambridge trip to Monk’s House that same day, where photos were permitted inside and out.

The pond at Charleston lies beyond the lawn that fronts the house. In 1917, it was larger and deeper and was the home of carp and eels. Quentin Bell’s sculpture of a levitating woman is installed on the far shore.

Charleston as seen from the farm track to the home. The gravel, the lawn, bushes, and the facade of the house are the same as in the time of Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant.

The close-boarded wooden gate to Charleston, with a square pillar topped by one of two urns cast by Quentin Bell in 1952. They sit on either side of the gate.

Entry to the walled garden at Charleston

Toadstool sculpture within the gate of the walled garden

Tile plaque mounted inside the flint and brick wall noting garden restoration details

Small pond lined with ceramic tiles, originally decorated by Vanessa about 1930 but replaced with copies by Quentin.

Hollyhocks frame a cast of a Giovanni da Bologna sculpture of a modest lady in the Charleston garden. She stands in a corner beneath an apple tree.

The flint and brick garden wall with a row of casts of antique heads, many of which have been replaced over the years.

This window at Charleston frames a pot of red geraniums.

A view of Charleston from in front of the pond

Cressida Bell items for sale in the Charleston gift shop

Fabrics for sale at the Charleston gift shop, with designs by Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant

 

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