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Posts Tagged ‘Virginia Woolf’

Today would be Virginia Woolf’s 138th birthday. Garrison Keillor features her in today’s “The Writer’s Almanac,” a nice tribute.

But the most high profile tribute on the occasion of her birthday was in 2018, when she was honored by a Google Doodle. Created by London-based illustrator Louise Pomeroy, it generated a lot of publicity for Woolf, prompting a variety of birthday greetings from around the globe.

Links to a few from that year and others are below, along with Keillor’s 2020 tribute.

Jan. 25, 2018 Google Doodle in commemoration of Woolf’s 136th birthday

 

  • In 2017, the Royal Opera House asked for reader reactions to Woolf’s work in conjunction with Wayne McGregor’s ballet Woolf Works.
  • In 2018, the LA Times memorialized Woolf in a long article that included this sentence: “A pioneer of stream-of-conciousness writing, Woolf left behind an endlessly influential body of work,” the LA Times in 2018.
  • That same year, The Independent published Woolf quotes that pertained to various aspects of life.
  • Book Trib celebrated with previews of her 10 greatest works.
  • Last year, CR Fashion Book asked us to “Remember when Virginia Woolf Taught Us How to Get the Girl?”
  • Also in 2018, Time magazine uploaded a brief video on Woolf titled, “Today Is Virginia Woolf’s 136th Birthday: Here’s What You Should Know About Her.”

Birthday wishes from the past on Blogging Woolf

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The New York Times is calling Virginia Woolf a fashion muse. Why? Three reasons.

Reason 1: She inspired the Met’s Costume Institute exhibit

She is the inspiration for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s coming Costume Institute blockbuster and gala, “About Time: Fashion and Duration.” The May 7 – Sept. 7 exhibit explores how clothes generate temporal associations that conflate past, present, and future, with Woolf serving as the “ghost narrator” of the exhibition, according to the Met’s website. It will feature 160 pieces of women’s fashion from the last 150 years, and beyond.

Reason 2: She inspired an opera

Her novel Orlando is the basis of a new production at the Vienna State Opera that premiered Dec. 8, 2019, with costumes by Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garçons. Fittingly, its the first opera commissioned by a woman composer in the 150-year history of the company. As Kawakubo said in The New York Times, “And also I have always been interested in Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury circle and “Orlando” in particular because of its central concept of ignoring time and gender.”

Reason 3: She inspired a Givenchy couture show

Her garden at Monk’s House, her relationship with Vita Sackville-West, and Orlando were the inspiration for Clare Waight Keller’s Givenchy couture show this week in Paris.

Woolf and contemporary fashion

Woolf’s connection to the fashion world is nothing new. Over the years she has inspired designers on both sides of the pond. Here are a few worth noting:

Woolf’s relationship to fashion

Woolf herself had a complicated relationship with clothing and fashion, one that has been much discussed in academic settings and online.

Catherine Gregg explores this theme in her Bloomsbury Heritage monograph Virginia Woolf and ‘Dress Mania’: ‘the eternal & insoluble question of clothes’ (2010). In it, she discusses Woolf’s “delight in clothes and interest in conceptions of fashion and femininity” as well as her sense of being an outsider when it came to fashion, as well as her loathing for its artifice (7).

More on Woolf and fashion

Since we started looking, we have noticed numerous references that connect to the topic of Woolf and fashion. Some are documented in the following posts:

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Five radical women writers living in a square in a London neighborhood. The square is Mecklenburgh. The neighborhood is Bloomsbury. And one of the women writers is Virginia Woolf.

The book that tells the story of the five independent women writers who lived in Mecklenburgh Square at various times between the two world wars is Francesca Wade’s Square Haunting: Five Women, Freedom and London Between the Wars, just published by Faber & Faber.

Besides Woolf, the women Wade discusses include detective novelist Dorothy Sayers, modernist poet Hilda Doolittle (known as HD), the maverick classicist Jane Ellen Harrison, and the economic historian Eileen Power.

The publisher’s website describes the book this way:

Francesca Wade’s spellbinding group biography explores how these trailblazing women pushed the boundaries of literature, scholarship, and social norms, forging careers that would have been impossible without these rooms of their own.

And one reviewer called Woolf “The presiding genius of this original and erudite book,” describing her “essay ‘A Room of One’s Own’ [as] provided the rallying cry, whether consciously or not, for five remarkable women, all drawn at some point in their careers to Bloomsbury’s Mecklenburgh Square.”

Glowing reviews

I plan to obtain a copy of Square Haunting and review it here. After all, Mecklenburgh Square has a special meaning for me, as it is one of the Woolf sites I visited in 2016 when Cecil Woolf, Virginia and Leonard’s nephew who passed away last June, led me on a six-mile walking tour of Bloomsbury. It was a most memorable day.

For now, though, here are a few quotes from the glowing reviews of Wade’s first book that have already been published online.

Wade’s book rises above the publishing cliches to tell a deeper story about women’s autonomy in the early 20th century, about their work and education, politics and activism. What emerges is an eloquent, pellucid, sometimes poignant study of five female intellectuals, each of whom disdained convention to fulfil their potential as thinkers and writers. – Review by Johanna Thomas-Corr, The Guardian

It is a pleasure to fall into step with the eloquent, elegant Wade as she stamps the streets of literary London. I would give a copy to every young woman graduating from university and wondering who and how to be … There is much to inspire. – The Times Literary Supplement

Wade is adept at evoking the gritty texture of the times, taking us seamlessly from the interior lives of her subjects into the world they inhabited and back again. – Ariane Bankes, Spectator

The site of the building in Mecklenburgh Square in which Virginia Woolf lived. Cecil and I paused here during our 2016 tour of Bloomsbury.

 

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“Shakespeare’s Sisters” is an essay in Rachel Cusk’s 2019 collection, Coventry (and the first one I turned to, for obvious reasons). She begins by asking, “Can we, in the twenty-first century, identify something that could be called ‘women’s writing’?”

In that context she discusses The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir and Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own. “Between them,” she says, “they shaped the discourse of twentieth-century women’s writing,”

War vs. feelings

Eighty years later, as Cusk sees it, “a book about war is still judged more important than a book about ‘the feelings of women.’ Most significantly, when a woman writes a book about war she is lauded: she has eschewed the vast unlit chamber and the serpentine caves; there is the sense that she has made proper use of her room and her money, her new rights of property.

The woman writer who confines herself to her female ‘reality’ is by the same token often criticized. She appears to have squandered her room, her money.”

Just another women’s novel

Men have always written about the female experience–Madame Bovary and Anna Karenina come immediately to mind, as well as a number of novels by contemporary authors. I’ve seen some of these works praised to the skies, touted as the latest incarnation of the great American novel. Yet, still, too frequently, the women creating these novels are dismissed as writing just another woman’s novel.

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In England? Near Cambridge? Then you might be able to attend one or both of these talks on Virginia Woolf, presented by Literature Cambridge and Lucy Cavendish College. Here are the details:

Woolf and The Waves

Tuesday, 4 February, 1 p.m.: Rute Costa on ‘All is rippling, all is dancing’: Adapting The Waves into performance.  Founders’ Room, Lucy
Cavendish College, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, England.

Woolf and Katherine Mansfield

Tuesday, 10 March, 1 p.m.: Clare Nicholson, Literature Cambridge and
ICE, The Ambivalent Friendship of Virginia Woolf and Katherine
Mansfield: ‘A Public of Two’. Venue: Wolfson Room, Lucy Cavendish
College, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, England.

Both talks are free and open to all, town and gown.

A table full of Literature Cambridge T-shirts and information as students check in for one of the program’s 2019 summer courses. Literature Cambridge offers two new courses, Woolf’s Women and Reading the 1920s, this July.

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A Virginia Woolf Word Portrait by Akron, Ohio artist John Sokol received as a Christmas gift in 2016. The words of “A Room of One’s Own” form her visage.

How did Virginia Woolf celebrate Christmas? What thoughts did that day bring to her mind? I thumbed through the edited versions of her diaries to find out.

Editor Anne Olivier Bell includes explanations of where Virginia and Leonard were at Christmas through the years. But while the edited diaries include three entries for days near Christmas, only two of Virginia’s entries were written on either Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.

Here is a synopsis of where the Woolfs spent Christmas from 1917 through 1940, along with what they did and what Virginia wrote.

1917: Leonard and Virginia are at Asheham for Christmas, the rented country house in East Sussex where they spent weekends and holidays from 1912 until 1919. (D1 93)

1916-1922: No mention of the Woolfs’ Christmas is included in Volumes I or II of the edited diaries.

1923: Leonard and Virginia spend Christmas at Monk’s House in Rodmell, Sussex, the 16th-century home they began occupying in 1919. (D2 278)

1924: The Woolfs are again at Monk’s House, arriving on Christmas Eve and bringing Angus Davidson with them. Virginia had collaborated with Quentin Bell to produce a Christmas Supplement to the Charleston Bulletin. It recorded scenes in the life of Duncan Grant. (D2 327)

1925: The Woolfs spend Christmas at Charleston, since Monk’s House is in the midst of alterations. Virginia and Quentin again collaborated on a written piece, this time depicting scenes from the life of Clive Bell. (D3 53)

Vanessa Bell painting of Woolf knitting in an armchair at Asheham

1926: Virginia and Leonard spend Christmas in Cornwall at Eagle’s Nest, Zennor with Ka and Will Arnold-Forster. (D3 119)

1927: The Woolf take the train from London to Lewes on Christmas Eve, then drive to Charleston. They spend three nights there before going back to Monk’s House. Vanessa and Clive are away, spending Christmas with his widowed mother in Wiltshire. (D3 169)

1928-1930: No mention of Christmas is included in Volume III of the diaries for these years.

1931: The diary for this year includes the only entry written on Christmas Day. It reads in part:

Friday Xmas morning

Lytton is still alive this morning. We thought he could not live through the night. It was a moonlit night . . . This may be the turn, or may mean nothing. We are lunching with the Keynes’. Now again all ones sense of him flies out & expands & I begin to think of things I shall say to him, so strong is the desire for life—the triumph of life…

Talk to L. last night about death: its stupidity; what he would feel like if I died. He might give up the Press; but how one must be natural. And the feeling of age coming over us: & the hardship of losing friends; & my dislike of the younger generation; & then I reason, how one must understand. And we are happier now. (D4 55)

1932-1935: The Woolfs are at Monk’s House for Christmas. In 1933, Vita Sackville-West and her two sons are guests for tea. (D4 133, 195, 266, 360)

1936-1938: Virginia and Leonard are again at Monk’s House. In 1936, they have lunch and tea with Lydia and Maynard Keynes, beginning a Christmas tradition. This year, the tea is at Tilton. In 1937, the Woolfs host lunch for the four of them. In 1938, tea is at Tilton and Christmas dinner at Charleston. (D4 44, 122, 193)

1939: The Woolfs are at Monk’s House and bicycle to Charleston in a fog for Christmas dinner. (D4 252)

1940: At Monk’s HouseVirginia pens a two-part entry dated Tuesday 24 December, which contrasts the soberness of life during wartime with the natural beauty of the countryside.The second portion reads in part:

[Later] 24th Dec. Christmas Eve, & I didnt like to pull the curtains so black were Leonard & Virginia against the sky…and then the walk by the wall; & the church; & the great tithe barn. How England consoles & warms one, in the deep hollows, where the past stands almost stagnant. And the little spire across the fields…

Yes, our old age is not going to be sunny orchard drowse. By shutting down the fire curtain, though, I find I can live in the moment; which is good; why yield a moment to regret or envy or worry? Why indeed? (D5 346)

The doorway to Virginia Woolf’s bedroom on a sunny July day at Monk’s House, Rodmell, Sussex.

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This news comes from the Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain. Member Martin Ferguson Smith is the author or co-author of two new articles on pivotal figures in the Bloomsbury Group.

  1. “Clive Bell’s Memoir of Annie Raven-Hill”, English Studies 100 (2019), pp. 823-854. Illustrated. With Helen Walasek.
    The first publication of Clive Bell’s frank recollections of his first lover, the wife of the illustrator and cartoonist Leonard Raven-Hill. The affair began in 1899, when she was 35 and he not quite 18, and continued on and off until 1914, seven years after he married Vanessa Bell. The memoir, fully annotated and discussed by the authors, is published in good time for the centenary of the exclusive Memoir Club, founded on 4 March 1920. Click on http://doi.org/10.1080/0013838X.2019.1658944, then select PDF. Please note that the authors’ allowance of free views via this link is not unlimited.
  2. “A Complete Strip-off: A Bloomsbury Threesome in the Nude at Studland”, The British Art Journal 20, 2 (Autumn 2019), pp. 72-77. Illustrated. The first presentation and discussion of a remarkable collection of nude photographs, taken out of doors, of Vanessa Bell, Clive Bell, and Roger Fry at Studland, Dorset, in September 1911. Accessible online, by kind permission of the editor of BAJ, at (and only at) www.martinfergusonsmith.com under “MODERN, Articles” and “RECENT NEWS, NOVEMBER 2019”.

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