Archive for April, 2023

At the 2019 Literature Cambridge course “Virginia Woolf and Gardens,” Kabe Wilson explained his art project in which he cut out the words from Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own to create the 145 pages of his novella Olivia N’Gowfri – Of One Woman or So.

Kabe Wilson is launching a new multimedia work on To the Lighthouse at the University of Sussex on May 16.

The work “covers a series of archival quests about my childhood holidays, which then link up with Woolf and Bell’s own holidays, as well as their collaboration on To the Lighthouse itself, before developing into an elegy to all three,” Wilson explains.

The culmination of his residency at the Centre for Modernist Studies, the multi-media presentation centers around the story of the 10 paintings of Brighton and Sussex that Wilson produced during the 2020 lockdown period, and the exciting art history discovery that led to one of them becoming the cover image of a new edition of Woolf’s To the Lighthouse.

A free one-day event in two parts

  • Part One: Modernist Archives Workshop at The Keep, 10 a.m. – 1 p.m., with archivists, art and literary historians, followed by lunch. Includes some connections to the Bloomsbury group. Registration is essential due to space restrictions.
  • Part Two: Film Screening of “Looking for Virginia: An Artist’s Journey Through 100 Archives,” followed by a Q & A with Wilson and chaired by Centre for Modernist Studies Directors Helen Tyson and Hope Wolf at the University of Sussex, Jubilee building, Jubilee Lecture Theatre 144, 3 p.m. – 4:30 or 5 p.m.

Get more information and register

More information is available here. Both events are free, but registration is required. Register here for one or both.

More about Kabe Wilson

Cover of the new edition of Woolf’s To the Lighthouse that features Wilson’s photo.

For his first Woolf-related project, Wilson rearranged Woolf’s words into his novella titled Olivia N’Gowfri – Of One Woman or SoSet 80 years after the publication of Woolf’s essay, it tells the story of a young woman’s radical challenge to literary conservatism in the elitist environment of the University of Cambridge.

He then turned his work into a piece of art, a 4 x 13-ft. sheet of paper displaying the novella’s 145 pages, with each word cut out, individually, from a copy of A Room of One’s Own, and reformed to duplicate the novella.

Learn more about Wilson and his work.

The cover of Woolf’s draft manuscript for “Women & Fiction,” which was the first draft of her classic feminist polemic A Room of One’s Own (1929).




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The International Virginia Woolf Society announces the Annual Undergraduate Essay Competition in honor of Virginia Woolf and in memory of Angelica Garnett, writer, artist, and daughter of Woolf’s sister, Vanessa Bell.

Undergraduate essays can be on any topic pertaining to the writings of Virginia Woolf. Essays should be between 2,000 and 2,500 words in length, including notes and works cited, with an original title of the entrant’s choosing.

Essays will be judged by the society’s officers: Benjamin Hagen (President); Amanda Golden (Vice-President); Susan Wegener (Secretary-Treasurer); and Catherine Hollis (Historian-Bibliographer). The winner will receive $400 and have the essay published in a subsequent issue of the Virginia Woolf Miscellany.

To submit an essay, please fill out the entry form, then send your essay to Benjamin D. Hagen at Benjamin.Hagen@usd.edu.

All entries must be received by 30 June 2023.

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The job of my dreams popped up in an email this week: Volunteer guide at Monk’s House. If I lived near Rodmell, East Sussex, I would already be signing up.

Front gate of Monk’s House

If you live near enough, here is what you need to know to have a chance to meet other Woolf enthusiasts while being surrounded by Bloomsbury treasures in the house where Virginia and Leonard Woolf lived from 1919 until their deaths.

Position: House Guide and Welcoming Volunteer

Times Needed in 2003: Friday and Saturday in April and October, and Thursday to Saturday from May to September.  The house is particularly short of volunteers on Saturdays.

Garden volunteer roles are popular and currently booked up. Check the National Trust volunteering website for openings.

Training: Will be provided

Who to contact: monkshouse@nationaltrust.org.uk

Get more details.

Got books?

Monk’s House also put out a request for books related to Virginia Woolf and/or Bloomsbury. If disposing of such volumes, they request that you consider donating them to the Monk’s House second-hand bookshop.

Woolf-related books and other items for sale at Monk’s House in July of 2019, when I last visited.

As the Monk’s House guidebook states, “Books dominated the house.” And books are the first thing you see as you enter through the back doorway. They line the stairs to the second floor.

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Martin Riker’s protagonist in The Guest Lecture is Abby, an economist who has been denied tenure at her university for publishing a book about Maynard Keynes that is deemed derivative.

Because of her book’s popularity outside academia, she’s been invited to present a lecture to a lay audience. In a hotel room the night before, she’s preparing her talk in an imaginary conversation with Keynes himself.

She will discuss his “bohemian arty side,” so that the audience:

will depart having learned something about the Bloomsbury group, some bits and bobs of history. For example, the bizarre and wonderful factoid that Keynes was housemates with Virginia Woolf. They were friends and she at some point claimed to be jealous that he could do what she did—write beautifully—but she couldn’t do what he did—economics, politics.

Abby describes her office at home as:

A writing room. A reading and thinking room. A ‘room of one’s own’—which was my first Virginia Woolf book, incidentally, and remains a favorite example of how a conceptual argument—in this case about female autonomy, living your own life—can also be a practical argument, in a way Keynes probably appreciated.

I found the novel entertaining and educational, philosophical and thought-provoking. It’s interesting how Maynard Keynes has shed the stereotypical image of the serious and sober intellectual, as his colorful life and provocative views are explored in fiction here and also in E.J. Barnes’s Mr. Keynes’ Revolution and Mr. Keynes’ Dance and in Susan Sellers’ Firebird: A Bloomsbury Love Story.

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Did Virginia Woolf care about food? That question has generated quite a bit of discussion on the VWoolf Listserv. The general consensus? Yes, she did.

A letter published in the Times Literary Supplement on Jan. 13 prompted the discussion. In it, the writer responds to a review of English Food: A Social History of England Told Through the Food on Its Tables (2022) by Diane Diane Purkiss, and he proposes that Woolf did not give food much thought.

The author of the letter, Martin Dodsworth of Brill, Buckinghamshire, writes: “it is noticeable that in writing of Nelly Boxall, her own cook, Woolf hardly ever in her diaries mentions what comes to table. It’s probable that she wasn’t very interested.”

Comments from the VWoolf Listserv

Participants in the Woolf listserv beg to differ. Vociferously. Here are some of the points mentioned by participants on the list, all of whom dispute the view of Woolf as disinterested in food, a view they see as part of the popular myth that she was “frail and ethereal”:

  • The Woolf quote in A Room of One’s Own: “One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.”
  • When the Woolfs visited southwest France (now “Nouvelle Aquitaine”) in the 1930s, Virginia argued with Leonard about the quality of the food. – from Marie-Claire Boisset-Pestourie
  • In the 1930s,  Woolf dined at Marcel Boulestin’s famous restaurant in Covent Garden, enjoying such dishes as his sole with mushroom sauce so much that she sent her cook, Mabel Haskins, to him to take lessons. Mabel thoroughly enjoyed the lessons and Woolf was pleased to be reaping the benefits. – from Stephen Barkway
  • My paper at the 2010 conference, published in the selected works from that year, was “A Certain Hold on Haddock and Sausage: Dining Well in Virginia Woolf’s Life and Work.” From numerous passages in her letters and diaries as well as her novels, there is little doubt she relished & appreciated good food. Traveling in France with Vita, she describes the food in several letters to Leonard as well as in her diary. Read about: “the vastest most delicious meal I have ever eaten…” (L3 534) and “a first rate dinner thought out and presided over by a graceful young chef…” (D4 317). – from Alice Lowe

Virginia Woolf, food, and Nellie Boxall

In Mrs. Woolf and the Servants: The Hidden Heart of Domestic Service (2007), Alison Light notes that Nellie Boxall lived with the Woolfs for 18 years, and for 10 of these, Nellie was the Woolfs’ sole live-in servant who became a “first-class” cook (174).

Light explains that as the Woolfs’ income grew in the 1920s, they “began to take holidays abroad and became more sophisticated in their culinary tastes” and Virginia sent Nellie for lessons with Marcel Boulestin, the celebrity chef who opened Restaurant Français in Leicester Square in 1925 (174).

Virginia herself was known for having mastered the art of cooking omelettes, for which Boulestin was renowned, according to Light. And interestingly enough, one of the Woolfs’ first improvements to Monk’s House was a new self-setting range (175).

Light shares a 1956 BBC interview with Nellie: “Nellie had soon coaxed Mrs. Woolf’s poor appetite with treats and fresh puddings like hmemade ice cream with chocolate sauce and crème brûlée . . . ‘She’ always liked Nellie’s cooking ” and brought Nellie a “huge” fresh pineapple when Nellie was in hospital (221).

More on Woolf and food

I did a quick Google search on my own and came up with a few links that add more nails to the coffin of Mr. Dodsworth’s weak argument:

Next morning they would go over the dishes – the soup, the salmon; the salmon, Mrs Walker knew, as usual underdone, for she always got nervous about the pudding and left it to Jenny; so it happened, the salmon was always underdone (Mrs. Dalloway 165).


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