Archive for October, 2007

Guest editors Jane de Gay and Marion Dell invite submissions to the Selected Papers from “Voyages Out, Voyages Home”: The Eleventh Annual Conference on Virginia Woolf, which was held in Bangor, North Wales, June 13-16, 2001.

The volume will be published by Clemson University Digital Press.

“Although some time has now passed since the conference, the International Virginia Woolf Society is keen to see this volume in print (and online), in order to have a complete set of selected papers from the annual conferences. All speakers at the Bangor conference are therefore invited to submit their paper for consideration,” the editors wrote in a message to the VW Listserv.

“Papers should be no more than 4,000 words in length, and presented in MLA format. In order to preserve the flavour of the conference as far as possible, we ask contributors to submit the version they presented in 2001, preserving the tone of the talk as it was given. Necessary corrections and judicious updating are welcome, but we do not encourage submission of a fully-developed article that has been published elsewhere.

“However, contributors are welcome to include (within the 4,000 words) an optional Afterword of 2-300 words, looking back on the paper in the light of subsequent developments, or indicating how the paper fed into their more recent research,” the editors wrote.

“As an additional feature of this volume, we plan to compile a bibliography of publications arising out of papers given at the conference. We therefore encourage all contributors to let us have full publication details of any such articles, even if they do not wish to submit a paper for this volume,” the editors added.

Paper Submissions

Send papers by e-mail to: Jane de Gay at j.degay@leedstrinity.ac.uk


January 1, 2008

Guest Editors

Dr. Jane de Gay

Senior Lecturer in English

Leeds Trinity and All Saints, UK

Marion Dell MA

Associate Lecturer in Literature

The Open University, UK

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Kathleen Chalfant is preparing to play Virginia Woolf in the Eileen Atkins play Vita and Virginia on Monday evenings in New York this fall. Patricia Elliott will appear opposite her as Vita Sackville-West.

But that is not the only Woolf-related role Chalfant will take on. She will also play a part in The Party, which is based on three Woolf stories.

Both bits of news come from an Oct. 27 story in the New York Times.

Chalfant has the experience and credentials to take on such hefty roles. She was nominated for a 1993 Tony Award for her featured performance in Angels in America: Millennium Approaches. She also received critical acclaim and numerous awards for her performance in the off-Broadway play Wit.

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Proust Was a NeuroscientistWant help with science? Ask Virginia.

Jonah Lehrer, a 26-year-old Rhodes scholar, argues in his new book, Proust Was a Neuroscientist, that scientists and artists can learn from each other. And he says one artist we can learn from is Woolf.

Lehrer’s premise is that in the process of doing their work, both scientists and artists search for truth. But while scientists find their truths while working in an actual laboratory, writers like Woolf find theirs while at work in the lab of the mind, as they put pen to paper. They use their artistic insights to make their own kind of scientific breakthroughs, breakthroughs so intuitively radical that scientists themselves may take years to catch up with them.

While Proust, the title character in Lehrer’s book, explored the accuracy and inaccuracy of human memory,  Woolf explored the fragility of the self and the vagaries of the human mind. She did so by inventing the stream of consciousness technique, which she developed in her post-World-War-I novels, beginning with Mrs. Dalloway.   

Woolf, he notes, illustrates the birdlike quality of the human mind, as her characters’ thoughts flit about, quickly moving from one topic to another, never resting for long on any one subject. The self emerges from this constant mental movement, she tells us, a “kind of whole made of shivering fragments.”

Lehrer tells us that Woolf’s view of the way the brain works matches recent scientific findings. An experience only lasts for about 10 seconds in short-term memory, he notes: “After that, the brain exhausts its capacity for the present tense, and its consciousness must begin anew, with a new stream.”

There’s more ground-breaking science in Woolf’s novels. Remember the artist Lily in To the Lighthouse? She complains that she is always of two minds: “Such was the complexity of things … to feel violently two opposite things at the same time; that’s what you feel, was one; that’s what I feel was the other, and then they fought together in her mind, as now.”

Well, Lehrer explains how science took nearly 40 years to catch up with Woolf’s art. It was the early 1960s before two neuroscientists discovered “the divided mind, and the way we instinctively explain away our divisions.” It was a discovery that had a profound impact on neuroscience, according to the author.  

So what kind of help can scientists expect from Woolf? Lehrer has an answer.

“Virginia Woolf isn’t going to help you finish your lab experiment,” he says in a Q&A in Wired Magazine. “What she will do is help you ask your questions better.”

It’s no wonder Lehrer has such an appreciation for Woolf, including her among just five authors he discusses in his book. After all, he studied with Woolf biographer Hermione Lee at Oxford.

Read a review in the Los Angeles Times.

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Kafka’s SoupThe mouth-watering Boeuf en Daube scene of To the Lighthouse is famous. Bits about tea and dinner parties and lunches and cooking are scattered throughout her Diary and Letters. But clafoutis grandmère?

Yet that is what Mark Crick has Virginia Woolf cooking in his book, Kafka’s Soup: A Complete History of World Literature in 14 Recipes.

Crick, a photographer who started cooking at the age of 11 and learned the fine points of food shopping while trailing behind his mother on sick days home from school,  wrote the book — and illustrated it — as a lark.

In it, he shares a recipe and a companion piece of short fiction for 14 different writers. Each is written in the voice of a famous author — from Homer to Chaucer to Jane Austen to Raymond Chandler.

Virginia Woolf, he says, was the most difficult to capture. He did it using her signature stream of consciousness style.

“She was difficult because her voice is so subtle and not that old-fashioned sounding. You really want people with a voice that is recognisable even if they’re writing about car maintenance,” Crick told The Telegraph.

He portrays Woolf as cooking clafoutis grandmère, a French cherry tart.

“I thought of her making something soft, rising and feminine” he said in an interview with The Telegraph. “The cherries are cradled and protected in batter in the same way that the mother in Woolf’s books protects her children.”

Here’s a quote from his section on Woolf:

Woolf: Clafoutis Grandmère ‘Looking back at the cherries, that would not be pitted, red polka dots on white, so bright and jolly, their little core of hardness invisible, in pity she thought of Mrs Sorley, that poor woman with no husband and so many mouths to feed…’

Just out in Australia, Crick’s book was first published in Britain in 2005 and is now available in 27 countries. The first American edition, published last year, is available through Harcourt.

Check out January Magazine for more.

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Never too late for Lessing

Nobel prize medal for literatureI learned Doris Lessing had won this year’s Nobel prize for literature from Anne Fernald’s blog Fernham. Lessing heard the news from a gaggle of reporters outside her London flat.

She responded with surprise, modesty, and a lament that Virginia Woolf had not been one of her Nobel predecessors.

“Of course I didn’t expect to get it,” the prolific writer told The Guardian. “It is good to be the 11th woman on the list, I’m only sorry that one of the first or fourth or the fifth wasn’t Virginia Woolf.”

At nearly 88, Lessing had been on the Nobel short list for 40 years. “Either they were going to give it to me sometime before I popped off or not at all,” she told the New York Times.

The Nobel Academy singled out her 1962 postmodern feminist masterpiece, The Golden Notebook, calling it “a pioneering work” that “belongs to the handful of books that informed the 20th-century view of the male-female relationship.”

Lessing is only the eleventh female writer to be awarded literature’s top prize in 104 years. She is also its oldest recipient.

Nevertheless, the backlash has begun. American literary critic Harold Bloom called the academy’s choice of Lessing “pure political correctness,” an ironic comment considering the firebrand author’s long history of political controversy.

Listen to a telephone interview with Lessing on the Nobel Prize Web site.  Or check out a BBC retrospective of her life and work.

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