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I am reporting on the absolutely fabulous, amazing, and incredible 25th Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf hosted by the brilliant and scintillating Julie Vandivere and her devoted co-conspirators, including the intrepid and undaunted Erica Delsandro as well as the ever-present, deeply wise and dedicated Megan Hicks and Emma Slotterback and everyone else who worked so hard to create something so memorable and durable — a conference that is a gift to marvel over and recall with great pleasure.

Cecil Woolf, Jean Moorcroft Wilson and Vara Neverow at #WoolfConf15

Cecil Woolf, Jean Moorcroft Wilson and Vara Neverow at #WoolfConf15

The conference was truly a work of art in every possible sense. It was as if every piece of the conference was curated and placed exactly where it was supposed to be. (And Thursday evening at the conference also included an actual and truly lovely art exhibit/art competition where attendees imbibed delicious beverages and snacked on heavenly hors d’oeuvres while chatting and mingling and looking at the works.)

Brilliant papers, panels, plenaries

The papers, panels and plenaries were all inspiring and dynamic and brilliant. The opening reception was gracious and intimate. Cecil Woolf and Jean Moorcroft Wilson arrived at the conference on Thursday with numerous copies of Bloomsbury Heritage Series pamphlets.

Bloomsburg itself was beautiful, as was the university campus, and the restaurants in the town were delightful. The performance of Septimus and Clarissa, with the playwright, Ellen McLaughlin, taking the part of the older Clarissa, was stupendous, and Mrs. Dalloway’s Party, which followed the performance, offered an abundance of tasty tidbits as well as hilarious opportunities for the attendees to try on a variety of vintage hats, activities resulting in many, many photographs. The food at the conference was abundant and delicious. At one break, mounds of whipped cream, fresh strawberries and sponge cake were served.

And the banquet itself was nourishing for both the mind and body, a wonderful chance for creating new friendships and spending time with those one sees so rarely. Jean Moorcroft Wilson interviewed Cecil Woolf at the banquet in a wonderfully playful but also quite substantive fashion — one of the many high points of the conference. And, as always, the Virginia Woolf Players read from Woolf’s works as the closing event of the gathering.

BU undergrad panel 2

Ashley Michler, undergraduate at Bloomsburg University, presents her paper.

Bonding near and far

The shuttle bus to and from Newark gave Woolfians coming from afar a chance to bond with each other on the journey. And the weather was, of course, perfect.

To have so many Woolfians gathered in one place is always a peak moment of the year for me and, I am sure, for many others. To also have at the conference, in keeping with its inclusive title, so many scholars who study Woolf’s female contemporaries was a superb new feature and one that clearly will influence future research and create new connections among the various interwoven webs that connect Woolf to other modernists.

That there were so many new faces was particularly lovely. The newcomers ranged from the modernist scholars to the high-school students who presented their papers with aplomb and confidence and from the graduate students who had never before attended this conference to the common readers who are always most welcome to join the Woolfian pack. Rumor has it that the annual Woolf conference is the very best first conference for graduate students because it is the most nurturing, and I can’t say I was surprised. But this one was particularly open to a range of participants.

Jane Marcus memorial

Conference participants had the opportunity to add their written tribute to Jane Marcus in a special journal.

Reflections on two scholars

In addition to all the ebullient excitement of the conference, there was also a time of reflection. At the Thursday evening reception, Jane Marcus was remembered. Linda Camarasana, Mark Hussey, Jean Mills, J. Ashley Foster, and Suzette Henke all spoke and shared with those present their memories of a formidable and magnificent Woolfian who, among her many achievements as a teacher and a friend and a scholar was bold enough to challenge the conventional perception of Woolf as an aesthete and a mad woman and was among those scholars who brought Woolf’s work and her feminism, socialism and pacifism into focus in ways that will continue to endure. Jane Marcus’s landmark works include Art and Anger: Reading like a Woman and Virginia Woolf and the Languages of Patriarchy.

Also remembered at the conference with sorrow and gratitude was Shari Benstock, some of whose most familiar works are Women of the Left Bank, Paris 1900-1940, Textualizing the Feminine: On the Limits of Genre and the co-edited A Handbook of Literary Feminisms. These two women truly shaped the way we read Woolf and her contemporaries. I was very glad that both were acknowledged.

See the conference on social media

For those of you who weren’t at the conference and would want to “see” it, you should check the social media. There have been lots of postings on the conference’s Facebook page, on the Blogging Woolf Facebook page and on the International Virginia Woolf Society Facebook page, as well as on the Blogging Woolf website. You can also go online on Twitter at https://twitter.com/hashtag/woolfconf15 or with the app at #woolfconf15 to see comments about the conference.VW books

Share your recollections with The Miscellany

Finally, for those of you who want to share your remembrances of Jane Marcus and Shari Benstock, I encourage you to send me your recollections for The Virginia Woolf Miscellany. I will be compiling these contributions to a section of a future issue. Remembrances of all aspects of the conference itself are also very welcome.

I am deeply grateful to all those who worked so hard to make this unforgettable conference possible. This was a truly stellar labor of love, and one that will always be cherished by those who attended.

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Woolf seminar at SCSU

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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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Editor’s Note: The 21st Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf ended yesterday. Vara Neverow, professor of English and women’s studies at Southern Connecticut State University and editor of the Virginia Woolf Miscellany,” attended the Glasgow event and shared her thoughts about it via the VWoolf Listserv and her Facebook page. She asked that Blogging Woolf share them here as well, and I do so gladly.

Jane Goldman, Bryony Randall, Derek Ryan and Rhian Williams organized a spectacular conference on Virginia Woolf. The 21st conference, held at the University of Glasgow, was amazing.

The conference was cram-packed with fabulous events, plenaries, performances, panels and invaluable opportunities to mingle with friends new and old. The attendees included numerous Woolfian devotees who had been to every annual conference and those who had never been to any conference before. There were internationally famous scholars, independent scholars and those who had just completed their undergraduate degrees. The registrants came from all over the globe and gathered in Glasgow for just four unforgettable days.

The setting of the conference was itself awe-inspiring. As we arrived, those who had never visited before were amazed by “all the domes, spires, turrets, and pinnacles of [the University of Glasgow],” to modify Virginia Woolf’s own words in Orlando. Hunter Halls, the vast space where the registration was located, along with the continental breakfasts and snacks and receptions, boasted leaded windows and stunning Corinthian pillars with gilded capitals.

Books and artwork for sale

There, publishers offered their coveted books at significant discounts (including the amazing price cut offered by Cambridge University Press). Stuart N. Clarke and Stephen Barkway of the Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain displayed VWSGB items as well as the Birthday Lectures pamphlets and an array of highly desirable volumes, including many from the Hogarth Press.

Cecil Woolf and Jean Moorcroft Wilson

Along with the Oxford and Edinburgh presses, so too Suzanne Bellamy exhibited her artwork for sale and Cecil Woolf and JeanMoorcroft Wilson (wearing, of course, her gorgeous gowns and robes in shades of purple or rose or iridescent green and embroidered or accented with peacock fabric from Liberty) displayed their wares—the Bloomsbury Heritage Series works—which included their most recent publications: Mark Hussey’s I’d Make It Penal’, the Rural Preservation Movement in Virginia Woolf’s `Between the Acts’, Emily Kopley’s Virginia Woof and the Thirties Poets and Mary Ann Caws’ How Vita Matters. Also on display was the newly minted edition of Mark Hussey’s invaluable Virginia Woolf: A to Z. Forms for joining the International Virginia Woolf Society were available as well.

Live on stage in Bute Hall

Bute Hall was the site where artist and Woolf scholar Suzanne Bellamy directed a pageant based on Miss LaTrobe’s event in Between the Acts. The performance included Jane Goldman as both Mrs. Manresa and Queenie D. Leavis, Krystyna Colburn as the Narrator and Mark Hussey as Reverend Streatfield. The audience, at Bellamy’s urging, provided mooing to replicate the cows’ voices in the novel. Bellamy’s massive canvas, which also drew on Between the Acts, was displayed in the space for the entire conference.

Bute Hall, where the plenary events and a number of panels were held, was architectural eye-candy too. An ornate space with lovely stained glass windows honoring men of letters (but, alas, no women), this was the site of the Friday evening production of Vanessa and Virginia, a play by Elizabeth Wright based on Susan Sellers’ novel of the same title.

Plenaries and panels: From politics to pedagogy and more

Among the other plenaries were Judith Allen’s “‘But . . . I had said ‘but too often.’ Why But?,” which investigated the politics of Woolf’s use of repetition primarily in A Room of One’s Own and Three Guineas, and Michael Whitworth’s brilliant talk, “Woolf, Context, and Contradiction,” which addressed explored formalist, political and historical approaches of editing and annotating Woolf’s work.

Other plenaries included Kirsty Gunn’s “Sentence by Sentence: The Art of Making Fiction Real” and the roundtable “Queering Woolf and Pedagogy,” organized by Madelyn Detloff and featuring Erin Douglas, Kathryn Simpson and Nick Smart. On Sunday, there were two plenary events: “Confronting War: Approaches to the Contradictory Topics of War and Peace in Woolf’s Life and Work” (chaired by Karen Levenback and Jane Wood and featuring Eileen Barrett, Stuart N. Clarke, Lolly Ockerstrom and [in absentia], Vara Neverow) and David Bradshaw’s and Laura Marcus’s “Class Contradictions”

The thread of the contradictory was celebrated, not only in the presentations at the plenaries, but in the sheer multiplicities of panels. Reading through the program and trying to decide which panel to attend caused one to wish to possess surrogate selves and send them to several sessions simultaneously. The internal debate for each of the attendees no doubt sounded something like: “Yes, I’ll go to that one—oh, but, no, I have to hear that paper—on the other hand, perhaps….” And then, of course, there were seductive options unrelated to the conference itself like visiting the Charles Rennie Macintosh House.

Banquet in the City Chambers

The traditional culminating events were held on Saturday evening. This year, the event was two-fold: the reception (an event generously sponsored by the Glasgow City Council) and the subsequent dinner. Buses shuttled the attendees to the City Centre where we disembarked before yet another architecturally awesome building, the City Chambers. Cecil Woolf spoke at the beginning of the dinner, and the Virginia Woolf Players read from Woolf’s work at the end. Sated, the gathering of guests dissolved into small groups and returned to their hotels and hostels.

The following day, Woolfians met early before the panels began for a meeting regarding the 22ndConference: Interdisciplinary/Multidisciplinary Woolf, to be organized by Ann Martin at the University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Canada. Through the day, there were farewells and hugs and partings. Some went to airports or train stations; some stayed on a few days and visited friends or explored Glasgow; some went on an adventure to the Isle of Skye. The conference was over.

“Dispersed [were] we” until another year.

Selected conference papers will be published by Clemson

One hopes that those who made the conference possible will be able to take a few short breaths before they fling themselves into other projects. The organizers of Contradictory Woolf deserve the deepest gratitude of all Woolfians—not just those who were able to attend but also those who could not, for all will—thanks to Wayne Chapman and Clemson University Digital Press—be able to read the selected papers of Contradictory Woolf in the conference volume (and by the way, the insert in the conference folder indicates that submissions should be sent to Derek Ryan d.ryan.1@research.gla.ac.uk and Stella Bolaki stella.bolaki@glasgow.ac.uk) by Aug. 10, 2011.

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Vara Neverow

Vara Neverow

If you are a follower of Blogging Woolf,  you may know that since the blog debuted nearly two years ago, I have been its only author.

That is about to change. Three Woolfians — each with a unique perspective — are joining the blog as contributors. They include:

Dr. Vara S. Neverow, English professor at Southern Connecticut University, managing editor of the Virginia Woolf Miscellany and editor with Mark Hussey of several collections, including Virginia Woolf: Emerging Perspectives, Virginia Woolf: Themes and Variations and Virginia Woolf Miscellanies. Vara teaches courses about Woolf and feminist theory.

Alice Lowe
Alice Lowe

Alice Lowe, common reader,  Woolf conference presenter and contributor to the Virginia Woolf Miscellany and the Virginia Woolf Society Bulletin. Alice, who lives in San Diego, Calif., has a special interest in Woolf in contemporary fiction and — like Woolf — is an avid walker.

Megan Branch

Megan Branch

Megan Branch, sophomore English major at Fordham University and publicity intern for Woolf and the City and the Oxford University Press Blog, where she posted about this year’s Woolf conference. Megan, a New York City transplant who sometimes longs for the warm climate and open spaces of her native Florida, is a huge fan of  Twitter and has a blog of her own.

I am looking forward to reading their contributions — and I hope you will follow along as Vara, Alice and Megan add their individual voices to Blogging Woolf.

Now I invite you to add your voice to the blog as well :

  • Add your comment to any post by clicking on the “Leave a Comment” link at the bottom of a post
  • Become a contributor by sending an e-mail to Blogging Woolf. Just click on the e-mail link in the sidebar on the right.

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