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Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own has inspired a two-story bronze sculpture, “Beyond Thinking,” which apparently has a double meaning and is prompting discussion on social media and beyond.

It will be unveiled at Newnham College, Cambridge, on the 70th anniversary of the first degree ceremony for its female graduates, held in 1948.

Positioned at the entrance to the College’s new Dorothy Garrod building, named after the pioneering archeologist, the sculpture is the first thing that students and visitors will see.

Artist Cathy de Monchaux commissioned artwork inspired by Virgina Woolf’s ‘A Room of One’s own’ at Newnham College, Cambridge photographed by Alun Callender.

Former Turner Prize nominee Cathy de Monchaux, who is known for using vulvas in her work, created the piece, which stands out in relief from a wall and repeats an intricate motif. It is one that — depending upon the viewer — can be seen as a vulva or an open book.

While The Guardian reported that the sculpture depicts the female vulva, the college says it depicts a tower of books.

Two views

The sculpture is “standing out in relief from a wall . . . [and] repeats an intricate genital motif which can also be seen as an open book, the pages lined with the branches of a tree of knowledge,” writes The Guardian.

The sculpture “shows a vertical column of open books set into the fabric of the building. Instead of words, a vine-like structure is embedded in the pages. The spine of each open book holds a female figure gazing out at the world,” says the college news release.

Take the poll

You can decide for yourself by viewing additional photos and taking the online poll available on this CambridgshireLive post.

A Room of One’s Own (1929) was based on a talk Woolf gave to the female students of Newnham and Girton Colleges, Cambridge, in 1928.

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From Newnham College, Cambridge, comes this news via the VW ListServ.

“Newnham College, Cambridge, is an extraordinary institution with a distinguished tradition of women’s education and many achievements in the field of literature. With Sylvia Plath, Iris Murdoch, A.S.Byatt, Margaret Drabble, Katharine Whitehorn, Claire Tomalin and Ali Smith among our alumnae, we have much to celebrate in women’s writing.

To commemorate the 800th anniversary of the University of Cambridge, we are building on this heritage to expand our literary archive and develop a programme of events that will raise funds to support and enrich the current teaching of English, a subject which remains a key priority for the College.

So we are delighted to invite you to take part in a unique series of private events celebrating a key moment in women’s education and women’s writing – Virginia Woolf’s visit to Cambridge and the lectures she gave there which formed the basis of her influential book, A Room of One’s Own. (more…)

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