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Archive for the ‘31st Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf’ Category

A roundtable on “Biography, Biofiction and Ethics” was a highlight for me at the June 9-12 Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf. The panelists, all knowledgeable on the topic, included two authors of Woolf biofiction who defended the genre.

Two views of Keynes

Susan Sellers, author of the 2008 Vanessa and Virginia and the recently released Firebird: A Bloomsbury Love Story (about Maynard Keynes and Lydia Lopokova), pronounced fiction as “the ideal medium for exploring the tangle of personal history” and “an ethical arena in which to speculate and imagine in the gaps of what the historical record can tell us.”

Emma Barnes also chose Maynard Keynes as the subject of her 2020 novel, Mr. Keynes’ Revolution. She said: “Fiction is a lie, by definition. But it’s also a lie in pursuit of some essential truths, or should be. If we recognize the practical and aesthetic constraints imposed on us as writers, we can try to write fiction about real people with integrity.”

The devil’s advocate on the panel was Mark Hussey, Woolf scholar extraordinaire and author of the recent biography, Clive Bell and the Making of Modernism. For Mark, a novelist’s changing facts raises an ethical red flag: “The shift of emphasis from the biographical subject of a biofiction to the writer of that biofiction’s own ‘vision of life and the world’ strikes me as a bit of rhetorical sleight of hand.”

A view from the fence and more

As a selective and skeptical reader of biofiction, I’m on the fence. What’s fact and what’s fiction? Should I care? (I do.) Can and should a novelist distort the facts to embellish the fiction?

For the reader, perhaps it’s a case of caveat emptor: she knows she’s reading fiction and she can enjoy it as such, consult factual sources to verify facts. I’ve read biofiction that the author appends with a list of references and comments about her fictionalizations. That works for me.

In addition to those mentioned above, other biofiction novels mentioned or referenced include:

The Hours by Michael Cunningham, 1998

Mitz: The Marmoset of Bloomsbury by Sigrid Nunez, 1998

But Nobody Lives in Bloomsbury, Gillian Freeman, 2006

Vanessa and Her Sister, Priya Parmar, 2014

Virginia Woolf in Manhattan, Maggie Gee, 2014

Adeline: A Novel of Virginia Woolf, Norah Vincent, 2015

 

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Inspiring. Insightful. Intimate. Those are three words I could use to describe the four days of Virginia Woolf and Ethics, the 31st Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf, which ran from June 9-12.

Held remotely on Zoom for the second year in a row and hosted by Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas, with Amy Smith as organizer, the conference brought together around 270 Woolf scholars from around the globe, including Brazil, the Netherlands, Norway, Candada, the UK, and the US.

Links to share

I took lots of notes. Sadly, I don’t have the time or the energy to share them all. Instead, I’ll list just a few online resources that some of the presenters and participants shared with us. Readers, feel free to add yours in the comments section below.

Here goes.

Favorite quote and rave reviews

And here is one of my favorite quotes from the conference. There were many more, but this is the only one I managed to get down on paper verbatim.

It comes from Ane Thon Knutsen, of the Oslo National Academy of the Arts in Norway, who presented “On Being Ill – A letterpress printed Covid-19 diary.”

You have no control over what happens when you read books. And it’s magical. – Ane Thon Knutsen

Ane, along with many other presenters, got rave reviews. One was Beth Rigel Daugherty, whose brilliant and heartfelt final plenary, “On the Ethics of Teaching: Virginia Woolf’s Essays,” awed participants and brought them to tears.

Below is just one of the many information-rich PowerPoint slides Beth shared in her talk. It lists some of the Woolf essays that informed her 36 years of teaching at Otterbein University and warned her against preaching to her students, a caveat she took to heart.

Recently retired, Beth’s latest project is a book for Edinburgh University Press — Virginia Woolf’s Apprenticeship: Becoming an Essayist (2022).

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Virginia Woolf and Ethics, the 31st Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf, begins tomorrow, June 9, and runs through Sunday, June 12. And while it is hosted by Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas, it is taking place completely online, giving the conference the ability to draw in a wide variety of participants from around the globe.

You can still register and Zoom in to four days of multidisciplinary conversation about Woolf and ethics.

Important conference links

  • The program for the four-day virtual event
  • Registration for attendees who are not presenting. Four-day ($40) and single-day ($20) registrations are available.
  • Plenary details, including
    • Gretchen Holbrook Gerzina, “Rethinking Bloomsbury and Race in the Wake of BLM”
    • Peter Stansky, “How the World Turns: Two Examples: Virginia Woolf and the Dreadnought Hoax; The Life of Julian Bell”
    • Beth Rigel Daugherty, “On the Ethics of Teaching: Virginia Woolf’s Essays”
    • Elsa Högberg, “Virginia Woolf’s Reparative Ethics”
  • Theater performance by Ellen McLaughlin and Kathleen Chalfant who have collaborated on “Life Stand Still Here,” which is based on Woolf’s diaries and Lily Briscoe’s painting in To the Lighthouse.

Virtual conferences include more global perspectives on Woolf

The idea that organizers of the annual Woolf conferences should work to include more global perspectives on Woolf studies was strongly articulated at the 29th annual Woolf conference in 2019. As the most recent in-person Woolf conference, it was held at Mount St. Joseph University in Cincinnati, Ohio, on the theme of Woolf and Social Justice.

The Covid-19 pandemic, which made virtual conferences a necessity, helped move that idea forward, making attendance easier and more economical for both presenters and participants.

Profession and Performance, the 30th annual Woolf conference, scheduled for 2020 at the University of South Dakota, was postponed until 2021 and was the first Woolf conference to be held virtually, on June 10-13, 2021. This year’s is the second.

Global perspectives on the last live Woolf conference

After the 2019 conference, the 29th, young scholars from Brazil, Czechoslovakia, Italy, and Canada shared their views on that conference. Below are links to their stories.

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Once again, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced this year’s Woolf Conference, the 31st, to move online.

Last year, the 30th Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf, with its theme of Profession and Performance, was held virtually for the first time via Zoom. It was originally scheduled to be held in 2020, but the pandemic postponed it until the following year.

The 2022 Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf, scheduled for June 9-12  at Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas, will also be held online only. Its theme is Virginia Woolf and Ethics.

“Because of the persistent uncertainty surrounding COVID, and especially in the wake of recent travel disruptions and other factors, the 2022 Woolf conference has been moved online,” announced Amy C. Smith, associate professor of English at Lamar and the conference organizer.

Call for papers on Woolf and Ethics

“To allow time for folks to shift gears in response to this change, the abstract submission deadline has been extended to Feb. 15, 2022. Please consider proposing panels, workshops, or other forms of collaborative conversation around shared interests, as well as individual papers,” she wrote in an email to society members.

Possible topics and approaches may include:

  • Ethics and reading, ethics of reading
  • Ethical scholarly community and academic life
  • Woolf as ethical/social/political theorist
  • Human-animal relations, the natural world
  • Racism, patriarchy, and bigotry
  • The ethics of biography and life writing
  • Woolfian teaching, ethics in teaching
  • War, pacifism, fascism, empire, human rights
  • Narrative practices, reading experiences
  • Empathy, regard, attention
  • Individuality and collectivity
  • Knowledge, reason, objectivity, and certainty
  • Secularism, religion, and spirituality
  • A range of moral philosophies and concepts (listed above and extending further)

Abstracts of a maximum 250 words for single papers and 500 words for panels, as well as questions, should be sent to Virginia.Woolf@lamar.edu by Feb. 15, 2022.

Get more details about the call for papers.

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The 31st Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf, with its theme “Virginia Woolf and Ethics,” has issued a call for papers, with 250-word abstracts due Jan. 31, 2022.

Next year’s conference, which will be held June 9-12, 2022, at Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas, aims to promote conversation about the topic across disciplinary boundaries. Conference organizers hope to explore Woolf’s engagement with specific ethical issues in her writing.

These may include, but are not limited to, war and pacifism, human rights, human–animal relations, environmental ethics, bioethics, fascism, empire, patriarchy,
racism and bigotry.

Woolf in relation to ethical approaches

The theme also suggests a reconsideration of Woolf in relation to various ethical approaches. For instance, participants may wish to read Woolf’s thought in conversation with care ethics, narrative ethics, moral psychology, moral imagination, moral luck, virtue ethics, deontology, utilitarianism, communitarianism, liberalism, religious or spiritual ethics (Christian, Quaker, Jewish, Buddhist, Indigenous, etc.), or other moral theories or concepts.

Papers might address the moral philosophy of Woolf’s milieu, including the thought of Russell, Moore or Leslie Stephen. Participants may wish to consider Woolf’s thought with continental theorists who address ethical concerns.

Organizers invite participants to consider Woolf in relation to broader ethical considerations, such as the relation of ethics to reading practices (or to literature); ethics of teaching, scholarly community and academic life; and secularism, religion and/or mysticism in Woolf’s thinking.

Woolf as an ethical theorist

Papers may also address reading Woolf as an ethical (or social or political) theorist. What might a Woolfian ethic look like? How might we read Woolf’s aesthetic practices in ethical terms (e.g. narrative indeterminacy and the cultivation of certain
forms of attention, moral imagination, or empathy)? How does Woolf navigate competing demands of justice, individual liberty and rights, and collectivity and social responsibility, in her fiction and non-fiction?

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. A few caveats: the organizers ask that all abstracts and proposals be submitted in English. Also, to ensure a more effective exchange among all participants, we ask that non-English presentations be accompanied by a handout of main points in English as well as (if possible) a PowerPoint presentation in English. Note that Q&A sessions will be conducted in English as well.

Where to send abstracts

Abstracts (250 words) should be sent to Virginia.Woolf@lamar.edu by 31
January 2022. Check the call for papers for more details.

Participants among the books at the Mercantile Library during a reception at the 29th Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf, the last in-person Woolf conference before the pandemic hit.

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