Archive for July, 2013

Mrs. DallowayAs an adolescent, Patrick Stewart was my hero because of his role as Captain Jean-Luc Picard on Star Trek: The Next Generation. I can go on for paragraphs about it, but it would be nothing you haven’t read before from other boys who grew up as science fiction enthusiasts.

My point for bringing up Stewart is his moving response to a woman’s question about domestic violence at a convention recently. Watch it here: 

There are so many things to deconstruct and to focus on in this video, but what I found the most moving was the connection Stewart made to his father’s violence being connected to the shell shock he experienced as the result of World War II. Stewart goes on to discuss how men were supposed to just suck it up and be tough.

My mind immediately snapped to Septimus Warren Smith and how he changed upon coming home from World War I.

When I teach Mrs. Dalloway, which I have had the pleasure to do twice, sometimes my students have a hard time connecting to Septimus’ plight in the novel. They relate to Clarissa or Sally or sometimes both. Or the occasional dissenter finds neither particularly pleasurable, but many find difficulty with Septimus. They understand shell shock is like what we call post traumatic stress disorder, but many students choose not to focus their discussions, papers or research on Septimus. The second time I taught Mrs. Dalloway, this became very noticeable.

In the future, I am going to show them this video of Stewart talking about his own father. I think there is a real teachable moment there to make the connections better if they consider what he is saying in relation to what happens to Septimus in the novel or in their own lives.

Also, it is a means for bringing the novel into a modern context, which is an important part of my pedagogy. I think it is worth investigating.

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archivistMeandering through the bounteous bookshelves of a writer friend in Seattle for whom I was recently house-sitting, I zeroed in on The Archivist, a 1998 novel by Martha Cooley.

The story revolves around a cache of letters from T.S. Eliot to Emily Hale that Hale bequeathed to a university library (unnamed in the novel) in 1965, with the stipulation that they not be opened until 2020. This is true; the letters are at Princeton, sealed until 2020. The archivist’s wife is a poet, and they share an interest in Eliot. After her death he takes the university position right around the time of the bequest and meets a graduate student who is interested in the letters.

Eliot’s work weaves in and out, as do issues of Jewishness, war atrocities, conversion, and identity. Eliot’s life with and abandonment of his first wife Vivienne comes into it but not so much their London milieu, with a few exceptions, including this:

Roberta (the student) to Matthias (the archivist):

I was just remembering how Virginia Woolf once said Eliot was sordid and intense. Did you know that when he was still married to Vivienne, he occasionally wore face powder when they went to dinner parties? Can you imagine? I guess he couldn’t resist the temptation to dramatize his suffering—God knows Vivienne wore hers on her sleeve.

English: T. S. Eliot, photographed one Sunday ...

English: T. S. Eliot, photographed one Sunday afternoon in 1923 by Lady Ottoline Morrell (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Of course I had to see if that was accurate (Woolf’s description, not the face powder) and found it in Woolf’s Diary, Nov. 12, 1934, about a performance of Eliot’s uncompleted verse drama, “Sweeney Agonistes”: “The acting made more sense than the reading but I doubt that Tom has enough of a body & brain to bring off a whole play: certainly he conveys an emotion, an atmosphere: which is more than most: something peculiar to himself; sordid, emotional, intense—a kind of Crippen, in a mask: modernity & poetry locked together.”

Seems to me she’s talking more about the play and his approach to it than Eliot himself. While she does implicate Eliot’s character and craft with her curt observations, the quote, out of context, strikes me as a bit too convenient for Cooley, the Woolf citation too dishy to resist. Still, it was a fascinating novel.

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Screen Shot 2013-07-29 at 1.09.27 AMYou can join the waiting list for Nights Out: Drinks with Virginia Woolf, an evening in a secret Hampstead apple orchard that includes a conversation with Woolf biographer Alexandra Harris. But the July 30 event is sold out.

The author of Romantic Moderns “will share her favourite ideas and themes from Woolf’s writing on pleasure, love, sorrow, wonder and London” and guide participants “through a menu of conversation topics she has designed especially for us around Woolf’s life and work.”

The event, which begins at 7 p.m. and costs £35, takes place at Fenton House Garden. Fenton House in Hampstead, central London, is a seventeenth-century merchant’s house, garden and orchard managed by the National Trust.

Harris, a literature professor at the University of Liverpool, is currently writing a cultural history of the English weather. It will, of course, include Woolf.

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A couple of Woolf-related tidbits for you today.dalloway walk

  • You will find Virginia and Leonard in this slideshow of 16 famous authors on their wedding day. They are last, but not least.
  • If you missed Mrs. Dalloway’s London walk on June 16, you can still read the report on Andrew Whitehead’s blog. The Women’s History Group, along with the Literary London Reading Group, organized the walk. Participants gathered in Dean’s Yard behind Westminster Abbey, headed across St. James’s Park,walked the whole length of Bond Street and of Harley Street and through Regent’s Park.

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The International Virginia Woolf Society is pleased to host its fourteenth consecutive panel at theLouisville Conference artwork University of Louisville Conference on Literature and Culture Since 1900, scheduled for Feb. 20-22, 2014.

The group invites proposals for critical papers on any topic concerning Woolf studies. A particular panel theme may be chosen depending on the proposals received.

Please submit by email a cover page with your name, email address, mailing address, phone number, professional affiliation (if any), and the title of your paper, and a second anonymous page containing a 250-word paper proposal to Kristin Czarnecki, kristin_czarnecki@georgetowncollege.edu, by Friday, Sept. 13, 2013.

Panel Selection Committee:

  • Beth Rigel Daugherty
  • Jeanne Dubino
  • Mark Hussey
  • Jane Lilienfeld
  • Vara Neverow

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