Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘books’ Category

Interested in Virginia Woolf’s essays? Wondering how the lessons from her essays apply to teaching and learning? Then you won’t want to miss Beth Rigel Daugherty’s talk, “Learning and Essaying: From Adeline Virginia Stephen to Virginia Woolf” on Oct. 10, the 2022 International Virginia Woolf Society Fall Lecture.

The event will run from 1–2:30 p.m. ET (New York). See timezone adjustments below, but please doublecheck the times:

10–11:30 a.m. PT (Los Angeles)
2–3:30 p.m. (Brasilia)
6–7:30 p.m. BST (London)
7–8:30 p.m. CEST (Paris)
[Oct 11] 2–3:30 a.m. JST (Tokyo)
[Oct 11] 4–5:30 a.m. AEDT (Sydney)

Members of the International Virginia Woolf Socity will receive a Zoom link for this event closer to the date. If you are not a member, you can join now.

Learning and Essaying

In her talk, Beth will guide viewers through her newly published book, Virginia Woolf’s Apprenticeship: Becoming an Essayist, from the Edinburgh University Press and preview her sequel, Virginia Woolf’s Essays: Being a Teacher.  With the follow-up volume, Beth says, “I hope to clarify how her essays continue to teach and to encourage readers to join the literary conversation.”

Get a taste of Beth’s book, as well as her talk, in this interview posted on EUP’s website.

About Beth

Recently retired from Ohio’s Otterbein University, Beth Rigel Daugherty taught modernist English literature, Virginia Woolf, and Appalachian and Native American literature, along with many thematically focused writing courses, for 36 years.

Her plenary talk at the 31st Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf, “On the Ethics of Teaching: Virginia Woolf’s Essays,” received accolades from everyone who heard it.

Beth fell in love with Virginia Woolf and her essays while at Rice University and has been presenting and publishing on both ever since. Her peer-reviewed articles have appeared in edited collections; editions of the “How Should Read a Book?” holograph draft and Woolf’s fan letters in Woolf Studies Annual; and, with Mary Beth Pringle, the Modern Language Association teaching volume on To the Lighthouse.

Beth Rigel Daugherty (at far left), Leslie Hankins and Diane Gillespie presented a panel on “Portraying and Projecting Age, Ageism, and Activism” at the 19th Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf, with its theme of social justice, at the University of Mount Saint Joseph in Cincinnati in June of 2019.

Read Full Post »

Adriana Varga of Nevada State University delivered a paper at this year’s Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf, part of a panel on “Feminist Spaces.” Her title was “Jo Hamya’s Three Rooms and Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own: Ethical and Aesthetic Affinities in the Age of Brexit and the British Housing Crisis.”

The novel she discussed, Three Rooms, is, as Adriana pointed out, as applicable to the U.S. today as to Britain (now more than ever, I would add), in its emphasis not only on unaffordable housing and insufficient employment, but on sexism and racism, disinformation in social media.

Paying homage to Woolf

From the epigraph to the last page, Hanya pays homage to Woolf and makes connections to A Room of One’s Own, starting with three quotes in the epigraph, the third of which reads: “Clearly the mind is always altering its focus, and bringing the world into different perspectives.”

The first-person narrator is a young middle-class woman of color who has a temporary position as a postdoctoral research assistant. She lives in a furnished room in an Oxford house that once had been the residence of Walter and Clara Pater. The blue plaque outside reminds her daily that she occupies borrowed space. A housemate asks if she’s read “this Pater chap,” and she replies that she has, and that his sister was impressive too: “She dealt in languages, taught Greek to Virginia Woolf so that Woolf might hear the birds better.”

Punctuated by quotes from Woolf, Pater, Yeats, and others, the narrator’s day to day life is dominated by place and race, politics and economics.

In England, there was no question of home: depending on who you were, it was either always there, or not. It all worked by empire, by assumption. An orphan girl could advertise and inherit another woman’s burnt trove. Orlando found nothing different within themselves in the same mirror, hung within the same ancestral abode.

A student tells her, “The country’s going to hell and I can’t finish my essay … how do I know what matters … the pound hit a twenty-month low … what use was an English degree now that fake news had eliminated the meaning of words anyway?”

Another decries the required reading as dead and lazy:

They had been given Heart of Darkness so that they couldn’t say the course hadn’t covered questions of imperialisim and race. They had been given Mrs. Dalloway so that they couldn’t say the course hadn’t addressed feminism.

When her post ends, she moves to London to work for low pay and tentative status at a prestigious fashion magazine. Unable to afford even a room, she sublets the sofa of a friend of a friend for £80 a month.

Focusing on space

I’ve highlighted the narrator’s travails, but Hamya, in an interview, stresses that her focus is on space rather than character or dialogue. The context is rooms—the narrator’s downward trajectory in contrast to those in power, occupying rooms at Eton and Oxford, chambers in Westminster and country houses—in a climate of right-wing nationalism and the precarity of life for women of color.

When her employment contract isn’t extended, she has no choice but to move back to her parents’ house, into her childhood room, which isn’t hers either—she doesn’t even have house keys. On the train there, she muses about her circumstances and the link between the lack of personal space and her ability to achieve anything: “I had not found a job with which I could afford to put my life in one place.”

I’m grateful to Adriana Vargas for bringing Three Rooms to my attention and for her excellent conference paper.

Read Full Post »

Bloomsbury Books is a quiet, dusty, tradition-bound London bookstore that has persisted and resisted change for a hundred years, run by men. But in 1950, it’s a new world, and at Bloomsbury Books, the girls in the shop have plans.

This is from the dustcover promo in my serendipitous sale table acquisition, Bloomsbury Girls, a recently published novel by Natalie Jenner, author of the international best-seller The Jane Austen Society.

My first reaction was to cringe at the title, but it’s true, we were all still girls, regardless of age, in 1950. The novel is a coming-into-their-own story about three women challenging the set-in-stone hierarchy at a fictional bookstore in Bloomsbury.

Real-life personages—Daphne du Maurier, Peggy Guggenheim, Samuel Beckett—appear as characters in the novel, but you can’t be in a Bloomsbury bookshop without the spiritual presence of and references to Virginia Woolf.

When Vivien is named acting manager during a temporary shake-up, the first thing she does is create a prominent display of classic women authors. Woolf, she observes, is “the only woman whom the male stiff did not seem to mind taking up valuable shelf space,” but she moves them all front and center:

Anne Bronte would gain her rightful place next to her sisters, Katherine Mansfield would join her longtime pen pal Virginia Woolf, and Elizabeth Gaskell would emerge from the Victorian shadow of Dickens, Thackeray, and Trollope.

Vivien is a closeted writer, too. After one of her stories is plagiarized by a male colleague, she expresses her frustration to a friend in Queen Square, near the store. Returning to the shop,

she knew she was angrily stomping the very ground where T.S. Eliot had worked as an editor, Virginia Woolf had drawn inspiration for her novel Night and Day, and Thackeray had set his earliest chapters in Vanity Fair.

Evie, doing research in the store’s archives, rues the many lost and forgotten books and wants to reprint the important ones: “Typeset and print it, just like Virginia Woolf ‘n’ her husband did … with a handpress, in her drawing room!”

Light and just a bit frothy, but entertaining. Woolfians could do worse than transplant ourselves to an earlier time in a Bloomsbury square.

 

Read Full Post »

Beth Rigel Daugherty is beloved in Virginia Woolf circles for both her scholarship and her down-to-earth approach to Woolf studies. Her latest book, Virginia Woolf’s Apprenticeship: Becoming an Essayist, out his month, is available at a 30 percent discount from the Edinburgh University Press. Just enter the code EVENT30 when you checkout and you can share her brilliance at a discount.

What’s in the book

  • The most comprehensive portrayal of Virginia Woolf’s education to date
  • Examination of the link between Virginia Stephen’s education and Virginia Woolf’s essays
  • A focus on Woolf’s nonfiction and her early work
  • Two holograph draft lectures by Virginia Stephen for the first time
  • A compilation and organization of archival material in appendices for future researchers.

According to the publisher:

This study takes up Woolf’s challenge to probe the relationship between education and work, specifically her education and her work as an essayist. It expands her education beyond her father’s library to include not only a broader examination of her homeschooling but also her teaching at Morley College and her early book reviewing. It places Virginia Stephen’s learning in the historical and cultural contexts of education for women, the working classes and writers in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.

About Beth Rigel Daugherty

Beth Rigel Daugherty (at far left), Leslie Hankins and Diane Gillespie presented a panel on “Portraying and Projecting Age, Ageism, and Activism” at the 19th Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf, with its theme of social justice, at the University of Mount Saint Joseph in Cincinnati in June of 2019.

Recently retired from Ohio’s Otterbein University, Beth Rigel Daugherty taught modernist English literature, Virginia Woolf and Appalachian and Native American literature along with many thematically focused writing courses, for 36 years.

Her plenary talk at the 31st Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf, “On the Ethics of Teaching: Virginia Woolf’s Essays,” received accolades from everyone who heard it.

Beth fell in love with Virginia Woolf and her essays while at Rice University and has been presenting and publishing on both ever since. Her peer-reviewed articles have appeared in edited collections; editions of the “How Should Read a Book?” holograph draft and Woolf’s fan letters in Woolf Studies Annual; and, with Mary Beth Pringle, the Modern Language Association teaching volume on To the Lighthouse.

A review

Drawing on deep research into the social history of women’s lives and of education, Daugherty shows with superb attention to detail how Virginia Stephen’s early experiences of teaching and of being taught nourished the seeds that flowered as Virginia Woolf, “an essayist compelled to teach.” This is impeccable and important scholarship.

– Mark Hussey, Distinguished Professor Emeritus, Pace University

 

Read Full Post »

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

 

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: