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Archive for the ‘International Virginia Woolf Society’ Category

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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The International Virginia Woolf Society has elected new officers for the 2021-23 term. They are:

IVWS Logo

President: Benjamin Hagen, assistant professor of English at the University of South Dakota and the organizer for the  30th Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf: Profession and Performance, which was postponed until June 10-13, 2021.
Vice President: Amanda Golden, associate professor of English and director of the Writing Program and Coordinator of the Writing Center at New York Institute of Technology.
Historian-Bibliographer: Catherine Hollis, who teaches English at UC Berkeley.
Secretary-Treasurer: Susan Wegener, graduate student in English at Purdue University.

The current officers will serve through the end of the year. The new slate of officers will begin their term on Jan. 1, 2021.

Join the Society

Membership in the IVWS is open to all. Get information on joining.

Members of the Society receive a free subscription to the Virginia Woolf Miscellany, the Woolf Society Newsletter, an annual Bibliography of Woolf Scholarship, and an annual updated list of members.

Members with e-mail addresses are also included in a distribution list that provides early notification of special events, electronic balloting, and electronic versions of the newsletters. In addition, members receive early notification of the Annual Woolf Conferences, and information about other events and publications of interest to readers of Woolf.

Benjamin Hagen, newly elected president of the IVWS, is second from left. Susan Wegener, newly elected secretary-treasurer of the Society, is second from right. Both are pictured at the 29th Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf’s Saturday evening banquet, along with other conference attendees, including Madelyn Detloff at far right.

 

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This is the third in a new series of posts that will offer a global perspective on Woolf studies, as proposed by Stefano Rozzoni at the 29th Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf. If you would like to contribute to this series, please contact Blogging Woolf at bloggingwoolf@yahoo.com.

The road to Cincinnati is not long or arduous if you are starting out from downtown Toronto. In fact, it’s nearly a straight shot: taking the 401 West and crossing into the US at Windsor, the I75 South will lead you to your destination after eight or nine hours. I know this because it is the route I took to Woolf and Social Justice: The 29th Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf, which was held at Mount St. Joseph University this past June.

Speeding towards any other conference, this long and unchallenging trek of highway might have provided an extended opportunity for me, a fourth-year PhD candidate, to stress over the paper I’d be delivering, and the many people I would soon need to meet (and impress). This was not my travel experience to this conference, however.

How come? The answer to that question begins with my acceptance into the conference program last February, and explains a good deal about the hearty welcome I received from all in Cincinnati.

There was, most welcome of all, a summoning together…

Shortly after sending word that I would indeed be presenting, conference organiser Drew Shannon (MSJ) contacted me personally via Facebook Messenger to ask if I had any questions or concerns about the coming gathering.

An enthusiastic first-time conference-goer hopes that his T-shirt will gain him entry to the Woolfians’ inner circles.

Over the course of our chat, I found myself provided not simply with logistical answers, but with a good idea of the Woolfians I would meet there (Jean Moorcroft Wilson! Cecil Woolf!), and anecdotes about Drew having enjoyed a London breakfast at their table—the same one that Woolf herself had used to set the Hogarth Press edition of Eliot’s The Waste Land.

I can’t say that I have ever been personally contacted by a conference organiser, and I had certainly never had one welcome me into the fold so enthusiastically. This, I’ve since gathered, was something that Drew did time and again in the months preceding our in-person meeting. The effort he exerted to make us first-timers feel welcomed (before, during, and after the conference) is to be commended, and, I would suggest, imitated by those in a similar position who dare try.

“All hope abandon, ye who enter here” (Dante), as seen on the entry to the stacks at Cincinnati’s Mercantile Library

As fate would have it, Cecil’s final illness prevented him and Jean from attending the conference, and, as I recently remarked to another Woolfian, the couple’s absence had a marked presence on the goings-on that was perceptible even to a first-time Woolf-goer like myself. I like to think that this was possible because of the excellent scholarship and better fellowship on offer at the IVWS’ historical conferences, the latest incarnation of which I experienced first-hand at VW29.

For example, a blending of the scholarly and the social was to be found at the ‘world premiere’ of Leonard Woolf’s closet drama The Hotel, which can safely be classified as a conference-wide effortWhile it was acted in MSJ’s large auditorium by Drew’s infamous Woolfpack, the performance’s numerous fourth-wall breaks and plentiful helping of cheek saw the whole audience participating in the evening’s entertainment.

Similarly, the wine and cheese reception at the city’s historic Mercantile Library is not an event whose rich setting and intimate conversation I will soon forget. Nor will I forget the successive evenings where conference attendees gathered in MSJ’s dorms to sip boxed wine, eat stale pizza, and discuss all things Woolf-related (and a few that were not).

Papers given on all kinds of books, hesitating at no subject however trivial or however vast…

The bard gazes (with contempt?) at a bookshelf asking who composed his life’s works, Mercantile Library

On the academic side of the equation, my interest as a scholar of the Great War was piqued by the panels on Woolf’s pacifism and war-legacies, and by my co-presenters in “Woolf, War, and Social Justice”: Charlotte Fiehn (Texas) and Chelsie Hoskins (Miami).

But variety was the name of the day (or week). For example, I attended M. Rita D. Viana’s (Universidade Federale de Santa Catarina) paper on differing translations of Orlando into Brazilian Portuguese. This small panel, which also included Scott Stalcup (Northern Illinois), initiated a discussion I found irresistible, despite the fact that I know no Portuguese and had never read Orlando (an oversight that I have since remedied).

The plenary talk on Woolf in the era of #MeToo meanwhile made an excellent argument for grounding transformative justice in storytelling, while panels throughout the week did not shy away from highlighting Woolf’s own race- and class-inflected blind spots when otherwise praising her activist writing.

By getting to know the group that had shared 28 such experiences (more or less) with Jean and Cecil, over the course of VW29 I gradually came to understand why they were so affected by the couple’s absence.

For it was the middle of June. The conference was over…

The author’s first GIF: MSJ’s gargantuan flag flying proudly on a quiet June night

Finally, for all that the people Drew gathered may have had in common, and even in light of their long shared history together, it cannot be said that they were a uniform crowd. Participants ranged in experience from senior undergraduates to retired faculty, with a healthy sampling from every stage in between (and an especially robust helping of graduate students).

What’s more, these participants came to Cincinnati from the world over—I have fond memories of sharing an American buffet-breakfast with two Brits, an Indian dinner with Brazilians, a meditation on MSJ’s massive American flag with an Irishwoman, and a number of similarly memorable conversations with Americans (and Canadians!) who might have started their weeks anywhere from coast to coast to coast. Variety indeed!

As I wound my way back to Ontario, this time driving north-east around Lake Erie, I found myself once more with time for reflection. I had learned quite a bit at Woolf and Social Justice, made some friends (“networked”), and had an unforgettable experience to boot. While it may not be practical or even possible for me to attend this conference’s successors every single year, I’m certain that I’ll find my way back amongst this group before too long, whatever winding road it may be that takes me there.

The only picture the author managed to take of himself at VW29, replete with a thumb in the upper-left corner.

Sean A. McPhail is a PhD candidate in the Department of English at the University of Toronto. His research (primarily) concerns the relationship between kinship and commemoration in the war-writings of Siegfried Sassoon.

Read more in the series:

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Stefano Rozzoni

As is customary at Woolf conferences, scholars from all over the world traveled to the 29th Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf at Mount St. Joseph University in Cincinnati, Ohio, adding a global perspective to Woolf studies.

Going global

Blogging Woolf snapped photos of some of these scholars at the June 6-9 event. And we share them here as we introduce an upcoming new series of posts.

The brainchild of Stefano Rizzoni, a doctoral student at the University of Bergamo in Italy, the proposed global series will answer questions like these:

  • What are Woolf conferences like? And how do they enhance a spirit of internationalism and community?
  • How do conferences enrich one’s work, vision and knowledge of Woolf and others?
  • How does one’s native country responds to Virginia Woolf studies?

If you would like to contribute to this series, please contact Blogging Woolf at bloggingwoolf@yahoo.com

Joshua Phillips of Scotland, Briany Armstrong and James Kearns of the UK, Jiwon Choi of China, and Maria Oliveira of Brazil.

Sayaka Okumura and Miyuki Tateishi of Japan

Victoria Callanan of Sweden and Maria Viana of Brazil

Anne Marie Bantzinger of the Netherlands

Cecilia Servatius of Austria

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The International Virginia Woolf Society is once again running the Angelica Garnett Undergraduate Essay Contest/Prize in honor of Virginia Woolf and in memory of Angelica Garnett, writer, artist, and daughter of Woolf’s sister, Vanessa Bell.

The contest is open to any undergraduate as well as anyone within one year of completing the undergraduate degree.

Essay parameters

Essays can be on any topic pertaining to Woolf’s writings. Essays should be between 2,000 and 2,500 words in length, including notes and works cited, with an original title of the entrant’s choosing

Essays should be submitted with the application by June 30 and will be read and judged by the four IVWS officers: Ann Martin, Alice Keane, Drew Shannon, and President Kristen Czarnecki.

The winner will receive $200, and the winning essay will be published in the following issue of the Virginia Woolf Miscellany.

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