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Archive for the ‘pandemic’ Category

Virginia Woolf would have been 140 today. So today, as we near the end of year two ofVW Diary Vol. 5 the COVID-19 pandemic, it seems fitting to look at the moody diary entry she wrote a day after her fifty-ninth birthday in 1941, when she, Leonard, and the rest of the world were living through year two of the Second World War.

Her diary entry of Sunday, Jan. 26, 1941, shows that despite the difficult state of the world, she slogs on with her work as she battles depression and vows that “[t]his trough of despair shall not, I swear, engulf me.”

She bemoans the solitude and the smallness of her current life at Monk’s House in Rodmell and details her “prescription” for survival:

Sleep & slackness; musing; reading; cooking; cycling; oh & a good hard rather rocky book – p. 355, The Diary of Virginia Woolf, Volume 5.

Woolf’s words convey pandemic feelings

To me, so much of this entry pertains to our pandemic state in the present day. We work. We battle uncomfortable feelings. We refuse to be engulfed by despair. We see our current lives as smaller — much smaller — than they once were.

But we go on anyway, doing whatever necessary in this “cold hour.” We sleep. We think. We read, we cook, we cycle. We surf, we Google, we Zoom.

We press our noses to the closed door, hoping it will open soon.

Here is Woolf’s diary entry for the day after her 59th birthday in its entirety.

1941

Sunday 26 January

A battle against depression, rejection (by Harper’s of my story & Ellen Terry) routed today (I hope) by clearing out kitchen; by sending the article (a lame one) to N.S.: & by breaking into PH 2 days, I think, of memoir writing.

This trough of despair shall not, I swear, engulf me. The solitude is great. Rodmell life is very small beer. The house is damp. The house is untidy. But there is no alternative. Also days will lengthen. What I need is the old spurt. “Your true life, like mine, is in ideas” Desmond said to me once. But one must remember one cant pump ideas. I begin to dislike introspection. Sleep & slackness; musing; reading; cooking; cycling; oh & a good hard rather rocky book–viz: Herbert Fisher. This is my prescription. We are going to Cambridge for two days. I find myself totting up my friends lives: Helen at Alciston without water; Adrian & Karin; Oliver at Bedford, & adding up rather a higher total of happiness. There’s a lull in the war. 6 nights without raids. But Garvin says the greatest struggle is about to come–say in 3 weeks–& every man, woman dog cat even weevil must girt their arms, their faith–& so on.

Its the cold hour, this, before the lights go up. A few snowdrops in the garden. Yes, I was thinking: we live without a future. Thats whats queer, with our noses pressed to a closed door. Now to write, with a new nib, to Enid Jones (354-355).

Google Doodle in commemoration of Woolf’s 136th birthday

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Nothing could be more timely than a new edition of Virginia Woolf’s On Being Ill which will be out in anthology form on Oct. 25 and include essays on illness from writers across the globe, with cover art by Louisa Albani.

Even in the midst of the current pandemic, illness remains an unpopular theme in literature. But in her essay, On Being Ill Virginia Woolf asks whether illness should not receive more literary attention, taking its place alongside the recurring themes of “love, battle and jealousy.” According to the publishers, this book, On Being Ill, does exactly that.

Thinking about illness

This edition serves as a complement to HetMoet’s 2020 publication of the first Dutch translation of Virginia Woolf’s On Being Ill. In this collaborative volume, authors, translators and illustrators have come together from Great Britain, Ireland, the United States and the Netherlands to represent past, present and future thinking about illness.

Noteworthy contributions to this 172-page paperback edition are Deryn Rees-Jones’ preface to Woolf’s essay from 1926 and the introduction to Audre Lorde’s The Cancer Journals of 1980. Against these, the voices of contemporary authors resonate as they contemplate the interactions between sickness and literature.

Readers are able to begin the book at the end, or might happily start in the middle, as every contribution is a unique, personal piece that offers poignant observations of the world of illness from within.

Book launch Nov. 5, in person and live online

The book launch of this new edition will take place Nov. 5 at 7 p.m. GMT at Perdu Literary Foundation in Amsterdam and will be also be transmitted live online. The event will mainly be in English.

Elte Rauch from Uitgeverij HetMoet will talk about how the book came into being and will introduce the panel members and writers. There will be readings and contributions from Mieke van Zonneveld, Deryn Rees-Jones, Lucia Osborne-Crowely, Nadia de Vries and Jameisha Prescod. Marielle O’Neill from the Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain will speak about Woolf’s essay. The evening will be accompanied by music.

Tickets are €7.50. For more information email Elte Raunch: info@uitgeverijhetmoet.nl

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Have we killed the self-sacrificing Angel in the House? If an exhibit by photographer Lanie McNulty is to be believed, the answer is no.

Virginia Woolf advocated for such a death. In “Professions for Women” read to the Women’s Service League in 1931 and published posthumously in The Death of the Moth and Other Essays (1942), she wrote that “Killing the Angel in the House was part of the occupation of a woman writer.”

A woman writer, she believed, had to kill off the respectable Victorian “angel,” popularized by Coventry Patmore in his 1858 poem. The angel, an ideal woman who lives to serve others, particularly males, neglects her own personal needs and certainly never considers herself to have any professional aspirations.

Pandemic forces women into angel roles

McNulty, a New York based photographer and social activist, was inspired by the current pandemic to turn her lens on domestic interiors. In doing so, she produced stunning photographs that depict women at home alone and with children, husbands, parents, and friends.

Created in collaboration with her subjects, McNulty’s photographs starkly expose what the pandemic year has made clearer than ever — that women play an outsized role trying to keep it all together. Her photos make up the exhibit “The Angel in the House.”

McNulty is not the first to make a play on the death of the angel for an artistic purpose. A literary journal titled Killing the Angel (pictured above) launched in 2013 but now appears to be defunct.

Exhibit and book

Now on display at New York’s Planthouse, The Angel in the House opened today and runs through Oct. 23 by appointment.

If you can’t make it to the exhibit, you can buy the book.

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If you are a regular reader of Blogging Woolf, you may have noticed that I have not posted as regularly as usual for the past year or so. I blame the pandemic.

Poster for The Woolf Salon No. 7, “A Room of Your Own Will Not Protect You: Woolf and the Second Wave Feminists”

It has shortened my attention span, sapped my motivation, stifled my creativity, and generally made it difficult for me to focus for very long on anything seemingly unessential for survival.

You may have experienced similar feelings. Or not.

Pandemic-prompted Salon

Luckily, for a number of energetic Virginia Woolf readers and scholars, the pandemic has prompted the creation of something new and innovative for Woolf lovers around the globe, The Woolf Salon.

Ben Hagen, Shilo McGiff, Amy Smith, and Drew Shannon began the project last July. Their goal was to provide regularly scheduled opportunities for conversation among those interested in Woolf.

Anyone can join the group, which meets on the third or fourth 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.

Topics have included:

  1. “Imagining Woolfian Criticism”
  2. “The Leaning Tower”
  3. “Kew Gardens” and its recent adaptation in the anthology film London Unplugged
  4. “Planetary Woolf,” which introduced attendees to the forthcoming book collection, Virginia Woolf and Contemporary Global Literature (Edinburgh UP, 2021
  5. “Solid Objects” and “A Society”

Just yesterday, we met to discuss the theme “Stay, This Moment,” with a focus on two readings, Woolf’s essay “The Moment: Summer’s Night” and her story “Slater’s Pins Have No Points.”

The full schedule is available online.

Submit a proposal

Anyone interested in hosting a future salon is invited to submit a proposal. Organizers are particularly interested in featuring the work of early career researchers as well as artists and graduate students. Or a host can choose to focus on one or two short texts.

Why a Salon?

Woolf provides justification for the concept of a literary salon in Orlando (1928), the gender-shifting pseudo-biography that paid tribute to her lover Vita Sackville-West.

She describes her title character’s experiences with the salons she encountered upon her return to England from Turkey in the 18th century.

Nor could she do more as the ship sailed to its anchorage by the London Bridge than glance at coffee-house windows where, on balconies, since the weather was fine, a great number of decent citizens sat at ease, with china dishes in front of them, clay pipes by their sides, while one among them read from a news sheet, and was frequently interrupted by the laughter or the comments of the others? Were these taverns, were these wits, were these poets? . . .‘Addison, Dryden, Pope,’ Orlando repeated as if the words were an incantation. – Orlando 123-4.

Now, the Lady R.’s reception room had the reputation of being the antechamber to the presence room of genius; it was the place where men and women met to swing censers and chant hymns to the bust of genius in a niche in the wall. Sometimes the God himself vouchsafed his presence for a moment. Intellect alone admitted the suppliant, and nothing (so the report ran) was said inside that was not witty. – Orlando 145.

In three hours, such a company must have said the wittiest, the profoundest, the most interesting things in the world. So it would seem indeed. But the fact appears to be that they said nothing. – Orlando 146.

The hostess is our modern Sibyl. She [he] is a witch who lays her [his] guests under a spell. In this house they think themselves happy; in that witty; in a third profound. It is all an illusion (which is nothing against it, for illusions are the most valuable and necessary of all things, and she [he] who can create one is among the world’s greatest benefactors), but as it is notorious that illusions are shattered by conflict with reality, so no real happiness, no real wit, no real profundity are tolerated where the illusion prevails. – Orlando 146.

 

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