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Virginia Woolf would have been 140 today. So today, as we near the end of year two ofVW Diary Vol. 5 the COVID-19 pandemic, it seems fitting to look at the moody diary entry she wrote a day after her fifty-ninth birthday in 1941, when she, Leonard, and the rest of the world were living through year two of the Second World War.

Her diary entry of Sunday, Jan. 26, 1941, shows that despite the difficult state of the world, she slogs on with her work as she battles depression and vows that “[t]his trough of despair shall not, I swear, engulf me.”

She bemoans the solitude and the smallness of her current life at Monk’s House in Rodmell and details her “prescription” for survival:

Sleep & slackness; musing; reading; cooking; cycling; oh & a good hard rather rocky book – p. 355, The Diary of Virginia Woolf, Volume 5.

Woolf’s words convey pandemic feelings

To me, so much of this entry pertains to our pandemic state in the present day. We work. We battle uncomfortable feelings. We refuse to be engulfed by despair. We see our current lives as smaller — much smaller — than they once were.

But we go on anyway, doing whatever necessary in this “cold hour.” We sleep. We think. We read, we cook, we cycle. We surf, we Google, we Zoom.

We press our noses to the closed door, hoping it will open soon.

Here is Woolf’s diary entry for the day after her 59th birthday in its entirety.

1941

Sunday 26 January

A battle against depression, rejection (by Harper’s of my story & Ellen Terry) routed today (I hope) by clearing out kitchen; by sending the article (a lame one) to N.S.: & by breaking into PH 2 days, I think, of memoir writing.

This trough of despair shall not, I swear, engulf me. The solitude is great. Rodmell life is very small beer. The house is damp. The house is untidy. But there is no alternative. Also days will lengthen. What I need is the old spurt. “Your true life, like mine, is in ideas” Desmond said to me once. But one must remember one cant pump ideas. I begin to dislike introspection. Sleep & slackness; musing; reading; cooking; cycling; oh & a good hard rather rocky book–viz: Herbert Fisher. This is my prescription. We are going to Cambridge for two days. I find myself totting up my friends lives: Helen at Alciston without water; Adrian & Karin; Oliver at Bedford, & adding up rather a higher total of happiness. There’s a lull in the war. 6 nights without raids. But Garvin says the greatest struggle is about to come–say in 3 weeks–& every man, woman dog cat even weevil must girt their arms, their faith–& so on.

Its the cold hour, this, before the lights go up. A few snowdrops in the garden. Yes, I was thinking: we live without a future. Thats whats queer, with our noses pressed to a closed door. Now to write, with a new nib, to Enid Jones (354-355).

Google Doodle in commemoration of Woolf’s 136th birthday

One of the benefits of being a member of the International Virginia Society is receiving copies of the society’s publication, the Virginia Woolf Miscellany.

AnneMarie Bantzinger

The latest installment, Issue 98, is now online. It features the special topic “The First Thirty Annual (International) Conferences on Virginia Woolf,” edited by AnneMarie Bantzinger.

The collection, solicited in 2019, offers a collage of reminiscences and memories that evoke the conference experiences from multiple perspectives, those of organizers and participants.

Among them is one I wrote about the 2009 conference in New York City. I’m sharing it here.

Woolf and the City: Wow!

For a girl born in Brooklyn, transplanted to Ohio at the age of three, and engaged in a longtime love affair with both Virginia Woolf and New York, could there be anything better than a Woolf conference in New York City? I think not.

Conference organizer Anne Fernald and Megan Branch, Fordham student, at Woolf and the City

And that is why “Wow!” was my immediate reaction to Woolf and the City, the 19th Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf. Ten years later that is still my emotional response when I think of that 2009 event, which is why I chose the New York City conference as my personal hands-down favorite among the ten Woolf conferences I have attended.

Held June 4-7 at Fordham University on Manhattan’s Upper West Side and organized by Anne Fernald, the conference was the second I had attended. But it was the first one I wrote about on Blogging Woolf, the site I created in July of 2007. Now, those blog posts, including one aptly titled “In the aftermath of Woolf and the City, one word — Wow!” help me recall the high points of the conference I described as “dynamite.”

Notable scholars, authors, readers

It featured 50 panels, attracted 200 Woolf scholars and common readers from around the globe, and introduced me to notable authors I never dreamed I would meet.

Ruth Gruber at Woolf and the City

One was Dr. Ruth Gruber, who died in 2016. Ninety-seven at the time of the conference, she was known as a journalist, photographer, and the author of Virginia Woolf: The Will to Create as a Woman (1935).

She shared fascinating stories of her 1930s experiences as a journalist who visited the Soviet Arctic and a writer who met Virginia and Leonard Woolf in their Tavistock Square flat.

I remember chatting with this redhead curbside as she patiently waited for the cab that would take her home.

Novel writer and keynote speakers

Susan Sellers

Another was Susan Sellers, author of Vanessa and Virginia, the novel based on the relationship between sisters Vanessa Bell and Virginia Woolf, which was receiving rave reviews in the US at the time. I recall her graciousness as she signed books and chatted with readers.

Others I listened to, but did not meet, included keynote speaker Rebecca Solnit, a prolific author whose work is so timely and compelling today, and Tamar Katz of Brown University who spoke about the importance of “pausing and waiting” in life and in Woolf.

From a walking stick to rock music

What else struck my fancy? Here’s the list:

  • A visit to the Berg Collection at the New York Public Library, where we were treated to a private viewing of pieces in the Virginia Woolf collection, including the walking stick rescued from the River Ouse after her death. Being there felt more sacred than church.
  • A performance of the 2004 play Vita and Virginia, written by Dame Eileen Atkins and directed by Matthew Maguire, director of Fordham’s theatre program.
  • A performance that combined rock-out music from an L.A. band called Princeton with dance from the Stephen Pelton Dance Theatre as the group performed cuts from its four-song album “Bloomsbury” based on the lives of Virginia and Leonard Woolf, John Maynard Keynes, and Lytton Strachey.
  • And, of course, the cherished presence of Cecil Woolf and Jean Moorcroft Wilson and their collection of Bloomsbury Heritage Series monographs, including my first, which debuted at that conference — Reading the Skies in Virginia Woolf: Woolf on Weather in Her Essays, Her Diaries and Three of Her Novels — making Woolf and the City extra memorable.

Cecil Woolf and Jean Moorcroft Wilson at Woolf and the City in 2009

 

Once again, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced this year’s Woolf Conference, the 31st, to move online.

Last year, the 30th Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf, with its theme of Profession and Performance, was held virtually for the first time via Zoom. It was originally scheduled to be held in 2020, but the pandemic postponed it until the following year.

The 2022 Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf, scheduled for June 9-12  at Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas, will also be held online only. Its theme is Virginia Woolf and Ethics.

“Because of the persistent uncertainty surrounding COVID, and especially in the wake of recent travel disruptions and other factors, the 2022 Woolf conference has been moved online,” announced Amy C. Smith, associate professor of English at Lamar and the conference organizer.

Call for papers on Woolf and Ethics

“To allow time for folks to shift gears in response to this change, the abstract submission deadline has been extended to Feb. 15, 2022. Please consider proposing panels, workshops, or other forms of collaborative conversation around shared interests, as well as individual papers,” she wrote in an email to society members.

Possible topics and approaches may include:

  • Ethics and reading, ethics of reading
  • Ethical scholarly community and academic life
  • Woolf as ethical/social/political theorist
  • Human-animal relations, the natural world
  • Racism, patriarchy, and bigotry
  • The ethics of biography and life writing
  • Woolfian teaching, ethics in teaching
  • War, pacifism, fascism, empire, human rights
  • Narrative practices, reading experiences
  • Empathy, regard, attention
  • Individuality and collectivity
  • Knowledge, reason, objectivity, and certainty
  • Secularism, religion, and spirituality
  • A range of moral philosophies and concepts (listed above and extending further)

Abstracts of a maximum 250 words for single papers and 500 words for panels, as well as questions, should be sent to Virginia.Woolf@lamar.edu by Feb. 15, 2022.

Get more details about the call for papers.

Virginia Woolf was an expert at making New Year’s resolutions. Alice Lowe reported on her resolutions of 1931 and 1936 in a post on Dec. 27, 2010. Since then, one particular resolution has been popular on Twitter and Facebook. Here it is from the Charleston Trust. Her resolution stands up well 90 years later.

 

A conference for Outside/rs

What do women, queer, trans or LGBTQIA+ people, as well as BIPOC communities, disabled and neurodiverse people, working class and colonised populations, and many others have in common? They are outsiders. And the Outside/rs 2022 Conference: Making Space at the Queer Intersections of Sex and Gender is for them/us.

Details

When: April 1-2, 2022
Where: University of Brighton, with hybrid delivery
What:  Outside/rs 2022 isa conference that platforms those researching and working with themes of sex, gender, queerness, community and exclusions.
Who: If you are a postgraduate researcher, early career researcher, or live, work or create in a marginalised community, then please join the conference in April, either online or in-person at the University of Brighton.
Register
Call for Papers/Participants: Due Jan. 9, 2022

Conference Theme

For those who exist in queer, marginal, or dissident relations to normativity in its various guises, the ‘outside’ is a familiar place. As Virginia Woolf famously noted, to be locked out of or barred from spaces of privilege was, and still is, a common experience for women. This is also a common experience for queer, trans or LGBTQIA+ people, as well as BIPOC communities, disabled and neurodiverse people, working class and colonised populations, and many others.

Keynotes

  • Dr. S.N. Nyeck, author of African(a) Queer Presence and the Routledge Handbook of African Queer Studies, virtual keynote
  • Ulrika Dahl, author of Femmes of Power: Exploding Queer Femininities, in-person keynote.

Queer Bloomsbury Panel

The conference will include a panel on Queer Bloomsbury. This will be an online panel on Friday, April 1, and will comprise three presentations (20 minutes each) followed by a half hour discussion/Q&A. The panel will include Madelyn Detloff (Miami University), Jane Goldman (University of Glasgow) and Samson Dittrich (University of Sussex) and will be chaired by Marielle O’Neill (Leeds Trinity University).

Submit an abstract

Conference organizers encourage postgraduate, early-career researchers, and community members to submit a paper on a topic of their choice relevant to one issue, or more than one, to look at, for example, the intersections of class, race and queerness. Read more about submission guidelines in the Call for Papers.

Please send abstracts of 300 words to outsiders2022@gmail.com. Abstracts will be reviewed anonymously, so include all personal information (e.g., name), in the body of the submission email only. Please also include whether you are submitting for the virtual or in-person conference, and your preference for which day. The deadline for the submission of abstracts and panel proposals is Jan. 9, 2022.

Get more information

For all enquiries and to join the mailing list, please email: outsiders2022@gmail.com

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