Archive for the ‘On Being Ill’ Category

Paris Press and Meekins Library invite you to an evening of readings, discussion, and writing about theonbeingill transformations of illness and caregiving.

What: Writing and Reading thru Illness and Caregiving
When: Tomorrow, Wednesday, Feb. 1, at 6:30 p.m.
Where: Meekins Library, 2 Williams St. Williamsburg, MA

Join Karen Kukil, Nanny Vonnegut, Amelia Stevens, Jan Freeman, and Marya Zilberberg in a reading and discussion about the transformations that we experience in illness and caregiving.

This program springs from Virginia Woolf’s On Being Ill with Notes from Sick Rooms by Julia Stephen, Woolf’s mother. A group writing activity will follow the reading and discussion. Books will be available to purchase.

For more information, contact Meekins Library 413-268-7472, Paris Press 413-628-0051, info@parispress.org, or meekins@cwmars.org.

Sponsored by the Massachusetts Cultural Council and the Schocken Family Foundation.

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“Woolf and Illness,” the special topics issue of the Virginia Woolf Miscellany, has issued a call for papers with a submission deadline of July 15, 2016. Issue #90 will be published in the fall.


Virginia Woolf’s 1926 essay “On Being Ill” questions why illness has failed to feature as a prime theme of literature, alongside love, battle, and jealousy. This issue of VWM seeks contributions on Woolf’s exploration of illness in her life and work, as a paradigm for reexamining modernist literature and art, and its influence on subsequent writers.

Topics might include questions such as: How does the literature of illness challenge or enhance theories of trauma, narrative ethics, and disability studies? How does Woolf’s focus on the politics and aesthetics of the ill body inform our understanding of the period, including in relation to Victorian values, in relation to the 1918-19 flu pandemic, and in relation to mechanized modernity’s drive toward professionalization and specialization? How has the contemporary literary landscape changed to contribute to the popularity of Woolf’s focus — from the success of the medical humanities to the proliferation of autopathographies? What might be inspiring or potentially problematic in Woolf’s theory of illness as a site for creative rebellion?

Send submissions of no more than 2,500 words by 15 July 2016 to: Cheryl Hindrichs at cherylhindrichs@boisestate.edu

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Virginia Woolf begins her 1926 essay, ‘On Being Ill,’ with a doozy of a sentence.

on-being-illSo begins an essay by my San Diego writing colleague, Tom Larson, “Writing While Ill: Pathography, Then & Now” in Shenandoah, the literary journal of Washington & Lee University. He then quotes Woolf’s lengthy sentence, the first of a three-page, 21-sentence paragraph, so that readers can “behold Woolf’s lapidary craftsmanship . . . a stunningly stylized lead, rich in Proustian intricacies of phrasal singing and delayed cadence.”

He draws on Woolf’s essay, noting the likelihood that she wrote it after she had recovered from that particular bout of illness and the fact that it doesn’t discuss her ailments themselves. Woolf remarks that, “Illness makes us disinclined for the long campaigns that prose exacts;” in other words, writers in the throes of illness don’t feel well enough to write. Larson contrasts the illuminating vision of “On Being Ill” with Woolf’s more immediate but less-poetic responses to her daily condition in her diaries, and moves into his thesis by asking: “How do we make sense of language’s expression of the body (Woolf’s diary) and literature’s avoidance of the body (Woolf’s essay)?”

Cover of "Illness As Metaphor"

Cover of Illness As Metaphor

While neither Woolf nor Susan Sontag, in Illness as Metaphor, write about their own illness–significant as it was–in exploringthe topic, now we find ourselves in “the age of pathography, a virulent subset of memoir,” a term first used in 1988 by Joyce Carol Oates when describing biographies whose authors overemphasize the seedier aspects of their subjects’ lives, and now applied to the present plethora of illness and tragedy memoirs.

Tom Larson is not new to Virginia Woolf or the topic of memoir, which has made him both a resource and a stumbling block for me. His 2007 book, The Memoir and the Memoirist, explores the genre both past and present. He differentiates between autobiography and memoir, citing Woolf’s “I now and I then” perspective from “A Sketch of the Past.”

I was considering a paper on Woolf and memoir for a Woolf conference until I read Tom’s book and realized that I couldn’t add much to what he had already said.  Now, in this eloquent essay, he develops his ideas further.

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on becoming ill eventParis Press Books: On Being Ill


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John Lehman

Information about John Lehmann and other Bloomsbury Group figures has been newly posted to the Mantex site.

Roy Johnson of Mantex Information Design wrote Blogging Woolf to say he has added half a dozen new resources connected to Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group to the site. Here they are, with links:

Find more Bloomsbury Group materials, as well as biographical notes, study guides and literary criticism on twentieth century authors, including Woolf and other Bloomsbury Group members.

Visit the Virginia Woolf at Mantex page. Woolf study guides on the site include:Between the Acts

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