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Posts Tagged ‘Mrs. Dalloway’

What: Free Talk: “Not Quite So Kind: Woolf and the limits of kindness”
Who: Anne E. Fernald, professor of English and Women’s Studies at Fordham University
When: Nov. 1, 1:30-4:30 p.m. Lunch at 1:30, talk at 2 p.m., refreshments at 3:30.
Where: Fordham London Centre, 2 Eyre Street Hill, London
How: Reserve free tickets.

Anne Fernald

On Woolf and kindness

In Woolf’s 1925 novel, Mrs. Dalloway, kindness has its limits. When the shell-shocked veteran Septimus Warren Smith and his wife announce theirintention to seek a second opinion from Sir William Bradshaw, their doctor, Dr. Holmes turns on them with stunningly rapid bitterness “if they were rich… by all means let them go to Harley Street; if they had no confidence in him, said Dr. Holmes, looking not quite so kind” (84).

In Mrs. Dalloway and throughout her writing, Woolf explores both the limits of mere kindness and what it means to be of a kind, to be kin, stressing the common root of adjective and noun. This talk unpacks several of Woolf’s key uses of the word kind to explore how, in 2019, we might understand the complex interactions of social cues, intimacy, fondness, and mistrust in Woolf and how those stories continue to resonate today.

About Ann Fernald

A scholar of modernism with a special focus on Virginia Woolf, Fernald is the editor of the Cambridge University Press Mrs. Dalloway (2014), and one of the editors of The Norton Reader, a widely-used anthology of essays. She is the author of Virginia Woolf: Feminism and the Reader (2006), as well as articles and reviews on Woolf and feminist modernism. She is a co-editor of the journal Modernism/modernity. She occasionally updates her blog, Fernham, and can be found on twitter @fernham.

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Stefano Rozzoni, a doctoral student at the University of Bergamo in Italy, at his first international Virginia Woolf conference, the 29th, held at Mount St. Joseph University, June 6-9 this year

Editor’s Note: This is the first of 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.

It has been a little more than four months since I attended the Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf for the first time. And it is more than a decade since I first read – as a nonconventional teenage boy with a peculiar inclination for theatre and the countryside, and definitely with no clear idea of what literature meant – the legendary opening line of what soon would become one of the most important books in my life: 

“Mrs Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself.”

La Signora Dalloway

Perhaps it was the middle of August, since I vividly remember going to the library by bike, that I first asked my librarian for a copy of La Signora Dalloway – which is what we call the novel in Italy. At that time I read only a few pages before giving up the effort. It was a little confusing and difficult for me to get much meaning from those pages. Nevertheless, I did think that it was magnificently written. Also, I remember taking an oath: I would return to her works with a more mature perspective. I suppose that this was the moment when I fell in love with what was, at that time, a fascinating, a bit austere, an elegant, and above all, a nonconventional writer. 

A trio of conference attendees: Todd, Cecilia, and Michael

(It seems that outsiders get along with one another…) 

On that day I would have never, EVER, E-V-E-R thought that I would one day attend an extraordinary event such as the International Conference on Virginia Woolf. And not only one of the many, but the main reunion for Woolfian scholars who are spread all over the world. It was a very special moment, a gathering of great minds, creative researchers, and inspiring people…the kind of nonconventional (once again!) creatures you feel like you cannot do without once you have met them, and who actively contribute to making the world a better place.

A world full of Woolf readers and scholars

And when I say “the world” I am not just using one of those hyperbolic literary embellishments to sound more polite and somehow kinder than how one actually is. You do not need this façade with the Woolfians. You only need to be open and sincere, to not hesitate to show your passion, and to freely live your literary vocation. The rest follows.

During the conference one can really perceive that it is all about a generous, wide-spread community, which not only welcomes you in a surprisingly warmhearted way, but which also develops a closeness that results in an inspiring exchange of email, Facebook messages and pictures long after you have returned home. As international as this community is, it is not difficult to (unexpectedly) bump into some of its members in many other places around the world, especially during conferences. It has already happened twice to me in less then one month.

Perhaps these are the natural habitats of this valuable species, which, by the way, I would consider far from being endangered if you think that wherever you go, you can easily meet somebody going: “I love Virginia” / “Have you read The Waves?” / “I am totally a Bloomsberry!” / “Oh, Nicole Kidman, you know, the one playing Virginia Woolf in The Hours” (disclaimer: all these are original quotations that I have collected only in the last few weeks!). 

Conference participants lounge among the books at the Mercantile Library during a conference reception titled “Hours in a Library.”

The world may be big, but the Woolfian community is definitely bigger. And it was not Cincinnati which made me aware of this, for the geographical constraints of boot-shaped Italy did not prevent me from understanding how vivid the sense of belonging in this field is.

One can just look at the success of the Italian Virginia Woolf Society: despite being founded only two years ago, it has already reached more than 3,000 followers on social media, and it has organized countless sold-out events, including the first ever Italy-based Dallowday in the marvellous setting of Cappella Farnese in Bologna in June. I still remember the excitement of seeing some of the greatest and most inspiring homegrown super-stars related to Woolfian studies packed into one room. It was a real “room of her own” in which, in fact, I could not fit since there were too many people in it.

New guy in town

One thing that I have learned from this year’s conference, which I will treasure forever, is the idea that the “new guy” is to be respected and valued just like the hard-core members, whose meticulous and constant effort made the growth of the community possible. Hearing about the importance of supporting young generations of Woolfians (something I was told by several people who, in my eyes, were still very young and energetic – some rare qualities in academia!) was just one of those pats on the back that you do not often receive when taking the first steps in a new environment.

Hardworking Mount St. Joseph University students who were part of the Woolfpack that helped pull of this year’s conference

Similar to putting into practice the principles of inclusion, equality, and non-discrimination expressed in Virginia’s writing, this special Woolfpack (I owe this expression to the brilliant organizer of the conference, Drew Shannon, in reference to his talented students!) has offered me a real chance to experience a sense of hope in relation to the idea that, by committing to a daily praxis, you can act upon macropolitics, especially in relation to issues of social justice, which was the very focus of this year’s discussions.

It has been a little more than four months since the conference, but it seems to me that it is not over yet because the learning from one another, the taking and exchanging of ideas and suggestions, and above all, the chance to share our passion about literature is still ongoing.

And I bet that it will continue for a long time…

Comaraderie among a table full of Woolfians at the conference banquet

More Woolf scholars feast on food and conversation at this year’s conference banquet. At far left is organizer Drew Shannon.

Another table full of Woolfians at the conference banquet, including Kristin Czarnecki, president of the International Virginia Woolf Society, third from left.

More Woolf scholars and common readers with Stefano Rozzoni second from right.

A long shot of this year’s conference banquet, where novice and experienced Woolf scholars and common readers shared food, drink, and ideas.

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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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A Literary Tube map of London by In the Book replaces Tube stations with famous novels based on the area in which they were set. The site asks, “How many have you read?” and includes Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway.

Close-up of the Westminster Tube station near the home where Mrs. Dalloway prepares for her party.

The map was designed to act as a definitive virtual book tour of London for both locals and tourists, according to developers. They “believe literature has the wonderful ability to color a certain area like nothing else!”

Here’s what In the Book has to say about their latest creation:

The literary Tube map shows upper-class housewife Clarissa Dalloway preparing for her party near Westminster station, as well as Sherlock Holmes about to embark on another mystery near Baker Street. We can also see Roald Dahl’s famous tale The BFG two stops away from J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan, two timeless children’s classics that are situated on the central line.

Developers say they “found it fascinating how certain genres and authors were married with certain parts of the map: Dickens’ London dominates the Central Line, while gothic Victorian works Dracula, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and The Picture of Dorian Gray can all be found haunting the Piccadilly Line. Zadie Smith’s works were located on the northwest Jubilee Line while Martin Amis’ novels were more prominent around West London.”

In The Book is a personalized book company based in Hertfordshire.

Literary Tube Map

Tube Map Central

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Oh, yes, dear readers, today is #DallowayDay! And although celebrations took place last weekend, Virginia Woolf’s 1925 novel and her memorable character Clarissa Dalloway are being feted at celebrations around the world today, the official #DallowayDay, the third Wednesday in June.

If you can’t join a celebration in person, join in via Twitter. Just search #DallowayDay. And consider buying some flowers yourself.

Meanwhile, here are some notable tweets for the day.

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Sally Rooney is being touted as the premier millennial writer these days; her new novel, Conversations-with-Friends_-Sally-RooneyNormal People, is garnering rave reviews. I’m still on the library queue for that one, but I just finished Conversations with Friends and was impressed with its intelligence and insights.

I was especially delighted when I came across an early passage in which the protagonist, Frances, is at a party where people are trying to pigeonhole her culturally and politically. I’m lost in the Irish references until someone asks, “Which county do you support in the All Ireland?”

Her reply: “As a woman I have no county.”

Woolf would have loved the sly homage as she would have loved Rooney’s word play and cool take–much like her own–on women and men, life and love. Bridging the gap in time is a mental image of Frances at Mrs. Dalloway’s party.

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The English Bookshop in Uppsala, Sweden is celebrating its first ever Dalloway Day June 12.

The day will include a special talk and reading group on Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway chaired by literature professor/lecturer Daniel Ogden. Themed cake and tea will be served.

Ticket price: 70 kr (including tea and home made cake). Sign-ups will be taken in the shop, or by email at Uppsalaevents@bookshop.se

The English Bookshop, Uppsala
Svartbäcksgatan 19
S-753 32  Uppsala
Sweden

For more information, please contact Stina at stina@bookshop.se or +4618100510

See more Dalloway Day events.

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