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You have nearly two weeks to get ready for Woolf Salon No. 17: Woolf, Beauvoir& Phenomenology, so check out the details below. But if your schedule doesn’t allow for any prep time, don’t worry. You can always log on to just listen.

Virginia Woolf reading at home

Details

Hosts: Marie Allègre and Luca Pinelli of The Woolf Salon Project
Day: Friday, March 25
Time: 2 p.m.–4 p.m. ET
Please note that the U.S. will have entered Daylight Saving Time by this date, so the time conversion might be a bit different for those outside the U.S.
How to join: Anyone can join the group, which meets on one 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 and receive the Zoom link, as well as a PDF of the second reading listed below.

What to read

Woolf’s short essay can also be found in Essays Vol. 6 (pp. 453–56). It is also included in the collection The Death of the Moth.

What to consider

The hosts advise the following in preparation for the Salon, and they assure us that no prior knowledge of either Beauvoir or phenomenology will be necessary to participate in the discussion:

  • Think about the ways in which the self is represented in all its forms in these texts
  • Feel free to refer to other texts by either Beauvoir or Woolf regarding any of the themes that emerge in” “Evening Over Sussex” or “What Can Literature Do?”

At the event, the hosts will also be drawing participants’ attention to critical texts that make connections between Woolf and Beauvoir and will share a PDF of a recent book chapter by artist and Woolf scholar Suzanne Bellamy.

Attendees have loved salons that simply focus on one or two short texts. These events provide opportunities to share ideas that emerge from discussion of old favorites and discoveries of new ones. – The Woolf Salon Project

Background on the Salon

The Salon Conspirators — Hagen, Shilo McGiff, Amy Smith, and Drew Shannon — began the Woolf Salon Project in July 2020 to provide opportunities for conversation and conviviality among Woolf-interested scholars, students, and common readers during and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Editor’s Note: Emma Morris, the author of this post, is a digital copywriter from Johannesburg, South Africa. She is also a self-proclaimed logophile and loves Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group. Emma spends her days writing engaging marketing copy for brands and her evenings immersed in literature and literature blogs. 

On Nov. 5, cultures and creators came together in Amsterdam and online to celebrate the publication of an anthology of essays, letters and poems which resonate with Virginia Woolf’s essay On Being Ill.

There was a diverse range of speakers at the hybrid event organized by the Perdu Literary Foundation. Both in-person and on Zoom, they spoke to the complexity of the theme. Speakers included Elte Rauch, Marielle O’Neill, Nadia de Vries, Lucia Osborne-Crowley, Deryn Rees-Jones, Sophie Collins and Mieke van Zonneveld, as well as superb live music from Ekster.

Pandemic allows identification

The timing of the publication date could not be more perfect. As the world limps out of isolation, we can most certainly identify with Woolf’s essay on illness itself and the resulting isolation, loneliness and vulnerability that comes with it.

The anthology examines the way illness and literature are dialectically connected to each other, and how the process from conceptualization to the publication of the anthology mirrors the stages of illness.

Connecting as writers

Elte Rauch from HetMoet

As Elte stated in her opening address at the launch, the people involved in this anthology didn’t know each other, but each of them was able to connect at varying points in the process.

This idea that connection can never be lost is pivotal, she said, explaining that while writing is a solitary action, publishing is done together. It is the time when writers, illustrators and musicians all come together.

In an evening that celebrates the relevancy of Virginia Woolf, and especially her “revolutionary act of empowerment,” as Marielle O’Neill stated in her essay, that by openly embracing such a taboo subject as mental health – especially at a time in our history when illness itself is a taboo subject, the anthology as well as the original essay by Woolf will resonate with post-lockdown readers.

When everyday moments become special

As Marielle stated in her essay, small everyday moments, like Mrs. Dalloway buying flowers, become special moments. For example, coffee with a friend becomes a special occasion.

Writer Nadia de Vries with Marielle O’Neill from the Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain

This anthology shows us, as readers, how beautiful it can be to write about a subject that is, in all honesty, not beautiful.

As Woolf so describes in her essay, when adults are ill, it inevitably makes us feel like children again. Illness is not beautiful. It’s messy, it’s raw and it leaves us vulnerable. In some ways, being ill mirrors the act of writing and creating itself.

How often do we as artists, writers and musicians share some of the most secret parts of our souls when we put pen to paper or paint to canvas?

Literature and anthologies bring us together

As I close this blog piece, I will leave you with something that was repeated during the evening, and certainly echoes in the anthology itself. Just as literature succeeds in bringing people together, this anthology brought writers, creators, scholars, and musicians together for an evening. It even brought you and I together for an evening.

It helped us put aside the loneliness of lockdown, illness and a global pandemic and allowed us to just enjoy each other’s company and inner most thoughts and feelings.

When we talk about illness, we lay bare how naturally afraid of illness and the finality of death we are – almost on a primitive level. But one thing is certain, when we do discuss our vulnerabilities and share our fears, magic is created.

How to get it

The anthology is available now in Holland in English and Dutch editions, with a UK book launch planned for January 2022. For more information contact Elte Rauch at info@uitgeverijhetmoet.nl.

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It’s nearly time for Woolf Salon No. 13, so read one or more (or none!) of Virginia Woolf’s six short essays included in The London Scene and plan to join Woolf scholars and common readers around the globe for the Sept. 24 Woolf Salon on Zoom.

Details

Hosts: Salon Conspirators
Day: Friday, 24 September 2021
Time: 3 p.m.–5 p.m. ET / Noon –2 p.m  PT / 4 p.m. – 6 p.m. Brasilia / 8 p.m. – 10 p.m. BST / 9 p.m. – 11 p.m. CEST

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 and receive the Zoom link.

About The London Scene

Originally published bi-monthly in Good Housekeeping between December 1931 and December 1932, the six essays in The London Scene provide Virginia Woolf’s musings on the street hauntings of which she was most found.

These essays include:

  1. The Docks of London
  2. Oxford Street Tide
  3. Great Men’s Houses
  4. Abbeys and Cathedrals
  5. “This is the House of Commons”
  6. Portrait of a Londoner

Where to find them and how much to read

The essays are available as freestanding collections, published in 2004, 2005, and 2013. They can also instantly be instantly accessed as an e-book. They also appear in Volume 5 of The Essays of Virginia Woolf, edited by Stuart Clarke.

“If you can’t get through all six essays, no problem! Just read what you’re able and join us anyway. It might be best, actually, if folks spend their time focusing on just one or two of the pieces,” said Salon co-organizer Benjamin Hagen, who also serves as president of the International Virginia Woolf Society.

Background on the Salon

The Salon Conspirators — Hagen, Shilo McGiff, Amy Smith, and Drew Shannon — began the Woolf Salon Project in July 2020 to provide opportunities for conversation and conviviality among Woolf-interested scholars, students, and common readers during and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Ane Thon Knutsen in her home printshop

Editor’s Note: Today marks the 79th anniversary of Virginia Woolf’s death, and as this post shows, she and her work continue to inspire artists and writers across the globe.

Virginia Woolf’s numerous experiences with illness led her to write the essay On Being Ill, published in 1930 by the Hogarth Press. Inspired by this work and the current coronavirus, Norwegian typesetter Ane Thon Knutsen, who has two projects focused on Woolf under her belt — A Printing Press of One’s Own and The Mark on the Wall — has now begun a third.

Woolf’s exploration of the consequences of illness

“Due to Covid-19 I have cast my eyes upon On Being Ill,” Knutsen explained. “This felt like something to get me through.

“The essay is about the consequence of illness; loneliness, isolation and vulnerability. But when we are forced to stop and slow down, we may notice the beauty in the small details of the world around us, and that our everyday, ordinary life is what we miss the most,” she said.

Working from home under quarantine in a printshop of her own

Ane Thon Knutsen’s letterpress

Knutsen, mother of a four-year-old, says her project allows her to combine motherhood with work under Norway’s self-imposed quarantine. The country made the move, which is in place at least until Easter, to stop the rapid spread of the coronavirus.

“I like being alone working, and I am blessed with a workshop at home. So I contemplated a Quarantine project that works with the circumstances,” she said.

Her project: using her printing press to print one sentence on one sheet of paper every day from On Being Ill “until we can go back to normal. I hope I will not make it through, as we’re counting about 140 sentences, and the paper is restricted to leftovers from my stock,” Knutsen explained.

Published on Instagram

Five days ago, she began posting a photo of each page on her Instagram account, @anethonknutsen. As of today, she is on sentence number six. The project, she says, “will present a very slow reading of the story.

“In the end (when that will be, who knows), I will make a box with all the sheets — like a calendar of sorts. Hopefully I will exhibit it as a wall piece in the future,” she said.

The project is set in 10-point Goudy Old Style. For the ink, Knutsen has “mixed a rich gray ink… inspired by the dust jacket by Vanessa Bell, and the colour of the lead type. It softens the appearance of the words on the page,” she explained on Instagram.

She hopes to print 20 copies, in a 208 mm x 135 mm format, the same as Woolf’s 1930 edition.

Sentence two from Virginia Woolf’s “On Being Ill”

Sentence one from Virginia Woolf’s “On Being Ill”

A tray filled with type set for Ane Thon Knutsen’s letterpress

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“Shakespeare’s Sisters” is an essay in Rachel Cusk’s 2019 collection, Coventry (and the first one I turned to, for obvious reasons). She begins by asking, “Can we, in the twenty-first century, identify something that could be called ‘women’s writing’?”

In that context she discusses The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir and Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own. “Between them,” she says, “they shaped the discourse of twentieth-century women’s writing,”

War vs. feelings

Eighty years later, as Cusk sees it, “a book about war is still judged more important than a book about ‘the feelings of women.’ Most significantly, when a woman writes a book about war she is lauded: she has eschewed the vast unlit chamber and the serpentine caves; there is the sense that she has made proper use of her room and her money, her new rights of property.

The woman writer who confines herself to her female ‘reality’ is by the same token often criticized. She appears to have squandered her room, her money.”

Just another women’s novel

Men have always written about the female experience–Madame Bovary and Anna Karenina come immediately to mind, as well as a number of novels by contemporary authors. I’ve seen some of these works praised to the skies, touted as the latest incarnation of the great American novel. Yet, still, too frequently, the women creating these novels are dismissed as writing just another woman’s novel.

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