Archive for March, 2010

At the same time that I was rereading To the Lighthouse for a class, I also read Penelope Lively’s most recent novel, Family Album. Perhaps it was the proximity, but the family that Lively writes about had so many similarities to the Ramseys—a 21st century version of the Ramseys, had they all lived into the children’s adulthood.

The Ramseys were a scholarly, self-absorbed, authoritarian father and a home-loving, nurturing “earth mother.” So are the Harpers. The Ramseys have eight children, while the Harpers have six.

The Harpers have a house, Allersmead, “a substantial Edwardian house” outside of London. It isn’t in Cornwall like Talland House, but they do spend at least one summer vacation in Cornwall, a place called Crackington Haven, that sounds remarkably similar to St. Ives in earlier times, a coastal resort with “a scatter of houses and cottages, a village shop… a lovely, lovely family sort of place, just heavenly sea and the dear little beach and gorgeous walks along the cliffs.”

Mrs. Ramsey was partial to her youngest son, James; Alison Harper’s eldest son, Paul, is clearly her favorite, in spite of (or because of) his being a ne’er-do-well. James expresses anger and hatred toward his father, but Charles Harper has antagonized just about everyone, so that when his current manuscript is shredded, any number of them has cause, and he never knows that Clare, the youngest, is the guilty party.

Alison Harper is accomplished in the kitchen as opposed to overseeing a cook. “The kitchen was huge; once, some Edwardian cook would have presided here, serving up Sunday roasts to some prosperous Edwardian group.” Visitors arrive to find that, “The house smelled of cooking. You could unravel the constituent ingredients: garlic, herbs, wine—some earthy casserole, a coq au vin perhaps, or a boeuf en daube.”

There’s more, and the Stephen family popped up a few times as well, not surprisingly, as when the children reminisce about the Allersmead Weekly Herald, their version of the Hyde Park Gate News.

Adrienne McCormick

At last year’s Virginia Woolf conference, Adrienne McCormick presented a provocative paper on Woolf’s concept of “moments of being” as she saw it evoked in Lively’s City of the Mind. As a Lively fan, I’ve thought about Woolfian influences in her writing, and it’s something I plan to pursue.

Read a review of Family Album in The Guardian.

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River OuseIt was 69 years ago today, March 28, 1941, that Virginia Woolf left behind Leonard, Monk’s House, and two suicide notes and walked across the Sussex Downs.

With stones weighing down her coat pockets, she waded into the River Ouse and drowned.

In memoriam, we repeat the last line of the memorial poem Vita Sackville-West wrote in tribute to Woolf, which was published in The Observer in April of 1941. It contains more truth than Sackville-West could have imagined.

“She now has gone/Into the  prouder world of immortality,” Sackville-West wrote.

For a touching video that pays homage to what Woolf accomplished during her life — and what she could have accomplished if she had lived on — watch “The Adventures of Virginia Woolf” on You Tube.

For an earlier memoriam to Woolf, click here. You can also read the Associated Press “Today in History,” which mentions Woolf.

Or read more about the response of her contemporaries to her untimely death in the 2005 book, Afterwords: Letters on the Death of Virginia Woolf, edited by Sybil Oldfield, and in the post below, ” Bloomsbury archives newly open to public.”

Editor’s Note: This was originally posted on March 28, 2008. I have included new information and am reposting it today in Woolf’s honor.

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An archive of Bloomsbury group letters from two collections is being opened to public viewing at Cambridge University for the first time, according to a Guardian report.

Both collections belonged to the novelist Rosamond Lehmann and the diarist and writer Frances Partridge, who became friends at Cambridge. The archive, acquired by King’s College, Cambridge, includes more than 1,000 pages of letters and 30 photo albums.

Of particular note are those letters by and pertaining to Virginia Woolf and her death. Included among them is an April 3, 1941, letter from Clive Bell to Partridge, written while Woolf was missing yet had not been declared dead.

See photographs from Partridge’s Bloomsbury collection. Read more in the Daily Mail and the New Zealand Herald.

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Woolf scholars, oft known as Woolfians, cannot be easily divided into two camps when it comes to gender studies.

According to Madelyn Detloff of Miami University, there are no hard and fast lines drawn between ‘lesbian and gay studies’ Woolfians and ‘queer studies’ Woolfians.

She made her point during a recent discussion about the topic on the VWoolf Listserv.

The discussion was kicked off by a question from Ann Marie Lindsey, student at the CUNY Graduate Center. As a student in Mary Ann Caws’ Art and Literature in Bloomsbury course, Lindsey asked how current queer studies scholars view Virginia Woolf and/or the Bloomsbury set.

The resulting conversation became a bit heated at times. But in between, the following contributions to a bibliography on the topic were offered by participants.

And organizers of the 2010 Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf promise to continue the discussion at the June 3-7 gathering at Georgetown College in Georgetown, Ky.

  • Julie Taddeo, “A Modernist Romance?  Lytton Strachey and the Women of Bloomsbury.” Unmanning Modernism: Gendered Re-Readings. Eds. Harrison and Peterson (1997).
  • Karyn Sproles. Desiring Women:  The Partnership of Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West. U Toronto P. 2006.
  • Tirza Latimer and Jane Marie Garrity. “Queer Cross Gender Collaborations.” The Cambridge Gay and Lesbian Companion to Literature. 2010.
  • Robert Martin and George Piggffford, eds. Queer Forster. U of Chicago Press. 1997.
  • Christopher Reed. Bloomsbury Rooms:  Modernism, Subculture, and Domesticity.  New Haven: Yale University Press, 2004.
  • ____. “Bloomsbury Bashing:  Homophobia and the Politics of Criticism in the Eighties.”  Genders 11 (1991):  58-80.
  • ____. “Making History:  The Bloomsbury Group’s Construction of Aesthetic and Sexual Identity.”  Gay and Lesbian Studies in Art History.  Ed.  Whitney Davis.  Binghamton: Haworth Press, 1994. 189-224.
  • Georgia Johnston. The Formation of 20th-Century Queer Autobiography:  Reading Vita Sackville-West, Virginia Woolf, Hilda Doolittle, and Gertrude Stein. 2007.
  • Brenda Helt. “Passionate Debates on ‘Odious Subjects’: Bisexuality and Woolf’s Opposition to Theories of Androgyny and Sexual Identity.” Twentieth-Century Literature. Expected publication date: 2010.
  • Anne Hermann. Queering the Moderns. Palgrave Macmillan. 2000.
  • Kathryn Simpson. “‘Queer Fish’: Woolf’s Writing of Desire Between Women in The Voyage Out  and Mrs Dalloway.”  Woolf Studies Annual  9 (2003). 55-82.
  • Erica Delsandro, “‘Myself—It was Impossible’: Queering History in Between the Acts.” Woolf Studies Annual 13 (2007). 87-109.
  • D. A. Boxwell, “‘In the Urinal’: Woolf Around Gay Men.”  Virginia Woolf and Her Influences: Selected Papers from the Annual Conference on Virginia Woolf. Ed. Jeanette McVicker & Laura Davis (Pace UP 1998). 173-78.
  • David Eberly, “Talking it All Out: Homosexual Disclosure in Woolf.”  Virginia Woolf: Themes and Variations. Selected Papers from the Second Annual Conference. Ed Vara Neverow-Turk & Mark Hussey (Pace UP 1993).
  • Madelyn Detloff. The Persistence of Modernism: Loss and Mourning in the Twentieth Century. Cambridge UP. 2009.

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The Ida Appelbroog exhibition, Monalisa, draws parallels between the artist and Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own, according to the blogger at Art Kvetching

And Appelbroog reportedly found refuge — and inspiration — in the bathroom. 

The figure in Appelbroog’s art is described as challenging “us to keep looking.” Woolf does the same with her writing. By going inside the minds of her characters, she challenges us to look inside ourselves. 

Read the Art Kvetching post about the Bronx-born artist’s work, then check out the exhibition Web site

Meanwhile, The Guardian reports on a writers’ charity that is offering a female writer the chance to get out of the bathroom and into rent-free accommodation in Church Cottage in leafy Clifford Chambers, near Stratford-upon-Avon.

The Hosking Houses Trust, the provider of the grant, was also inspired by Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own. Besides a completely equipped cottage in rural England, the trust’s award includes £750 a month and use of a rowboat.

The offer is open to women age 40 and over who write in English. April 12 is the application deadline. Read more.

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