Archive for the ‘23rd Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf’ Category

Conference organizer Julie Vandivere and student intern Emma Slotterback

Conference organizer Julie Vandivere and student intern Emma Slotterback

I’d never heard of Bloomsburg University before Julie Vandivere volunteered to host the 25th Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf at her home institution.

Now word of the charming campus and gracious town in which it is located has spread around the world, due to the way the town and the campus teamed up to embrace Woolf, the conference and each one of its nearly 250 participants from as far away as China.

Small-town charm

Welcome Woolf scholars

Just one of the signs welcoming Woolfians to Bloomsburg.

The town’s website boasts “small-town charm and down-home hospitality.” Those weren’t empty words. The town of 14,000 was blanketed with signs welcoming and directing conference goers. Conference events were spread throughout its perimeters. Community members participated in the events and graciously offered directions, greetings and other help. And high school students from the area’s three high schools, Bloomsburg, Berwick and Southern Columbia, had their own pre-conference panels.

The result? Two hundred and six presenters from 14 countries and five continents had the opportunity to fall in love with small town Bloomsburg, Pa., and its university community.

The play, the party, the exhibit, the readings, the banquet

Here are some highlights of the four-day event, Bloomsburg University’s first of an international stature:

    • A total of 68 events — from panels to roundtables to a printmaking workshop to a trip to Rickett’s Glen State Park for a hike and a picnic — with 206 presenters.
    • A powerful Friday evening performance of Ellen McLaughlin’s Septimus and Clarissa by the Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble. The ensemble had just one day to rehearse and they did a masterful job, with McLaughlin playing the role of the adult Clarissa. According to her, 60 percent of the words in the script were Woolf’s and 40 percent were her own.

      BTE Septimus and Clarissa

      On stage with “Septimus and Clarissa”

    • Mrs. Dalloway’s Party, an after-theater lark that allowed theater goers from the conference and the community to don hats and dress-up clothes and meet and mingle with each other as well as the players, the playwright — and conference guests of honor Cecil Woolf, nephew of Leonard and Virginia, and Jean Moorcroft Wilson, biographer, literary critic and wife of Cecil Woolf.
    • A juried exhibition of works on paper titled The Mark on the Wall that presented the work of 47 artists from as far away as Dubai. Their work, inspired by Woolf and her female contemporaries, was chosen from among more than 400. Co-Best of Show Awards went to Erika Lizée and Carolyn Sheehan. Honorable mentions went to Mischa Brown, Chieko Murasugi and Jacqueline Dee Parker. See the full list of exhibitors. View the catalog to see the entire body of work in the exhibition that will be on display at the Gallery at Greenly Center through June 30. A catalog will be available for purchase on Blurb, as of June 9.
    • A memorial to Woolf scholar Professor Jane Marcus that was coordinated by members of the International Virginia Woolf Society and introduced by Erica Delsandro, co-organizer of the conference.
    • A poetry reading by Cynthia Hogue and a reading by Maggie Gee from her novel Virginia Woolf in Manhattan.
    • Saturday evening banquet where Woolf lovers celebrated her work, as well as their comaraderie, and were entertained by a charmingly humorous two-way conversation between Cecil Woolf and his wife Jean Moorcroft Wilson in which Woolf shared memories of Virginia and Leonard Woolf as well as other Bloomsbury Group members, including Bertrand Russell and Duncan Grant. Of course, the Virginia Woolf Players also made an appearance, with a troupe of Woolf scholars reading some of their favorite comical and serious passages from her work.

      Jeanne Moorcroft Wilson and Cecil Woolf

      Jeanne Moorcroft Wilson and Cecil Woolf

    • The introduction of six new books in the Bloomsbury Heritage Series from Cecil Woolf Publishers of London.

The roundtables

    • A roundtable on modernist theory with Celia Marshik, Judith Brown, Allison Pease and Emily Ridge during which the panelists and the audience engaged in a discussion of high and middlebrow modernism and how such studies could do more to include both well-known and lesser known women authors.
    • An introduction to launching a newly proposed journal, Feminist Modernist Studies, edited by Cassandra Laity and Anne Fernald, that will be published twice a year in both print and digital formats and will attempt to expand the modernist literary cannon to include more women by giving them space of their own.

So many panel choices

Each time slot in the conference program included a choice among four or five panels. That made choosing tough, as most times there were two or more panels I wanted to attend. Memorable presentations I attended included:

    • Anne Martin’s presentation on “Village Community and the Coming of War in the Final Novels of Virginia Woolf of and Dorothy L. Sayers,” which made me want to re-read Murder Must Advertise (1933) and Gaudy Night, (1935), as well as The Wimsey Papers.

      Celiese Lypka and Ann Martin

      Celiese Lypka and Ann Martin

    • Patricia Laurence on Woolf and Elizabeth Bowen and her comment on the “porous borders between poetry and prose” as well as the fact that Bowen was an agent for the Ministry of Information during the Great War.
    • Mark Hussey’s paper on Woolf and Rebecca West, in which he coined the term “modernist star system” and shared the fact that the proof version of A Room of One’s Own includes a two-page passage explicitly blaming women for reflecting men back to themselves as larger than they really are. Woolf makes the same point in the final published version but does so in brief. The passage appears after Woolf’s mention of West.
    • Elisa Kay Sparks’ tongue-in-cheek bar graphs on Woolf’s and Georgia O’Keeffe’s use of flowers in their work, with particular attention to – and entertaining visuals of – the calla lily.
    • Maria Aparecida de Oliveira’s fascinating paper on the correspondence between Woolf and Brazilian writer Victoria Ocampo (1893-1979). The two were introduced at Man Ray’s photo exhibit in London in 1934. After her presentation, Maria told me that the two women writers discussed fascism in their late 1930s letters.
    • Leslie Hankins’ slide show of illustrations that accompanied Woolf’s London Scene essays for the British Good Housekeeping, as well as the stories and graphics that surrounded them in the magazine’s layout.
    • Diane Gillespie’s discussion of Woolf’s rejection of novelists who pitched their books to the Hogarth Press, with a focus on Anne Tibble.

      Diane Gillespie

      Diane Gillespie

    • Eleanor McNee’s illumination of Woolf’s animosity towards her two High Anglican cousins, Dorothea and Rosamond Stephen.
    • A panel on “Woolf and the Political,” with Jean Mills advising that when one hears criticism of Woolf’s racism and classicism, one should “consider the diversity of her audience” and Mary Wilson saying we should “consider the servants as the contemporaries” of the writers we study.
    • On that same panel, Ashley Foster presented her original archival research that documents the Bloomsbury Group’s activism in war relief efforts, such as the Quaker relief effort in the Spanish Civil War. Woolf, for example, attended the Spain and Culture event in June 1937 in the Royal Albert Hall. She also sold her manuscript pages of Three Guineas to support relief efforts and lent her name to the fundraising efforts.
    • Emily Hinnov’s interesting comparison of the patriarchal fathers in Woolf’s To the Lighthouse and Katherine Mansfield’s “The Daughters of the Late Colonel.”

      Emily Hinnov

      Emily Hinnov

    • Drew Shannon’s discussion of Woolf’s and Mansfield’s diaries. In his examination of the diaries on microfilm at the Berg Collection of the New York Public Library, he learned that Woolf’s early diaries were more exercise books than traditional diaries, as she edited them greatly. Woolf used composition books for her diary, and beginning in 1920, Woolf consistently added a long rule on the left side of each page. To the left of that rule, she added the day’s date. Poignantly, Shannon found that Woolf had added the rule on each page of the 1941 diary. All of the pages are ruled, even though the pages after her March 28 death are blank. For readers of Mansfield, he recommended Katherine Mansfield Notebooks, complete edition, edited by Margaret Scott.
    • Karen Levenback brought Florence Melian Stawell to our attention, sharing her work as well as her connections to the Bloomsbury Group.
    • Vara Neverow explained sexual dysphoria in West’s Return of the Soldier, Mrs. Dalloway and the controversial Sylvia Townsend Warner’s “A Love Match.”
    • In a panel titled “Spies and Surveillance,” Mark David Kaufman, Judith Allen and Kimberly Engdahl Coates discussed Woolf and her contemporaries as whistleblowers, subversives and victims of surveillance.

      Sierra Altenbach and Cody Smeltz

      Sierra Altenbach and Cody Smeltz

    • Three undergrads from Bloomsbury University – Cody Smeltz, Sierra Altenbach and Ashley Michler — presented thoughtful papers on modernist masculinity and femininity in the work of H.D., Myna Loy, Emily Coleman and others.

Catch the conference photos

Many photos were taken at the conference and shared via Instagram. Here’s where you can view them:

Catch the conference tweets

Tweets about the conference are still coming in. Find them by searching the hashtag #WoolfConf15. The latest one is posted below, along with a tweet about one of the final panels of the conference.

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vw_vancouver_120x180Virginia Woolf and the Common(wealth) Reader: Selected Papers from the Twenty-Third Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolfedited by Helen Wussow and Mary Ann Gillies, is now available both in print and online from Clemson University Digital Press. The price is $24.95.

You can order a copy online or download the book as a PDF.

According to the website, the volume presents 28 essays and four poetic invocations delivered at the 23rd Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf, hosted by Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, British Columbia (June 6-9, 2013). The theme of the conference, the concept of “common(wealth),” addresses geographical, political, and imaginary spaces in which different readers and readings vie for primacy of place.

The essays in this collection, including keynote addresses by Rosemary Ashton, Paul Delany, Christine Froula, Mary Ann Gillies, Sonita Sarker, and Jane Stafford, reflect upon “common(wealth)” as a constructed entity, one that necessarily embodies tensions between the communal and individual, traditional culture and emergent forms, indigenous people and colonial powers, and literary insiders and outsiders.

In the interest of full disclosure, my essay, “Woolf Blogging, Blogging Woolf: Using the Web to Create a Common Wealth of Global Scholars-Readers,” is the last one in the volume. Along with essays by Karen Levenback, Diane Gillespie and Leslie Hankins, it’s included in the section “Woolf Beyond the Book.”

Read more about the 23rd Conference.

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Now online via Flickr: A small collection of photos from the  23rd Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf: Woolf and the Common (Wealth) Reader in Vancouver.

Have any you’d like to share? Send them along to Blogging Woolf.

View the photos here or by clicking on the link in the right sidebar under the heading Woolf Snaps. Read more about the conference.

flickr conf 13

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Vara Neverow and Kristin Czarnecki at the opening night reception in the hotel's Room at the Top

Vara Neverow and Kristin Czarnecki at the conference’s opening night reception in the hotel’s Room at the Top

I am late with this. After attending Woolf in the City in 2009 and Woolf and the Natural World in 2010, I posted about the conference the very next day. But this year, I haven’t been able to pull my thoughts together. I can think of a couple of reasons why.

Tweeting the conference

Maybe tweeting the conference as woolfwriter pushed any deep thinking about it out of my head. Throughout the  23rd Annual International Conference on Virginia WoolfWoolf and the Common (Wealth) Reader in Vancouver, I posted 140-character conference updates and photos under the hashtag #vwconf23 tweets.

Now I wonder if posting these brief tweets served to empty my mind of the interesting things I was hearing. Things like “Waves are metaphor for empowerment and change. -Muscogiuri #vwconf23 pic.twitter.com/NPDSpSaB8y” and “Wonderful resource: UCL Bloomsbury Project http://ucl.ac.uk/bloomsbury-pro … #vwconf23

conference tweets


Or maybe the fact that I took off for another conference — this one in Toronto — a few days after arriving home from Vancouver diverted my attention.

Some scattered thoughts

Despite my scattered thoughts, some things from the conference do stand out, and here they are:

  • After listening to Kristin Czarnecki‘s paper on “Proportion, Conversion, Transition: War Trauma and Sites of Healing in Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway and Leslie Marmon Silko’s Ceremony,” I am convinced that Silko’s 1977 novel,  the story of a Native American WWII veteran, is a must-read.
  • On the same panel, Aurelea Mahood shared “A Short History of Woolf’s Literary Work as Reviewed in Time and Tide,” prompting my interest in the magazine launched in 1920 by suffragist Lady Rhonda whose life is documented in her 1933 memoir This Was My World.
  • Christine Froula‘s plenary talk on “War, Peace, Internationalism: The Legacy of Bloomsbury” was riveting and made me want to know more. It’s a topic that deserves a book-length discussion.
  • Fittingly enough, the panel on “Woolf’s Troubled and Troubling Relationship to Race: The Long Reach of the White Arm of Imperialism” sparked a lively discussion among panelists Lisa Coleman and Evan Zimroth and their audience, with Zimroth detailing Woolf’s anti-Semitism as well as the anti-foreigner sentiments sparked by ballerina Lydia Lopokova.
  • A polite difference of opinion between Patrizia Muscogiuri and Melissa Rampelli about Rhoda’s agency in The Waves also threw up some sparks, which made their papers  and the resulting discussion more interesting.
  • A brilliant plenary talk by Sonita Sarker on “Virginia Woolf in the British Commonwealth” in which she discussed ways in which Englishness and whiteness are part of the Commonwealth and how writing makes people self-conscious and class-conscious.
  • Vara Neverow‘s powerful analysis of fascism in Woolf’s Three Guineas and Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale in which she compared Woolf’s 65 pages of footnotes at the end of TG to the 12 pages of “historical notes” set in a post-Gilead world that accompany Atwood’s 1985 dystopian novel. Neverow’s passionate feminism that underlay her discussion of fascism as it relates to women’s lives in both works made her argument even more compelling.
  • And of course, there was the Saturday evening banquet, with charming readings of “A Pair of Scissors” by Sharon Thesen and “Oscar of Between” — complete with current-day references to Woolf’s Orlando — by Betsy Warland.
  • Dramatic readings of favorite Woolf quotes — and I do mean dramatic — from the International Virginia Woolf Society Players topped off the evening. And here I give a special tip of the hat to Suzanne Bellamy, Catherine Hollis and Erica Delsandro.

Facebook and the conference

Woolfians at the reception held at the Bill Reid Gallery in Vancouver

Woolfians at the reception held at the Bill Reid Gallery in Vancouver

I didn’t find anyone else’s tweets about the conference, but participants did share their thoughts on Facebook, and here are a few of their comments:

“Greetings from Vancouver. Bad internet connection, but now that I’m about to leave it’s working at last … better late than never, I guess. Anyway, another amazing Woolf Conference is over, great papers and keynotes, stimulating exchange of ideas but most inspiring of all was meeting my woolfians friends and colleagues. In the midst of many things not going exactly well (flights, etc., etc., etc.), you were wonderful as ever – can’t thank you enough for that.” – Patrizia Muscogiuri

“Just got back from a fabulous time at the 23rd annual Virginia Woolf conference held in Vancouver, B.C.! Many thanks to Helen Wussow and co. at Simon Fraser University for organizing a wonderful conference.” – Diana Swanson

Suzanne Bellamy posted daily accounts of the conference on her Facebook wall:

“Arrived in Vancouver for the International Virginia Woolf conference. Stunning city, we are in a

Graduate students Bureen Ruffin of Pace University and Sara Remedios of CUNY presented papers at the conference.

Graduate students Bureen Ruffin of Pace University and Sara Remedios of CUNY presented papers at the conference.

hotel with amazing views of the harbour. An always exciting few days are ahead but my presentation is this morning so I will feel better after that is done. Great to see all the marvellous friends who come annually to this special community of scholars.

“Day 2 in Vancouver. Something happens at these Woolf events that stretches time. A day is so dense with new meanings, ideas and encounters. All panels and the two keynotes were excellent, and the first big reception up on the roof of the hotel blew the air through our brains, with the harbour and snow on the mountains. What planet are we on??? Its gorgeous indeed. In particular Rosemary Ashton from Univ College London gave a wonderful keynote on old Bloomsbury before the Stephens ever moved in, a site of radical experiment and dissent that is still a model for resistance.

“Morning of day 3 Vancouver Woolf conference. I hope my second wind kicks in, already stretched out brain, feel great. Yesterday brilliant again. Several great panels extending the conf themes of common(wealth), war, internationalism, Christine Froula’s great keynote on war and Bloomsbury showed us there is still new material to discover, new mss, recombining, setting up new collages of thinking. A wonderful escape in the late afternoon, ferry across the harbour, still a working fishing and trade port, vistas of snow and intense urbanscapes, like a little HongKong but with a metal and glass coolness. A lush conf visit to the Bill Reid Gallery, First Nations treasure, indigenous food. I couldn’t eat the bison, like I can’t eat kangaroo either. But for those Australians out there, you will understand that the joyful thrill of the day for me was a stunningly good and hilarious paper (“From Bloomsbury to Fountain Lakes”) by Melinda Smith, a Tasmanian by birth but now at Univ of Hawaii, about Kath and Kim’s episode based on The Hours, when Fountain Lakes presented a musical about Virginia Woolf. I sat there in awe that she had magically brought Kimmy and her mother the foxy Kath to a Virginia Woolf conference, equipped with brilliant theoretical analysis of layers and layers of re-performing and making over taking the colonial piss out of the dominant culture but celebrating the shared creativity of brilliant women over time. I laughed and laughed. What a funny day to have. More to come. All amazing.

Patrizia Muscogiuri and Melissa Rampelli on "The Commodified, Colonized Woman"

Aurelea Mahood chaired a panel with Patrizia Muscogiuri and Melissa Rampelli on “The Commodified, Colonized Woman.”

“Vancouver last day of VW conf. Yesterday teeming with encounters, panels and keynotes, too much to write. Plans take shape for next a performance work for next year in Chicago, collaborations set up from Brazil to Italy, fusion of Woolf with Stein’s 4 Saints in 3 Acts with lots more, jazz and set work all in the planning now. The day never seemed to end, the banquet, the VW Players show, then the bar afterwards; how I love this annual fest, I have been coming every year since 1997, next year Chicago.

“Yesterday the last sessions of the Vancouver Woolf conf, great plenary about the dark side of Brooke and the war poets, their attraction to fascism, neo-paganism. I chaired the final panel with the all-time stars of experiment and innovation, Leslie Hankins, Diane Gillespie and Elisa Sparks. As always they dazzled us with new methods and ideas around type itself, money itself and the new app. The unpacking of Woolf is never-ending, for me a life time of provocative joy continues.”

Read about past Woolf conferences

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conference tweetsIf you are a Virginia Woolf fan and can’t attend the 23rd Annual International Conference on Virginia WoolfWoolf and the Common(wealth) Reader in Vancouver, follow the conference via live tweets from woolfwriter.

If you are at the conference and have a Twitter account, add the hashtag #vwconf23 to your posts.

Read the collection of #vwconf23 tweets.

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