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Beth Rigel Daugherty is beloved in Virginia Woolf circles for both her scholarship and her down-to-earth approach to Woolf studies. Her latest book, Virginia Woolf’s Apprenticeship: Becoming an Essayist, out his month, is available at a 30 percent discount from the Edinburgh University Press. Just enter the code EVENT30 when you checkout and you can share her brilliance at a discount.

What’s in the book

  • The most comprehensive portrayal of Virginia Woolf’s education to date
  • Examination of the link between Virginia Stephen’s education and Virginia Woolf’s essays
  • A focus on Woolf’s nonfiction and her early work
  • Two holograph draft lectures by Virginia Stephen for the first time
  • A compilation and organization of archival material in appendices for future researchers.

According to the publisher:

This study takes up Woolf’s challenge to probe the relationship between education and work, specifically her education and her work as an essayist. It expands her education beyond her father’s library to include not only a broader examination of her homeschooling but also her teaching at Morley College and her early book reviewing. It places Virginia Stephen’s learning in the historical and cultural contexts of education for women, the working classes and writers in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.

About Beth Rigel Daugherty

Beth Rigel Daugherty (at far left), Leslie Hankins and Diane Gillespie presented a panel on “Portraying and Projecting Age, Ageism, and Activism” at the 19th Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf, with its theme of social justice, at the University of Mount Saint Joseph in Cincinnati in June of 2019.

Recently retired from Ohio’s Otterbein University, Beth Rigel Daugherty taught modernist English literature, Virginia Woolf and Appalachian and Native American literature along with many thematically focused writing courses, for 36 years.

Her plenary talk at the 31st Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf, “On the Ethics of Teaching: Virginia Woolf’s Essays,” received accolades from everyone who heard it.

Beth fell in love with Virginia Woolf and her essays while at Rice University and has been presenting and publishing on both ever since. Her peer-reviewed articles have appeared in edited collections; editions of the “How Should Read a Book?” holograph draft and Woolf’s fan letters in Woolf Studies Annual; and, with Mary Beth Pringle, the Modern Language Association teaching volume on To the Lighthouse.

A review

Drawing on deep research into the social history of women’s lives and of education, Daugherty shows with superb attention to detail how Virginia Stephen’s early experiences of teaching and of being taught nourished the seeds that flowered as Virginia Woolf, “an essayist compelled to teach.” This is impeccable and important scholarship.

– Mark Hussey, Distinguished Professor Emeritus, Pace University

 

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A roundtable on “Biography, Biofiction and Ethics” was a highlight for me at the June 9-12 Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf. The panelists, all knowledgeable on the topic, included two authors of Woolf biofiction who defended the genre.

Two views of Keynes

Susan Sellers, author of the 2008 Vanessa and Virginia and the recently released Firebird: A Bloomsbury Love Story (about Maynard Keynes and Lydia Lopokova), pronounced fiction as “the ideal medium for exploring the tangle of personal history” and “an ethical arena in which to speculate and imagine in the gaps of what the historical record can tell us.”

Emma Barnes also chose Maynard Keynes as the subject of her 2020 novel, Mr. Keynes’ Revolution. She said: “Fiction is a lie, by definition. But it’s also a lie in pursuit of some essential truths, or should be. If we recognize the practical and aesthetic constraints imposed on us as writers, we can try to write fiction about real people with integrity.”

The devil’s advocate on the panel was Mark Hussey, Woolf scholar extraordinaire and author of the recent biography, Clive Bell and the Making of Modernism. For Mark, a novelist’s changing facts raises an ethical red flag: “The shift of emphasis from the biographical subject of a biofiction to the writer of that biofiction’s own ‘vision of life and the world’ strikes me as a bit of rhetorical sleight of hand.”

A view from the fence and more

As a selective and skeptical reader of biofiction, I’m on the fence. What’s fact and what’s fiction? Should I care? (I do.) Can and should a novelist distort the facts to embellish the fiction?

For the reader, perhaps it’s a case of caveat emptor: she knows she’s reading fiction and she can enjoy it as such, consult factual sources to verify facts. I’ve read biofiction that the author appends with a list of references and comments about her fictionalizations. That works for me.

In addition to those mentioned above, other biofiction novels mentioned or referenced include:

The Hours by Michael Cunningham, 1998

Mitz: The Marmoset of Bloomsbury by Sigrid Nunez, 1998

But Nobody Lives in Bloomsbury, Gillian Freeman, 2006

Vanessa and Her Sister, Priya Parmar, 2014

Virginia Woolf in Manhattan, Maggie Gee, 2014

Adeline: A Novel of Virginia Woolf, Norah Vincent, 2015

 

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If you can get to Cambridge or London this month or next, you are in luck. You have two chances to learn more about the relationship between Maynard Keynes and ballerina Lydia Lopokova, straight from Susan Sellers, author of Firebird: A Bloomsbury Love Story, which explores the couple’s love story.

Maggie Humm, whose recent novel Talland House explores the life of Virginia Woolf’s To The Lighthouse heroine, Lily Briscoe, joins Sellers for both conversations, the first in Cambridge and the second in London.

Here are the details for both events.

A Bloomsbury Love Story

When: Sunday 24 April 2022, 10-11 a.m. BST
Where: The Cambridge Union Society, 9a Bridge Street, Cambridge CB2 1UB
Why: Part of the Cambridge Literary Festival
Cost: Tickets £12. Book here.

Susan Sellers and Maggie Humm, two world-leading experts talk about the women of Bloomsbury, and what a lifetime of reading, researching, teaching and writing about Virginia Woolf has taught them.

An Evening in Bloomsbury with Susan Sellers and Maggie Humm

When: Thursday 5 May 2022, 6.30 p.m. BST
Where: Hatchards, 187 Piccadilly, London W1J 9LE
Cost: Tickets £10 Book here.

Join Susan Sellers discussing the lives of Bloomsbury’s most unlikely lovers, Maynard Keynes and Lydia Lopokova, with Maggie Humm.

It is the winter of 1921 and Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes launch a flamboyant new production at London’s Alhambra Theatre. Maynard Keynes is in the audience, though he expects little from the evening. Despite Lydia’s many triumphs, including the title role in Stravinsky’s Firebird, Maynard’s mind is made up – he considers her ‘a rotten dancer’. Besides, Lydia has at least one husband in tow and Maynard has only ever loved men.

Tonight, however, as Susan Sellers relates, that is all about to change and while The Firebird is a fictional re-imagining, life is often stranger and more surprising. Especially, perhaps, when it comes to the lives of theBloomsbury Group.

About the speakers

Susan Sellers

Susan Sellers is professor of English Literature and Creative Writing at the University of St. Andrews. Her first Bloomsbury-inspired novel, Vanessa and Virginia, was an editor’s pick for The New York Times and has been translated into 16 languages.

Maggie Humm

Maggie Humm is an Emeritus Professor, international Woolf scholar and novelist. She has written many books on feminism, art and Virginia Woolf, and in 2020 published her debut novel Talland House, a gripping historical romance/detective fiction set in picturesque Cornwall and London during World War I. Shortlisted for several prizes including Eyelands and Impress, Talland House was chosen by the Washington Independent Review of Books as one of its ’51 Favorite Books’ of 2020.

 

When the don met the dancer – this is the story of how Maynard Keynes, the great economist, fell for Lydia Lopokova, celebrity ballerina and Russian émigrée. And it is also a story of resistances, when a different kind of woman stepped into the settled world of Virginia, Vanessa, and all the rest of their English entourage. – In Firebird, Susan Sellers restages the bright Bloomsbury years of the early 1920s as they have never been seen before. – Rachel Bowlby

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What’s new — and old — in the world of Virginia Woolf and books? A couple of things.

A graphic biography

First, the new. In the summer of 2024, Weidenfeld & Nicolson will publish Virginia Woolf: A Graphic Biography,  Ella Bucknall’s “fascinating, engaged and deeply scholarly” graphic biography of Virginia Woolf.

The publisher says: “From Woolf’s earliest memoirs of the sound of the sea in St. Ives to her final submersion in the River Ouse, Bucknall tells the story of Woolf’s life, recalling deaths and marriages, friendships and rivalries, creative droughts and floods of inspiration.

“Combining her distinctive and intricate illustrations, with a scholar’s intellect and understanding of Woolf’s life and works, Bucknall’s is a completely original approach to this most beloved author, and a pioneering contribution to the biography genre.”

This is the first book for Bucknall, a writer and illustrator currently studying for a Ph.D. in creative writing at King’s College London.

Woolf tells all in Literary Confessions

Now the old. The book Really and Truly: A Book of Literary Confessions, was expected to sell for between £4,000 – £6,000 at Dominic Winter Auctioneers in Gloucestershire in January. Instead, it fetched £21,000.

In it, Woolf, along with Rose Macaulay, Rebecca West, Hilaire Belloc, Stella Benson and Margaret Kennedy, shares her thoughts on the best and worst writers in the literary world.

Woolf completed her questionnaire on May 6, 1924, answering all 39 questions and signing it using her trademark purple ink. The questions ranged from “who is the greatest prose writer that ever lived” to who was the “worst living English playwright”. The ten sets of handwritten answers were dated between 1923 and 1927.

Woolf named T.S. Eliot and Clive Bell as “the best living critic of literature.” She answered that Jane Austen was “the best deceased English novelist.” And when asked to name the deceased men of letters whose character she most disliked, she wrote: “I hate all dead men of letters.”

Margaret Kennedy’s grandson William Mackesy found the book while sorting through his late grandmother’s effects.

In under 100 handwritten words, in her distinctive purple ink, Virginia Woolf tells us so much about her literary passions and aversions. One could read whole biographies to seek out such snippets and here all is set out pithily on two pages. – Chris Albury, auctioneer

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Today is the 25th World Book Day. And although it is a day targeted to developing a reading habit in children, adults can celebrate as well. What better author to celebrate with than Virginia Woolf?

To that end, I have two resources for you.

Virginia Woolf Starter Pack

The first is a Virginia Woolf Starter Pack. Offered by Much Ado Books, it includes four Woolf classics.

They are gift wrapped and embellished with a Woolf bookmark and a couple of tea bags ready for brewing as you settle in to read the four paperbacks in the set:

  • A Room of One’s Own (1929)
  • Mrs. Dalloway (1925)
  • To the Lighthouse (1927)
  • Orlando (1928)

Guide on where to start with Woolf

The second comes from the New York Public Library. All four of the volumes included in the starter pack, along with The Waves (1931), are included in the guide on “Where to Start With Virginia Woolf” provided by the NYPL.

The library includes a brief synopsis of each novel and recommends reading them in this order:

  1. Mrs. Dalloway
  2. A Room of One’s Own
  3. To the Lighthouse
  4. The Waves
  5. Orlando

A book list of her own

Meanwhile, Woolf scholar Maggie Humm’s Twitter post today included a list of the books Woolf liked and disliked most in 1924, 98 years ago.

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