Archive for the ‘Hermione Lee’ Category

Hermione Lee
Hermione Lee

Hermione Lee’s The Novels of Virginia Woolf is just one of 18 titles that academic publisher Routledge will repackage and republish as part of its Routledge Revivals series on July 15.

Routledge will reissue more than 100 of its key titles from its backlist over the next 12 months, reproducing them using print on demand.

The first 18 titles will be published in hardback at prices ranging from £50 to £100. The majority of the titles will be available through print-on-demand services and for download as e-books.

Amazon.com lists the Lee title with a publication date of Oct. 15 and a price of $122.

Editorial assistant Adam Micklethwaite said, “We have such a distinguished list—it is inevitable that we would use this in the time of an economic recession.” Read more.

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Everywhere I go, I hear it — that hacking cough that people just cannot seem to get rid of this fall.

So how fitting that this week, the Financial Times published a review of Virginia Woolf’s 1930 volume On Being Ill.

As the story goes, Woolf fainted at a party in 1925. During the aftermath, which involved several months of recuperation, she wrote a thoughtful rumination on how illness changes one’s experience of the world.

Those thoughts were published by the Hogarth Press in a slim volume with cover art designed by her sister, Vanessa Bell. It was titled On Being Ill.

The Financial Times review mentions a new edition of the volume, published by Paris Press and with an introduction by Hermione Lee. It is a facsimile of the original, cover art and all.

Five years ago, in 2003, Lee presented the keynote address at the 13th Annual International Virginia Woolf Conference on the essay. The theme that year was “Woolf in the Real World.” Nothing is more real than illness.

The Paris Press edition is not that new. My volume, which I picked up several years ago at my local Borders, has a copyright date of 2002.

Perhaps you can pick up a copy for an ill friend. It just might change his or her experience of the world.

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Anyone who has visited Monk’s House in Rodmell, Sussex knows that much of Virginia and Leonard Woolf’s summer home is off limits to visitors.

When I was there in June of 2004, I was particularly interested in Virginia’s writing lodge. However, I couldn’t get close enough to truly satisfy my curiosity about the small room where she wrote many of her most famous works from 1919 to 1941. All I could do was peer through the window into the space, as it was off limits to everyday visitors like me.

So imagine my excitement when a post to the VW Listserv linked us to an excellent interior photo of the writing lodge and a description of the space written by Woolf biographer Hermione Lee. The article, “Writers’ Rooms: Virginia Woolf,” appears in The Guardian with the wonderful photo.

You can read more about Woolf’s writing habitats — and the queries they generate — here.


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Leonard Woolf bio coverWe’ll have to wait until Nov. 28 to find out the 10 best books of the year chosen by the editors of the New York Times Book Review.

But the Times list of the 100 Notable Books of 2007 is available now. And it includes books with a Woolf connection.

Connect the dots that lead to Virginia from the tomes listed below.



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Proust Was a NeuroscientistWant help with science? Ask Virginia.

Jonah Lehrer, a 26-year-old Rhodes scholar, argues in his new book, Proust Was a Neuroscientist, that scientists and artists can learn from each other. And he says one artist we can learn from is Woolf.

Lehrer’s premise is that in the process of doing their work, both scientists and artists search for truth. But while scientists find their truths while working in an actual laboratory, writers like Woolf find theirs while at work in the lab of the mind, as they put pen to paper. They use their artistic insights to make their own kind of scientific breakthroughs, breakthroughs so intuitively radical that scientists themselves may take years to catch up with them.

While Proust, the title character in Lehrer’s book, explored the accuracy and inaccuracy of human memory,  Woolf explored the fragility of the self and the vagaries of the human mind. She did so by inventing the stream of consciousness technique, which she developed in her post-World-War-I novels, beginning with Mrs. Dalloway.   

Woolf, he notes, illustrates the birdlike quality of the human mind, as her characters’ thoughts flit about, quickly moving from one topic to another, never resting for long on any one subject. The self emerges from this constant mental movement, she tells us, a “kind of whole made of shivering fragments.”

Lehrer tells us that Woolf’s view of the way the brain works matches recent scientific findings. An experience only lasts for about 10 seconds in short-term memory, he notes: “After that, the brain exhausts its capacity for the present tense, and its consciousness must begin anew, with a new stream.”

There’s more ground-breaking science in Woolf’s novels. Remember the artist Lily in To the Lighthouse? She complains that she is always of two minds: “Such was the complexity of things … to feel violently two opposite things at the same time; that’s what you feel, was one; that’s what I feel was the other, and then they fought together in her mind, as now.”

Well, Lehrer explains how science took nearly 40 years to catch up with Woolf’s art. It was the early 1960s before two neuroscientists discovered “the divided mind, and the way we instinctively explain away our divisions.” It was a discovery that had a profound impact on neuroscience, according to the author.  

So what kind of help can scientists expect from Woolf? Lehrer has an answer.

“Virginia Woolf isn’t going to help you finish your lab experiment,” he says in a Q&A in Wired Magazine. “What she will do is help you ask your questions better.”

It’s no wonder Lehrer has such an appreciation for Woolf, including her among just five authors he discusses in his book. After all, he studied with Woolf biographer Hermione Lee at Oxford.

Read a review in the Los Angeles Times.

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