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One of the benefits of being a member of the International Virginia Society is receiving copies of the society’s publication, the Virginia Woolf Miscellany.

AnneMarie Bantzinger

The latest installment, Issue 98, is now online. It features the special topic “The First Thirty Annual (International) Conferences on Virginia Woolf,” edited by AnneMarie Bantzinger.

The collection, solicited in 2019, offers a collage of reminiscences and memories that evoke the conference experiences from multiple perspectives, those of organizers and participants.

Among them is one I wrote about the 2009 conference in New York City. I’m sharing it here.

Woolf and the City: Wow!

For a girl born in Brooklyn, transplanted to Ohio at the age of three, and engaged in a longtime love affair with both Virginia Woolf and New York, could there be anything better than a Woolf conference in New York City? I think not.

Conference organizer Anne Fernald and Megan Branch, Fordham student, at Woolf and the City

And that is why “Wow!” was my immediate reaction to Woolf and the City, the 19th Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf. Ten years later that is still my emotional response when I think of that 2009 event, which is why I chose the New York City conference as my personal hands-down favorite among the ten Woolf conferences I have attended.

Held June 4-7 at Fordham University on Manhattan’s Upper West Side and organized by Anne Fernald, the conference was the second I had attended. But it was the first one I wrote about on Blogging Woolf, the site I created in July of 2007. Now, those blog posts, including one aptly titled “In the aftermath of Woolf and the City, one word — Wow!” help me recall the high points of the conference I described as “dynamite.”

Notable scholars, authors, readers

It featured 50 panels, attracted 200 Woolf scholars and common readers from around the globe, and introduced me to notable authors I never dreamed I would meet.

Ruth Gruber at Woolf and the City

One was Dr. Ruth Gruber, who died in 2016. Ninety-seven at the time of the conference, she was known as a journalist, photographer, and the author of Virginia Woolf: The Will to Create as a Woman (1935).

She shared fascinating stories of her 1930s experiences as a journalist who visited the Soviet Arctic and a writer who met Virginia and Leonard Woolf in their Tavistock Square flat.

I remember chatting with this redhead curbside as she patiently waited for the cab that would take her home.

Novel writer and keynote speakers

Susan Sellers

Another was Susan Sellers, author of Vanessa and Virginia, the novel based on the relationship between sisters Vanessa Bell and Virginia Woolf, which was receiving rave reviews in the US at the time. I recall her graciousness as she signed books and chatted with readers.

Others I listened to, but did not meet, included keynote speaker Rebecca Solnit, a prolific author whose work is so timely and compelling today, and Tamar Katz of Brown University who spoke about the importance of “pausing and waiting” in life and in Woolf.

From a walking stick to rock music

What else struck my fancy? Here’s the list:

  • A visit to the Berg Collection at the New York Public Library, where we were treated to a private viewing of pieces in the Virginia Woolf collection, including the walking stick rescued from the River Ouse after her death. Being there felt more sacred than church.
  • A performance of the 2004 play Vita and Virginia, written by Dame Eileen Atkins and directed by Matthew Maguire, director of Fordham’s theatre program.
  • A performance that combined rock-out music from an L.A. band called Princeton with dance from the Stephen Pelton Dance Theatre as the group performed cuts from its four-song album “Bloomsbury” based on the lives of Virginia and Leonard Woolf, John Maynard Keynes, and Lytton Strachey.
  • And, of course, the cherished presence of Cecil Woolf and Jean Moorcroft Wilson and their collection of Bloomsbury Heritage Series monographs, including my first, which debuted at that conference — Reading the Skies in Virginia Woolf: Woolf on Weather in Her Essays, Her Diaries and Three of Her Novels — making Woolf and the City extra memorable.

Cecil Woolf and Jean Moorcroft Wilson at Woolf and the City in 2009

 

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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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What do women, queer, trans or LGBTQIA+ people, as well as BIPOC communities, disabled and neurodiverse people, working class and colonised populations, and many others have in common? They are outsiders. And the Outside/rs 2022 Conference: Making Space at the Queer Intersections of Sex and Gender is for them/us.

Details

When: April 1-2, 2022
Where: University of Brighton, with hybrid delivery
What:  Outside/rs 2022 isa conference that platforms those researching and working with themes of sex, gender, queerness, community and exclusions.
Who: If you are a postgraduate researcher, early career researcher, or live, work or create in a marginalised community, then please join the conference in April, either online or in-person at the University of Brighton.
Register
Call for Papers/Participants: Due Jan. 9, 2022

Conference Theme

For those who exist in queer, marginal, or dissident relations to normativity in its various guises, the ‘outside’ is a familiar place. As Virginia Woolf famously noted, to be locked out of or barred from spaces of privilege was, and still is, a common experience for women. This is also a common experience for queer, trans or LGBTQIA+ people, as well as BIPOC communities, disabled and neurodiverse people, working class and colonised populations, and many others.

Keynotes

  • Dr. S.N. Nyeck, author of African(a) Queer Presence and the Routledge Handbook of African Queer Studies, virtual keynote
  • Ulrika Dahl, author of Femmes of Power: Exploding Queer Femininities, in-person keynote.

Queer Bloomsbury Panel

The conference will include a panel on Queer Bloomsbury. This will be an online panel on Friday, April 1, and will comprise three presentations (20 minutes each) followed by a half hour discussion/Q&A. The panel will include Madelyn Detloff (Miami University), Jane Goldman (University of Glasgow) and Samson Dittrich (University of Sussex) and will be chaired by Marielle O’Neill (Leeds Trinity University).

Submit an abstract

Conference organizers encourage postgraduate, early-career researchers, and community members to submit a paper on a topic of their choice relevant to one issue, or more than one, to look at, for example, the intersections of class, race and queerness. Read more about submission guidelines in the Call for Papers.

Please send abstracts of 300 words to outsiders2022@gmail.com. Abstracts will be reviewed anonymously, so include all personal information (e.g., name), in the body of the submission email only. Please also include whether you are submitting for the virtual or in-person conference, and your preference for which day. The deadline for the submission of abstracts and panel proposals is Jan. 9, 2022.

Get more information

For all enquiries and to join the mailing list, please email: outsiders2022@gmail.com

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It’s nearly time for Woolf Salon No. 15: “Time Passes” (A Reading). This time, Salon Conspirators have planned a full read-through of the hauntingly poetic middle section of Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse (1927), followed by an open discussion.

Details

Hosts: Salon Conspirators
Day: Friday, Dec. 10
Time: 3 p.m.–5 p.m. ET / Noon –2 p.m  PT / 4 p.m. – 6 p.m. Brasilia / 8 p.m. – 10 p.m. BST / 9 p.m. – 11 p.m. CEST
How to join: Anyone can join the group, which meets on one Friday of each month via Zoom and focuses on a single topic or text. Just contact woolfsalonproject@gmail.com to sign up for the email list and receive the Zoom link.

Background on the Salon

The Salon Conspirators — Hagen, Shilo McGiff, Amy Smith, and Drew Shannon — began the Woolf Salon Project in July 2020 to provide opportunities for conversation and conviviality among Woolf-interested scholars, students, and common readers during and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Editor’s Note: Emma Morris, the author of this post, is a digital copywriter from Johannesburg, South Africa. She is also a self-proclaimed logophile and loves Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group. Emma spends her days writing engaging marketing copy for brands and her evenings immersed in literature and literature blogs. 

On Nov. 5, cultures and creators came together in Amsterdam and online to celebrate the publication of an anthology of essays, letters and poems which resonate with Virginia Woolf’s essay On Being Ill.

There was a diverse range of speakers at the hybrid event organized by the Perdu Literary Foundation. Both in-person and on Zoom, they spoke to the complexity of the theme. Speakers included Elte Rauch, Marielle O’Neill, Nadia de Vries, Lucia Osborne-Crowley, Deryn Rees-Jones, Sophie Collins and Mieke van Zonneveld, as well as superb live music from Ekster.

Pandemic allows identification

The timing of the publication date could not be more perfect. As the world limps out of isolation, we can most certainly identify with Woolf’s essay on illness itself and the resulting isolation, loneliness and vulnerability that comes with it.

The anthology examines the way illness and literature are dialectically connected to each other, and how the process from conceptualization to the publication of the anthology mirrors the stages of illness.

Connecting as writers

Elte Rauch from HetMoet

As Elte stated in her opening address at the launch, the people involved in this anthology didn’t know each other, but each of them was able to connect at varying points in the process.

This idea that connection can never be lost is pivotal, she said, explaining that while writing is a solitary action, publishing is done together. It is the time when writers, illustrators and musicians all come together.

In an evening that celebrates the relevancy of Virginia Woolf, and especially her “revolutionary act of empowerment,” as Marielle O’Neill stated in her essay, that by openly embracing such a taboo subject as mental health – especially at a time in our history when illness itself is a taboo subject, the anthology as well as the original essay by Woolf will resonate with post-lockdown readers.

When everyday moments become special

As Marielle stated in her essay, small everyday moments, like Mrs. Dalloway buying flowers, become special moments. For example, coffee with a friend becomes a special occasion.

Writer Nadia de Vries with Marielle O’Neill from the Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain

This anthology shows us, as readers, how beautiful it can be to write about a subject that is, in all honesty, not beautiful.

As Woolf so describes in her essay, when adults are ill, it inevitably makes us feel like children again. Illness is not beautiful. It’s messy, it’s raw and it leaves us vulnerable. In some ways, being ill mirrors the act of writing and creating itself.

How often do we as artists, writers and musicians share some of the most secret parts of our souls when we put pen to paper or paint to canvas?

Literature and anthologies bring us together

As I close this blog piece, I will leave you with something that was repeated during the evening, and certainly echoes in the anthology itself. Just as literature succeeds in bringing people together, this anthology brought writers, creators, scholars, and musicians together for an evening. It even brought you and I together for an evening.

It helped us put aside the loneliness of lockdown, illness and a global pandemic and allowed us to just enjoy each other’s company and inner most thoughts and feelings.

When we talk about illness, we lay bare how naturally afraid of illness and the finality of death we are – almost on a primitive level. But one thing is certain, when we do discuss our vulnerabilities and share our fears, magic is created.

How to get it

The anthology is available now in Holland in English and Dutch editions, with a UK book launch planned for January 2022. For more information contact Elte Rauch at info@uitgeverijhetmoet.nl.

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