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Posts Tagged ‘utopia’

This is the fourth in 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.

Editor’s Note: Feb. 1 is the deadline for the call for papers for the 30th Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf: Profession and Performance, which will be held at the University of South Dakota in Vermilion, South Dakota June 11-14. Get the details.

By Profa. Dra. Maria Aparecida de Oliveira

The Woolf Conference happens in a friendly, warm and welcoming environment. It really enhances the sense of community. It is an international community of scholars from different parts of the globe to share knowledge on a writer we all love. The conference enriches our knowledge not only about Woolf, but also in relation to other writers and to different approaches, theories and tendencies.

Stefano Rozzoni of Italy and Maria Oliveira of Brazil at the 29th Annual International Virginia Woolf Conference at Mount St. Joseph University in Cincinnati, Ohio, June 6-9, 2019.

The great quality of papers forces and challenges us to do our best. Consequently, it helps us to improve our research. By following how famous scholars undertake their own researches, it teaches us new ways to develop our studies.

I joined the conference in 2011 in Glasgow and it has been such a huge pleasure, because it inspires my work and my research on Woolf. It has also been a great space for collaboration. I met many people to whom we have collaborated in different panels, projects and books.

Thinking against the current

The 29th Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf aimed at discussing Virginia Woolf and Social Justice and was a great opportunity for us from Brazil to denounce the atrocities happening in our country under the administration of the current president, the unnameable.

Davi Pinho and I were thinking against the current and thinking back through Three Guineas to discuss our three dots: Education, LGBTQ+ and the Environment. That was only June and our situation has just been worse and worse, first fire in the Amazon, now an oil leak on the precious beaches of Northeast.

The conference was an invitation to think together about social justice, inclusivity, utopias and the future of humanities in our current political climate.

It must be emphasized that Brazil’s political situation is an effect of what is going on in the United States. So, we are together in this conference as sisters in solidarity, fighting and resisting the tyrants in power.

In what follows, I will present my view of the conference. Unfortunately, it is limited, because I could not attend all the panels, as I wished.

Woolf, age, ageism, and activism

Beth Rigel Daugherty, Leslie Hankins and Diane Gillespie presented a panel on “Portraying and Projecting Age, Ageism, and Activism” on day one.

The first panel I attended was “Portraying and Projecting Age, Ageism and Activism,” by Diane Gillespie, Leslie Hankins and Beth Daugherty, Woolf’s muses.  Diane Gillespie’s paper was a very interesting one, on Leonard and Woolf and Age/ism.  Leslie’s subject was about silent movies and the suffragette movement, it was an impressive panel, as always.

Following that, Beth Rigel Daugherty gave a very moving talk on “Virginia Woolf’s Aging Women and Me,” how Woolf’s novels are populated by women who struggle with the battle of aging – Mrs. Dalloway, Mrs. Ramsay, Miss La Trobe, Mrs. McNab, Lady Parry, the lady by the window – all of them losing their minds. The author reminds us that “aging is also a fight, a great battle on a daily basis.”

Woolf, African-American Modernism and Utopias

Sayaka Okumura of Japan and Maria Oliveira at the 29th Annual Conference on Virginia Woolf.

Elizabeth Abel in her brilliant lecture “The Smashed Mosaic: Virginia Woolf and African American Modernism” talked about Woolf in relation to James Baldwin’s A Biography. Again, utopia was the main issue when she discussed “Cruising Utopia: The then and the of Queerness Futurity.” She said that Queerness is our future and hope.

Abel stated: “Forget the room of one’s own, write in the kitchen, lock yourselves in the bathroom…” and I continue… write in the bus, in a library, in a café, in a garden, by the sea, in a forest, by the river… but write yourselves, inscribe your bodies in history.”

J. Ashley Foster gave an inspiring paper on “Three Guineas and Developing the Standing and Digital Humanities Exhibition Surveying Utopias: A Critical Exploration,” linking war and peace to a feminist and modernist pedagogy inspired by Woolf.

Foster brought up Jane Marcus to say that a feminist pedagogy allows us to navigate between past and present, a kind of communication that enables us to perceive history in a different way. How can feminism construct another plot for history, social justice and hope? In this case, utopia is more than necessary.

Woolf, #MeToo, and suffragists

Dr. Anne Fernald and Dr. Tonya Krouse presented a delightful discussion on the plenary session “Woolf in the Era of #Metoo movement, asking how do we think of women in this frame? How do we connect Woolf, the second wave of feminism and the movement #Metoo?

They reminded us that in the 1970s, the feeling was of shame, women were not to be believed, so they remained silenced. Now, women are learning how to speak up, how to get together and fight. The authors also reminded us of the transformative power of literature to fight for social justice.

In the panel “Suffragist, Public and Private,” Eleanor McNees delivered a provocative and stimulating paper “Women’s Rights and Family Feuds: A Room of One’s Own, The Pargiters and Suffragist Responses to James Fitzjames Stephen,” linking Woolf to the first wave of feminism and to founding texts of that time, such as Subjection of Women, by John Stuart Mill and James Fitzjames Stephen, who fought for liberty, equality and fraternity. Moreover, McNees discussed Woolf’s participation in the women suffrage journal, her lecture for the London National Society for Women’s Service in 1931.

Mi Jeong Lee in her brilliant paper “Re-mapping Public and Private Specters of the Suffragette in Mrs. Dalloway’s Urban Parks,” analyzed the parks as public spaces for male imperialists, while women occupied domestic spaces, when women appear in the parks, we have the homeless, the old woman, the beggar in Mrs. Dalloway, a woman of no age, no sex.

Woolf and inclusivity

During the plenary Erica Delsandro and Kristin Czarnecki argued about “Woolf and Inclusivity” and they raised many questions:

  • Who is included and how?

    Erica Delsandro and Kristen Czarnecki at a plenary on Woolf and inclusivity at the 29th Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf last June.

  • As you engage in the work of inclusivity, or more particularly, the work of decolonizing the academy, what challenges are you encountering?
  • Are inclusive projects legible to our professional communities?
  • How are such projects approached, read and valued?
  • Are we shaking, challenging the scholarly canon?
  • What are the benefits of undertaking inclusive reading projects, projects that often cut across the conventional analytical categories in the field?
  • Does this approach to reading and research impact your teaching and your pedagogical choices? If so, How?

Adriana Varga presented a very instigating paper about “Alienation: A View of Social Justice in Tony Morrison’s Reading of Mrs. Dalloway” that raised a lot of discussions on the anxiety of influence, but also on how we can read Woolf backwards, reading Woolf through Tony Morrison and, in my case, through Clarice Lispector. That paper brought a lot of food for thought. It was really inspiring.

In the last day we had a plenary discussion “Woolf and the Future of the Humanities in our Current Political Climate,” with Mark Hussey, Vara Neverow, Madelyn Detloff, Benjamin Hagen, Susan Wegener, and Laci Mattison.

That was a moment to think about Woolf and utopia, since we live in moments that we are fighting and resisting and there are moments of paralysis, of hostility, of political despair. That is the Brazilian scenario right now, a moment of political despair and we doubt about our future.

Is the Woolf conference headed to Brazil as we fight against the mainstream across the globe?

We finished the plenary discussing Woolf and inclusivity, how much is it including or excluding? Isn’t time for us to discuss Woolf’s racism, imperialism and anti-Semitism?

We talked about Woolf in global studies and Woolf in different languages, as Stefano argued. I know that now there is an Italian Virginia Woolf Society and another one in Korea.

I would love to take the Woolf conference to Brazil and we are starting to organize that. It would be also be divine to see a conference in China, India, Africa. At the end of the conference, I feel that social justice led us to utopia, to hope for better days and to keep fighting and thinking against the mainstream.

Read more in the series:

Comaraderie among natty young Woolf scholars at the Saturday evening banquet at the 29th Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf. L-R Todd Nordgren of the U.S., Cecilia Servatius of Austria, and Michael Schrimper of the U.S.

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