Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Have we killed the self-sacrificing Angel in the House? If an exhibit by photographer Lanie McNulty is to be believed, the answer is no.

Virginia Woolf advocated for such a death. In “Professions for Women” read to the Women’s Service League in 1931 and published posthumously in The Death of the Moth and Other Essays (1942), she wrote that “Killing the Angel in the House was part of the occupation of a woman writer.”

A woman writer, she believed, had to kill off the respectable Victorian “angel,” popularized by Coventry Patmore in his 1858 poem. The angel, an ideal woman who lives to serve others, particularly males, neglects her own personal needs and certainly never considers herself to have any professional aspirations.

Pandemic forces women into angel roles

McNulty, a New York based photographer and social activist, was inspired by the current pandemic to turn her lens on domestic interiors. In doing so, she produced stunning photographs that depict women at home alone and with children, husbands, parents, and friends.

Created in collaboration with her subjects, McNulty’s photographs starkly expose what the pandemic year has made clearer than ever — that women play an outsized role trying to keep it all together. Her photos make up the exhibit “The Angel in the House.”

McNulty is not the first to make a play on the death of the angel for an artistic purpose. A literary journal titled Killing the Angel (pictured above) launched in 2013 but now appears to be defunct.

Exhibit and book

Now on display at New York’s Planthouse, The Angel in the House opened today and runs through Oct. 23 by appointment.

If you can’t make it to the exhibit, you can buy the book.

The 31st Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf, with its theme “Virginia Woolf and Ethics,” has issued a call for papers, with 250-word abstracts due Jan. 31, 2022.

Next year’s conference, which will be held June 9-12, 2022, at Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas, aims to promote conversation about the topic across disciplinary boundaries. Conference organizers hope to explore Woolf’s engagement with specific ethical issues in her writing.

These may include, but are not limited to, war and pacifism, human rights, human–animal relations, environmental ethics, bioethics, fascism, empire, patriarchy,
racism and bigotry.

Woolf in relation to ethical approaches

The theme also suggests a reconsideration of Woolf in relation to various ethical approaches. For instance, participants may wish to read Woolf’s thought in conversation with care ethics, narrative ethics, moral psychology, moral imagination, moral luck, virtue ethics, deontology, utilitarianism, communitarianism, liberalism, religious or spiritual ethics (Christian, Quaker, Jewish, Buddhist, Indigenous, etc.), or other moral theories or concepts.

Papers might address the moral philosophy of Woolf’s milieu, including the thought of Russell, Moore or Leslie Stephen. Participants may wish to consider Woolf’s thought with continental theorists who address ethical concerns.

Organizers invite participants to consider Woolf in relation to broader ethical considerations, such as the relation of ethics to reading practices (or to literature); ethics of teaching, scholarly community and academic life; and secularism, religion and/or mysticism in Woolf’s thinking.

Woolf as an ethical theorist

Papers may also address reading Woolf as an ethical (or social or political) theorist. What might a Woolfian ethic look like? How might we read Woolf’s aesthetic practices in ethical terms (e.g. narrative indeterminacy and the cultivation of certain
forms of attention, moral imagination, or empathy)? How does Woolf navigate competing demands of justice, individual liberty and rights, and collectivity and social responsibility, in her fiction and non-fiction?

Non-English presentations welcome

The conference welcomes proposals for presentations in languages other than English to foster a more open exchange at this international conference. A few caveats: the organizers ask that all abstracts and proposals be submitted in English. Also, to ensure a more effective exchange among all participants, we ask that non-English presentations be accompanied by a handout of main points in English as well as (if possible) a PowerPoint presentation in English. Note that Q&A sessions will be conducted in English as well.

Where to send abstracts

Abstracts (250 words) should be sent to Virginia.Woolf@lamar.edu by 31
January 2022. Check the call for papers for more details.

Participants among the books at the Mercantile Library during a reception at the 29th Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf, the last in-person Woolf conference before the pandemic hit.

Elizabeth Bowen

Literature Cambridge’s season on brilliant women writers of the early twentieth century continues through December, with four more online sessions scheduled.

The Women Writers Season focuses on writers in English, with most based in Britain. It provides the opportunity to discover some wonderful writers who are not read today, and to study them with leading scholars.

Each online study session has a live lecture with a leading scholar and a seminar on Zoom.

Here are the details:

  • Trudi Tate on Elizabeth Bowen, The House in Paris (1935). Saturday, 18 September 2021, 10 a.m. BT. Please note that this time is different than those of the other sessions. Lit Cambridge hopes to repeat this lecture at 6 p.m. at a later date. Book here.

    Katherine Mansfield portrait by Anne Estelle Rice

  • Claire Davison on Winifred Holtby, Land of Green Ginger. ‘Life’s Adventure’: Winifred Holtby and Post-Suffrage Feminism. Saturday, 23 October 2021, 6 p.m. BT. Book here.
  • Isobel Maddison on Katherine Mansfield and Elizabeth Von Arnim: Complementary Cousins. Saturday, 13 November 2021, 6 p.m. BT. Book here.
  • Claire Davison on Katherine Mansfield and the Russians. Saturday, 11 December 2021, 6 p.m. BT. Book here.

Cost

The cost of each session ranges from £26 at full price to £22 for students and members of pertinent societies.

 

The Last Day of Virginia Woolf. That’s one of the proposed titles for Elfrida Wing’s next novel in English writer William Boyd’s Trio, a romp that takes place on a Brighton film set in 1968.

Elfrida, the director’s wife, is one of three protagonists whose stories are related in alternating chapters of Boyd’s novel.

An alcoholic and ten years past her last success, she was dubbed “the new Virginia Woolf” when her first novel was touted as a modern reworking of Mrs. Dalloway. She’s haunted by Woolf, doesn’t even like her novels, was “underwhelmed” by Mrs. Dalloway.

“She could see no similarity between her spirit, intellect and style as a novelist and Virginia Woolf’s. And that was why she stopped writing, she supposed. It was all Virginia Woolf’s fault.”

A revelation about Woolf’s final day

Then one day, even before her first drink, she has a revelation to write about Woolf’s final day. At a bookstore she asks for a biography and is told there isn’t one, as “Nobody’s much interested in that Bloomsbury set.”

The bookseller mentions A Writer’s Diary, which is out of print, but he tracks down a copy for her. She also buys a pamphlet, Virginia Woolf’s East Sussex, by a local author.

This is before the Woolf revival, before the published diary and letters and Quentin Bell’s biography. Elfrida’s agent is skeptical of the project: “She’s a bit passe, no?” But she’s undeterred.

In Rodmell she walks down the lane to Monks House, “trying to summon up the spirit of Virginia Woolf—and failing.” Peering over the wall from the churchyard, she sees “an ancient man in a beige linen jacket and panama hat deadheading dahlias.”

After he confirms that this was Virginia Woolf’s house, she asks when he came there. When he says “1919,” she says “Ah. You must be Mr. Leonard Woolf.”

She tells him she’s a novelist herself, often compared to Woolf, and wants to write about in Woolf’s final hours.  He bids her good day and stomps back to the house.

At the pub she reads Woolf’s last diary entry, thinks haddock and sausage a disgusting mixture, but she’s inspired: “She would gain a ‘certain hold’ on Virginia Woolf and her last day—and thereby kick-start her own career into life again—by writing it down.”

Making sport of Woolf

Boyd loves to make sport of Virginia Woolf. Rereading To the Lighthouse, Elfrida recalls how much she disliked it, “with its footling detail and its breathy, neurasthenic apprehension of the world, all tingling awareness and high-cheekboned sensitivity.”

When Boyd dissed Woolf in Any Human Heart, he said that it was because he’d taught her and specifically Lighthouse too long. But he considered her diary and letters her best writing, a bias I share.

And so it goes, plots and subplots and overflowing wackiness, a great read to take you out of yourself and the grim present.

Take a look at a YouTube video of Boyd discussing his 2021 novel Trio, which features three people with separate lives and secrets.

I try to push my fiction so far into the real that readers begin to suspect its fictive status. – William Boyd

 

If you are a regular reader of Blogging Woolf, you may have noticed that I have not posted as regularly as usual for the past year or so. I blame the pandemic.

Poster for The Woolf Salon No. 7, “A Room of Your Own Will Not Protect You: Woolf and the Second Wave Feminists”

It has shortened my attention span, sapped my motivation, stifled my creativity, and generally made it difficult for me to focus for very long on anything seemingly unessential for survival.

You may have experienced similar feelings. Or not.

Pandemic-prompted Salon

Luckily, for a number of energetic Virginia Woolf readers and scholars, the pandemic has prompted the creation of something new and innovative for Woolf lovers around the globe, The Woolf Salon.

Ben Hagen, Shilo McGiff, Amy Smith, and Drew Shannon began the project last July. Their goal was to provide regularly scheduled opportunities for conversation among those interested in Woolf.

Anyone can join the group, which meets on the third or fourth Friday of each month via Zoom and focuses on a single topic or text. Just contact woolfsalonproject@gmail.com to sign up for the email list.

Topics have included:

  1. “Imagining Woolfian Criticism”
  2. “The Leaning Tower”
  3. “Kew Gardens” and its recent adaptation in the anthology film London Unplugged
  4. “Planetary Woolf,” which introduced attendees to the forthcoming book collection, Virginia Woolf and Contemporary Global Literature (Edinburgh UP, 2021
  5. “Solid Objects” and “A Society”

Just yesterday, we met to discuss the theme “Stay, This Moment,” with a focus on two readings, Woolf’s essay “The Moment: Summer’s Night” and her story “Slater’s Pins Have No Points.”

The full schedule is available online.

Submit a proposal

Anyone interested in hosting a future salon is invited to submit a proposal. Organizers are particularly interested in featuring the work of early career researchers as well as artists and graduate students. Or a host can choose to focus on one or two short texts.

Why a Salon?

Woolf provides justification for the concept of a literary salon in Orlando (1928), the gender-shifting pseudo-biography that paid tribute to her lover Vita Sackville-West.

She describes her title character’s experiences with the salons she encountered upon her return to England from Turkey in the 18th century.

Nor could she do more as the ship sailed to its anchorage by the London Bridge than glance at coffee-house windows where, on balconies, since the weather was fine, a great number of decent citizens sat at ease, with china dishes in front of them, clay pipes by their sides, while one among them read from a news sheet, and was frequently interrupted by the laughter or the comments of the others? Were these taverns, were these wits, were these poets? . . .‘Addison, Dryden, Pope,’ Orlando repeated as if the words were an incantation. – Orlando 123-4.

Now, the Lady R.’s reception room had the reputation of being the antechamber to the presence room of genius; it was the place where men and women met to swing censers and chant hymns to the bust of genius in a niche in the wall. Sometimes the God himself vouchsafed his presence for a moment. Intellect alone admitted the suppliant, and nothing (so the report ran) was said inside that was not witty. – Orlando 145.

In three hours, such a company must have said the wittiest, the profoundest, the most interesting things in the world. So it would seem indeed. But the fact appears to be that they said nothing. – Orlando 146.

The hostess is our modern Sibyl. She [he] is a witch who lays her [his] guests under a spell. In this house they think themselves happy; in that witty; in a third profound. It is all an illusion (which is nothing against it, for illusions are the most valuable and necessary of all things, and she [he] who can create one is among the world’s greatest benefactors), but as it is notorious that illusions are shattered by conflict with reality, so no real happiness, no real wit, no real profundity are tolerated where the illusion prevails. – Orlando 146.

 

%d bloggers like this: