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Posts Tagged ‘Three Guineas’

The Bulletin of the New York Public Library dating from 1897 through 1977 is now online and includes the Virginia Woolf Issue, Issue 2, Winter 1977.

This issue features the Stephen family on the cover, along with multiple articles on The Years and essays that examine Three Guineas.

A special treat in the issue is Woolf’s hand-drawn genealogy of the Pargiter family that appears on the reverse of the Contents page, Page 155 in the PDF. Issue 2 begins on page 152 in the PDF numbering.

Thanks to Vara Neverow and the VWoolf Listserv for news of this online resource.

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three guineas websiteIn the 1930s, Virginia Woolf began to collect newspaper clippings about the relationships between the sexes in England, France, Germany and Italy. She pasted these clippings into scrapbooks that became the foundation from which she developed two of her works — her novel The Years (1937) and her pacifist-feminist polemic Three Guineas (1938).¹

In 1983, Brenda Silver produced the foundational work on these manuscript materials when she published Virginia Woolf’s Reading Notebooks, a volume that summarized more than 40 volumes of Woolf’s notes, including those compiled during the 1930s. Because Silver’s work covers such vast territory, it can be described as “a dated list of the contents of each of the notebooks.” As a result, it gives us an inside look at what Woolf was reading as she was writing her novels and essays.

Although it is out of print, hard copies of Virginia Woolf’s Reading Notebooks can be obtained from second-hand sellers and libraries. Now Woolf scholars and common readers everywhere can once again obtain access to the notebooks Woolf used when writing Three Guineas through the Three Guineas Reading Notebooks website. The password-protected site requires users to purchase an annual subscription. To do so , send an email to Vara Neverow.

What the site gives subscribers is online access to fragile archival material that one would be forced to travel to England to access. Included are digital images of three of Woolf’s reading notebooks that are part of the University of Sussex’s Monk’s House Papers.

According to Neverow, Merry Pawlowski conceived the concept of preserving these documents digitally in the 1990s. Pawloski and12th Woolf conference collected papers Neverow worked together on the project and originally launched a website created and hosted at California State University, Bakersfield until last year. The website has now been transferred to Southern Connecticut State University.

In addition to the Three Guineas Reading Notebooks, two digital volumes of selected papers from Woolf conferences are also available at the site, and neither is password-protected:

  • Woolf: Across the Generations: Selected Papers from the Twelfth Annual Conference on Virginia Woolf (2002)14th Woolf conference selected papers
  • Back to Bloomsbury: Selected Papers from the 14th Annual Conferences on Virginia Woolf (2004)

Both are downloadable as PDFs at no cost.

¹This is briefly discussed in Mark Hussey’s Preface to Harcourt’s annotated edition of Three Guineas (2006).

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It’s D-Day in Conneaut, Ohio. And as I sit here at my kitchen table under a sun-drenched window, I can hear — and feel — the loud drone of airplanes overhead and the gunfire nearby.

The invasion, complete with a beach landing, explosions in the sand, shots fired by opposing forces and airplanes flying low overhead, started promptly at 3 p.m., right on schedule.

The D-Day reenactment has been staged in Conneaut since 1999. The location was chosen because the township park’s 250-yard-long public beach and adjacent sloping terrain are said to closely resemble Omaha Beach in Normandy, France.

As I sit just four blocks away from the battle site and listen to the sounds of make-believe war, I wonder: What was it like for those who actually lived through World War II and experienced the sounds of a real war overhead?

Virginia Woolf described it this way in “Thoughts on Peace in an Air Raid” (1940):  “It is a queer experience, lying in the dark and listening to the zoom of a hornet, which may at any moment sting you to death. . .The drone of the planes is now like the sawing of a branch overhead. Round and round it goes, sawing and sawing at a branch directly above the house…A bomb drops. All the windows rattle.”

I could walk down to the park bluff to get closer, to see the “invasion” myself. But it’s easier to imagine the reality here in my kitchen than at the actual site.

From past experience, I know that the crowd of spectators sipping cold drinks and licking ice cream cones makes it difficult to imagine a real battle, where people kill and are killed. And the uniformed volunteers who portray the German and Allied soldiers of June 6, 1944, take so much obvious enjoyment in the weekend’s events that they prevent me from suspending my disbelief in the proceedings.

Last night, for example, we saw a man in full uniform riding through town in an open military Jeep. His posture, his heavy wool uniform on a hot summer afternoon, the jaunty tilt of his cap and the expression on his face as he suavely steered the vintage vehicle, said it all. He was so puffed up with the importance of his imaginary role in the upcoming “battle” that my companion and I turned to each other and laughed. Out loud.

Under the laughter, though, I recalled Virginia Woolf’s statement in Three Guineas (1938) that “wearing pieces of metal, or ribbon, coloured hoods or gowns, is a barbarity which deserves the ridicule which we bestow upon the rites of savages.”

My fear that some of those watching the events today may think that war is exciting, glorious, even fun, also prevents me from attending. I remember that in Three Guineas Woolf recognizes that “war is a profession; a source of happiness and excitement.”

And I read with dismay that as part of the event, children will build their own miniature Omaha Beach in the sand. I am not sure what to make of that.

It is true that veterans are recognized and honored at the events of this weekend in our small city. And a few remaining WW II vets in town have been interviewed for a commemorative DVD.

But I remember Woolf’s response to war, and I am forced to stop and think again. I recall the fear she shared in her diaries as she heard — and sometimes watched at close proximity — German planes fly over the Sussex countryside during the second World War. And I recall her plea for peace in “Thoughts on Peace in an Air Raid.”

Those thoughts sound more loudly in my head than the airplanes. Or the gunfire. Or the explosions on the beach. And Woolf says such thoughts are more powerful than all three.

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A year or so after the war…it cannot be said that it is war…it cannot be said that it is war, it cannot be said that it is peace, it can be said it is postwar.

 Stevie Smith
The Holiday

While I was working on my master’s degree at Monmouth University, my favorite course was Dr. Kristin Bluemel’s seminar on intermodernism. Not surprisingly, intermodernism is a term coined by Dr. Bluemel for the, arguably, pretty neglected years between between the two world wars (although Intermodernism cannot only be defined by time).

During this time, novels, memoirs, and essays are being written by writers as varied as George Orwell, Storm Jameson, Dorothy Richardson, Stevie Smith, and Stella Gibbons. Virginia Woolf certainly could, and I would argue, be claimed as an intermodernist writer (we read Three Guineas, and I used it to write my seminar paper, working towards defining an intermodern sex-gender system using Woolf alongside Phyllis Bottome’s anti-fascist, feminist, novel The Mortal Storm).

Bluemel began writing about and attempting to define what Intermodernism is in her 2004 book George Orwell & the Radical Eccentrics: Intermodernism in Literary London. She also edits The Space Between, an academic journal dedicated to the literature and culture of the years between the wars.

In her book, and during our seminars, she argued the writers of this time period fashioned their work and reflected on the emotions of a nation in the aftermath of World War I. Readers of Woolf certainly see this influence in Three Guineas and, especially, Mrs. Dalloway.

Intermodernist writing was often focused on the working and middle classes, socialist and/or “radical” political leanings, and a more “middlebrow” writing style. Often, these writers are somehow “othered” based on their sexuality, ethnicity, or lack of class privilege.

In George Orwell & The Radical Eccentrics, Bluemel argues that these writers are “grounded in the experiences of England’s working-class and ‘working middle-class’ cultures” which do not fit into the same categories that popularized, privileged writers like W.H. Auden, T.S. Eliot, and James Joyce do (Bluemel 2). Their writing attends to politics, whether the domestic life in Woolf or Bottome’s novels, the working class of Orwell’s The Road To Wigan Pier, or the caste system of Mulk Raj Anand’s Untouchable.

Critics have struggled to place many of these writers within the canon. Many, like Woolf, share some aspects of the modernist aesthetic, but cannot truly be prescribed to that label. Intermodernism isn’t quite just a time period that begins and ends between the wars, but more a style of socially conscious writing and discourse shared amongst writers of varying ethnicities, genders, levels of privilege, and politics. Many of these writers, Woolf included, have drifted in and out of the canon, fates after their death attached to those outside of academia.

Bluemel continues the discussion of this fascinating literary period in the new anthology she edited Intermodernism: Literary Culture in Mid-Twentieth-Century Britain, which brings together leading scholars on the period to further discuss the merits of the period. If the Blogging Woolf community is interested, I have plenty more to say about Intermodernism.

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woolfs-deskDid Virginia Woolf really do all of her writing standing up?

A student asked me that question recently, and I had to think for a moment before I could give her an answer.

We had just finished reading Three Guineas for a class I teach on gender roles in war and peace. The students were not familiar with Woolf. Some of them admitted being afraid to read her novels, as they had heard she was “difficult.” Most had not read more than a snippet or two of A Room of One’s Own.

The student raised the question of Woolf’s writing posture when we took a break in our discussion of Three Guineas. She had read that Woolf did all of her writing standing up, she said, and found it unbelievable that Woolf — or anyone — would be able to do so much writing on foot. It sounded exhausting.

I was excited by her question. It meant that despite the rumored or real “difficulty” of Woolf’s writing, this student had appreciated her enough to find out more about her.

I told my student that I thought Woolf had used a stand-up desk as a young woman living in her parents’ home in Kensington. I mentioned, too, that I recalled seeing a regular desk and chair in Woolf’s writing lodge at Monk’s House in Sussex.

Later, I found a photo posted on Flikr by Renaud Camus that pictures the desk. The Smith College Libraries Woolf in the World online exhibit also links an image of Robert Browning’s portable desk to a quote from one of Woolf’s letters in which she asks for “a desk that shuts up… something that would hold all my letters, papers, ink pots, & shut up & lock, & have drawers, & harmonise with my sister’s decorations.”

And, of course, one can order one’s own Woolf-alike stand-up desk, as long as one has the necessary stamina for writing on foot, as well as the requisite funds.

Read more about where writers write and the routines they follow — including a mention of Woolf’s — on the BBC Web site.

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