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Archive for September, 2022

A new study shows that Penguin Books’ publication of low-cost paperback editions of Virginia Woolf’s work helped her reach a mass market.

In “Virginia Woolf, Penguin Paperbacks, and Mass Publishing in Mid-Century Britain,” published in Vol. 25, No. 1 of Book History, Martina Vike Plock explores how Penguin negotiated financial, logistical, and ideological transactions with Leonard Woolf that re-packaged Virginia as a mass-market Penguin author (238-68).

Penguin, which had started to publish mass-produced, cheap paperbacks in the mid-1930s, began publishing Virginia’s non-fiction in 1938. In the 1950s and 1960s, Leonard went on to negotiate deals with Penguin that allowed them to publish most of her major works of fiction.

Meanwhile, Leonard continued to publish Virginia’s books under their Hogarth Press imprint.

Digging into the correspondence

Vike Plock, a professor at the University of Exeter, analyzed correspondence between Leonard and Penguin’s Alan Lane that  shows Leonard’s priority as the financial health of the Hogarth Press. Thus, sales figures of Virginia’s works were his main concern when dealing with Penguin.

Leonard refused to lease rights of Virginia’s work that were still selling well as Hogarth Press editions. As a result, only Woolf’s lesser-known titles, her essays and non-fiction, were initially signed over to Penguin Books.

The first was Virginia collection of essays, The Common Reader. First published by the Hogarth Press in 1925, it appeared as a Pelican paperback in October of 1938. Penguin Books printed 50,000 copies, sold them for 6d, and paid the Hogarth Press an advance of £150 for the paperback rights, according to a story on the University of Exeter’s website. By the end of 1965, six Woolf novels were available as Penguins.

The arrangement turned out to be mutually beneficial for both Penguin and the Woolfs, particularly since Leonard was interested in making Virginia’s work available to a wide audience.

To come up with her conclusions, Vike Plock used archival resources held at the University of Bristol. Her article takes note of the different stages, key actors, and main considerations that contributed to Virginia’s gradual assimilation into Britain’s paperback industry.

Adding a feminist perspective

However, Vike Plock explores more than the financial considerations of the deals between Penguin and Leonard. She also explores them from a feminist perspective.

The materials in the Penguin archive work in support of critical narratives arguing that Woolf’s works were posthumously seized by a patriarchal, institutional culture she had repeatedly and vociferously criticized,” she states in the abstract for her article.

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Kirsty Warrick, a member of the Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain, has written a song inspired by Virginia Woolf that she calls “The Shape That Remains.”
This video is available on YouTube, where Warrick describes it thus:
A song I wrote, composed performed and recorded a few years ago. It’s about the life and work of Virginia Woolf but was particularly inspired by her novel ‘To the Lighthouse’ and its recurring phrase and sentiment “Life stand still here”.
Thanks to Marielle O’Neill, executive council member of the society, for sharing this news via the VWoolf Listserv.

Read this post from 2012 to learn more about music inspired by Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group.

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Join the sold-out crowd at the Sept. 11 unveiling of the Virginia Woolf heritage plaque at Talland House, her summertime home in St. Ives, Cornwall from 1882-1894.

Professor Maggie Humm, vice-chair of the Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain, and Councillor Johnnie Wells, Deputy Mayor of St. Ives at the Talland House plaque unveiling. Photo: St. Ives September Festival

The plaque, which marks Woolf’s childhood time in St. Ives, was unveiled as part of the St. Ives September Festival last Sunday. The Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain shared the video below to document the occasion. Tony Mason produced the film, which runs just under two minutes.

About the plaque

The first in the black and white colors of the Cornwall flag, the plaque is the product of a long-running campaign by the Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain, led by Woolf scholar Maggie Humm and the St. Ives Town Council.

The project received unanimous support from St. Ives Town Council as well as from local MP Derek Thomas.

The Council, together with Talland House’s owner Peter Eddy and the society, hosted the sold-out event, which was fully booked within hours of being announced. The event included a reading by Humm from her novel Talland House (2020).

Humm and others are pictured in the video below. In it, you will get a view of Godrevy Bay and the famous Godrevy Lighthouse.

 

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The heritage plaque noting the literary historical significance of Talland House was unveiled at 3 p.m. (BST) today before a capacity crowd at Talland House, Virginia Woolf’s summertime home in St. Ives from 1882-1894.

Woolf’s father, Leslie Stephen, had the lease on Talland House from 1878-1895.

About the plaque

The plaque, which marks Woolf’s childhood time in St. Ives, was unveiled as part of the St. Ives September Festival.

The first in the black and white colors of the Cornwall flag, the plaque is the product of a long-running campaign by the Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain, led by Woolf scholar Maggie Humm and the St. Ives Town Council.

The plague received unanimous support from St. Ives Town Council as well as from local MP Derek Thomas.

The Council, together with Talland House’s owner Peter Eddy and the society, hosted the sold-out event, which was fully booked within hours of being announced. The event included a reading by Humm from her novel Talland House (2020).

More Woolf events part of St. Ives September Festival

Two other events related to Woolf are part of the September Festival, which runs Sept. 10-24. They include:

  • A talk titled “Virginia Woolf: Memories of St Ives “by Sarah Latham Phillips, a member of the executive council of the Virginia Woolf Society, at 2 p.m. on Sept. 13 at Porthmeor Studios. Tickets are £6.
  • A tour of the Talland House Gardens conducted by Polly Carter at 10 a.m. on Sept. 21. Tickets are £6. Book by emailing poll.carter1@googlemail.com
Professor Maggie Humm, vice-chair of the Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain, and Councillor Johnnie Wells, Deputy Mayor of St. Ives at the Talland House plaque unveiling today. Humm read from her 2020 novel Talland House at the event. Photo: St. Ives September Festival

 

 

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The call for papers is out for the 32nd Annual International Virginia Woolf Conference, with the theme of “Virginia Woolf and Ecologies,” which will be held June 8 – 11, 2023, at Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers, Fla.

“Slime Puppies,” courtesy of
Farah Alkhadra

Ecology (noun): ecol·o·gy | \ i-ˈkä-lə-jēn. plural ecologies

1a: a. The branch of biology that deals with the relationships between living organisms and their environment. Also: the relationships themselves, esp. those of a specified organism

1c: In extended use: the interrelationship between any system and its environment; the product of this

– Oxford English Dictionary, “ecology n.”

Questions to consider

Conference organizers invite participants to consider the following questions — and more — when figuring out a topic for their paper proposal that engages with the conference theme:

  • How might Woolf’s writing invite us to think ecologically?
  • How might her political, ethical, and aesthetic engagements open ways of perceiving, imagining, creating, and acting that radically revise the assumptions of anthropocentrism—among them, the separate, superior, and intrinsic value of the human.
  • What implications might ecological thinking have for archival, queer, and crip projects or inquiries shaped by post/decolonial studies and the medical humanities?
  • What is a Woolfian ecology? How might Woolfian ecologies help us map, explore, define, or disrupt concepts of time, place, and scale?
  • How does “ecology” help us think through circuits of exchange, consumption, and capital in Woolf’s writings?
  • Where might we position Woolf or her writings within larger constellations of literary and/or modernist studies?
  • How might a consideration of Woolf and Ecologies together encourage us, as Woolf writes in The Years, to “live…live differently”?

More ideas

Proposals may address ecological concerns in or illuminated by Woolf’s work, but they might alternately explore artistic, social, political, economic, racial, and/or queer ecologies, among others, in or alongside Woolf’s novels, essays, letters, or diaries.

Proposals might address the Anthropocene and anthropocentrism, climate change and the environment, biodiversity and sustainability.

They might also address writing and writing cultures, literary history and allusion, genre and form, intertextuality, cosmopolitan and transnational literary networks, economic and political structures, philosophical or theoretical resonance(s), embodiment, mutation, formation and transformation, autopoiesis, symbiopoiesis, embeddedness, community, temporality, extinction, scarcity, technologies, landscapes, soundscapes, inscapes, affect and sensation, perception, psychogeography, relation and interrelation, naturecultures and culturenatures, ecofeminism, war and peace, institutions, and more.

Papers on members of the Bloomsbury Group and other associates of Virginia Woolf in relation to the conference theme are also appropriate.

In addition to traditional paper and panel proposals, organizers also welcome proposals for roundtables, workshops, and creative projects inspired by this year’s theme from scholars, students, artists, and common readers of all backgrounds and disciplines.

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. We do, ask, however, that all abstracts and proposals be submitted in English and that non-English presentations be accompanied by a handout or slide deck of main points in English. Please note that Q&A sessions will be conducted in English, as well.

How to submit your proposal abstract

Abstracts of 250 words maximum for single papers and 500 words for panels, roundtables, and workshops will be due on Jan. 25, 2023. The submission portal is available on the conference website.

Send queries to Laci Mattison at vwoolf2023@fgcu.edu

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