Archive for the ‘Virginia Woolf’ Category

The Beyond Words French Literature Festival at Institut français in Kensington, London celebrates Virginia Woolf’s work at 8:15 p.m. on May 19 as Paul B. Preciado and Merve Emre engage in conversation on Orlando’s impact on Preciado’s art and personal journey.

Preciado is a philosopher and writer. Emre is an author, academic and literary critic.

Virginia Woolf wrote my biography before me when publishing Orlando, a century ago – trans writer and philosopher Paul B. Preciado

More on the agenda

But don’t stop there. From May 12-21, the seventh edition of the festival will cross borders and genres to take participants on a literary journey through lively discussions, powerful readings and inspiring live performances and screenings.

Renowned authors from both side of the Channel, such as Ian McEwan, Lauren Elkin, Deborah Levy, Éric Vuillard, Laurent Mauvignier and Muriel Barbery, as well as new exciting voices, will meet, discuss or present their latest releases.

Many events are in English or both English and French and are priced at £3-15.

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Proposals are invited for chapters of previously unpublished and original work to be included in an edited collection, Modernist Continuities: Virginia Woolf and Women in Turkey.

Papers are welcome that engage with Virginia Woolf’s reception by women writers in Turkey, literary networks built between Woolf’s works and works by women writers in Turkey, and her influence on the women’s movement.

The book will form a picture of how Woolf’s writing has served as an inspiration for women in Turkey.

Possible topics

Possible topics include, but are not limited to:

• Virginia Woolf’s comments on or about Turkey
• Bloomsbury Group’s connection to Turkey
• Woolf’s legacy in women’s literature in Turkey. Of particular interest might be
• Halide Edip Adıvar, Tomris Uyar, Sevgi Soysal, Leyla Erbil, Tezer Özlü, Erendiz Atasü, Nilgün Marmara, Mina Urgan
• The influence of Virginia Woolf’s writing on women’s movement in Turkey
• Translations of Virginia Woolf’s works.

Who can submit

Submissions from scholars of all backgrounds and levels of experience exploring Virginia Woolf’s connection to women writers and women’s movement in Turkey are encouraged. Particularly welcome are interdisciplinary contributions aiming at investigating Woolf’s influence on different aspects of literary, political and cultural life in Turkey.

Authors are invited to submit a short bio and a 500-word abstract by May 31. Full drafts between 7,000 and 9,000 words (including notes and bibliography) written in MLA format will be due on Aug. 31.

The collection is due to be published in 2024, and editors have received positive interest for publication from Bloomsbury Publishing.

Deadline and contacts

Send abstracts and queries to: virginiawoolfandwomeninturkey@gmail.com
Deadline for submissions: 31 May 2023
Contact email: virginiawoolfandwomeninturkey@gmail.com


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Martin Riker’s protagonist in The Guest Lecture is Abby, an economist who has been denied tenure at her university for publishing a book about Maynard Keynes that is deemed derivative.

Because of her book’s popularity outside academia, she’s been invited to present a lecture to a lay audience. In a hotel room the night before, she’s preparing her talk in an imaginary conversation with Keynes himself.

She will discuss his “bohemian arty side,” so that the audience:

will depart having learned something about the Bloomsbury group, some bits and bobs of history. For example, the bizarre and wonderful factoid that Keynes was housemates with Virginia Woolf. They were friends and she at some point claimed to be jealous that he could do what she did—write beautifully—but she couldn’t do what he did—economics, politics.

Abby describes her office at home as:

A writing room. A reading and thinking room. A ‘room of one’s own’—which was my first Virginia Woolf book, incidentally, and remains a favorite example of how a conceptual argument—in this case about female autonomy, living your own life—can also be a practical argument, in a way Keynes probably appreciated.

I found the novel entertaining and educational, philosophical and thought-provoking. It’s interesting how Maynard Keynes has shed the stereotypical image of the serious and sober intellectual, as his colorful life and provocative views are explored in fiction here and also in E.J. Barnes’s Mr. Keynes’ Revolution and Mr. Keynes’ Dance and in Susan Sellers’ Firebird: A Bloomsbury Love Story.

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Did Virginia Woolf care about food? That question has generated quite a bit of discussion on the VWoolf Listserv. The general consensus? Yes, she did.

A letter published in the Times Literary Supplement on Jan. 13 prompted the discussion. In it, the writer responds to a review of English Food: A Social History of England Told Through the Food on Its Tables (2022) by Diane Diane Purkiss, and he proposes that Woolf did not give food much thought.

The author of the letter, Martin Dodsworth of Brill, Buckinghamshire, writes: “it is noticeable that in writing of Nelly Boxall, her own cook, Woolf hardly ever in her diaries mentions what comes to table. It’s probable that she wasn’t very interested.”

Comments from the VWoolf Listserv

Participants in the Woolf listserv beg to differ. Vociferously. Here are some of the points mentioned by participants on the list, all of whom dispute the view of Woolf as disinterested in food, a view they see as part of the popular myth that she was “frail and ethereal”:

  • The Woolf quote in A Room of One’s Own: “One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.”
  • When the Woolfs visited southwest France (now “Nouvelle Aquitaine”) in the 1930s, Virginia argued with Leonard about the quality of the food. – from Marie-Claire Boisset-Pestourie
  • In the 1930s,  Woolf dined at Marcel Boulestin’s famous restaurant in Covent Garden, enjoying such dishes as his sole with mushroom sauce so much that she sent her cook, Mabel Haskins, to him to take lessons. Mabel thoroughly enjoyed the lessons and Woolf was pleased to be reaping the benefits. – from Stephen Barkway
  • My paper at the 2010 conference, published in the selected works from that year, was “A Certain Hold on Haddock and Sausage: Dining Well in Virginia Woolf’s Life and Work.” From numerous passages in her letters and diaries as well as her novels, there is little doubt she relished & appreciated good food. Traveling in France with Vita, she describes the food in several letters to Leonard as well as in her diary. Read about: “the vastest most delicious meal I have ever eaten…” (L3 534) and “a first rate dinner thought out and presided over by a graceful young chef…” (D4 317). – from Alice Lowe

Virginia Woolf, food, and Nellie Boxall

In Mrs. Woolf and the Servants: The Hidden Heart of Domestic Service (2007), Alison Light notes that Nellie Boxall lived with the Woolfs for 18 years, and for 10 of these, Nellie was the Woolfs’ sole live-in servant who became a “first-class” cook (174).

Light explains that as the Woolfs’ income grew in the 1920s, they “began to take holidays abroad and became more sophisticated in their culinary tastes” and Virginia sent Nellie for lessons with Marcel Boulestin, the celebrity chef who opened Restaurant Français in Leicester Square in 1925 (174).

Virginia herself was known for having mastered the art of cooking omelettes, for which Boulestin was renowned, according to Light. And interestingly enough, one of the Woolfs’ first improvements to Monk’s House was a new self-setting range (175).

Light shares a 1956 BBC interview with Nellie: “Nellie had soon coaxed Mrs. Woolf’s poor appetite with treats and fresh puddings like hmemade ice cream with chocolate sauce and crème brûlée . . . ‘She’ always liked Nellie’s cooking ” and brought Nellie a “huge” fresh pineapple when Nellie was in hospital (221).

More on Woolf and food

I did a quick Google search on my own and came up with a few links that add more nails to the coffin of Mr. Dodsworth’s weak argument:

Next morning they would go over the dishes – the soup, the salmon; the salmon, Mrs Walker knew, as usual underdone, for she always got nervous about the pudding and left it to Jenny; so it happened, the salmon was always underdone (Mrs. Dalloway 165).


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Eighty-two years ago today, Virginia Woolf walked into the River Ouse with a stone in her pocket and drowned. The act was deliberate. The effect on her friends, her family, and the literary world was profound.

Many somber thoughts have been shared on the anniversary of her death. But none are as poignant as those expressed by her husband, Leonard Woolf, in The Journey Not the Arrival Matters: An Autobiography of the Years 1929 to 1969, the final volume in his five-volume set.

Virginia’s attitude to death was very different. It was always present to her. The fact that she had twice tried to commit suicide — and had almost succeeded — and the knowledge that that terrible desperation of depression might at any moment overwhelm her mind again meant that death was never far from her thoughts. She feared it and yet, as I said, she was ‘half in love with easeful Death’ (74).

Leonard went on to write that on Friday, March 28, he “was in the garden” and “thought she [Virginia] was in the house. But when at one o’clock I went in to lunch, she was not there. I found the following letter on the sitting-room mantelpiece”:


I feel certain I am going mad again. I feel we can’t go through another of those terrible times. And I shan’t recover this time. I begin to hear voices, and I can’t concentrate. So I am doing what seems the best thing to do. You have given me the greatest possible happiness. You have been in every way all that anyone could be. I don’t think two people could have been happier till this terrible disease came. I can’t fight any longer. I know that I am spoiling your life, that without me you could work. And you will I know. You see I can’t even write this properly. I can’t read. What I want to say is I owe all the happiness of my life to you. You have been entirely patient with me and incredibly good. I want to say that – everybody knows it. If anybody could have saved me it would have been you. Everything has gone from me but the certainty of your goodness. I can’t go on spoiling your life any longer.

I don’t think two people could have been happier than we have been (93).

He went in search of her.

When I could not find her anywhere in the house or garden, I felt sure that she had gone down to the river. I ran across the fields down to the river and almost immediately found her walking-stick lying upon the bank. I searched for some time and then went back to the house and informed the police. It was three weeks before her body was found when some children saw it floating in the river (94-95).

The “long-drawn-out horror” of those three weeks produced in him “a kind of inert anaesthesia. It was as if I had been so battered and beaten that I was like some hunted animal which exhausted can only instinctively drag itself into its hole or lair” (95-96).

Past posts on Virginia Woolf’s death

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