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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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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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We are in the midst of the 30th Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf, which for the first time is being held virtually via Zoom. Postponed last year due to COVID-19, the conference began Thursday and runs through tomorrow. There’s still time to get a day pass.

Below we are sharing a selection of tweets found by following the conference hashtag #vwwoolf2021.

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International Women’s Day is Monday, March 8, and the Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain has put out a call that draws attention to the current plight of working women and connects it to Virginia Woolf’s feminist polemic A Room of One’s Own (1929).

With women’s employment taking a huge hit due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the VWSGB is asking us to share a photograph of a room of our own — if we are lucky enough to have one.

Women, work, and the pandemic

The pandemic has affected women’s work lives in drastic ways. The BBC is calling it a “shecession” and cites these facts:

  • Globally, women’s job losses due to Covid-19 are 1.8 times greater than men’s.
  • In the U.S., unemployment has intensified the most for those employed in personal care and food service jobs, where women predominate.
  • One in four women surveyed said they were thinking about reducing or leaving paid work due to the pandemic.
  • Those disproportionately affected in the U.S. include black women and Latinas.
  • Some subgroups are squeezed even more, like mothers of young children and mothers without partners or relatives.

In addition, recent projections estimate that employment for women may not recover to pre-pandemic levels until 2024—two full years after a recovery for men, according to Fortune.

The pertinence of A Room of One’s Own

So the British society has turned its attention to Virginia Woolf’s eternally pertinent feminist manifesto, A Room of One’s Own, a text the society writes, Now more than ever . . . is acutely relevant given that women’s work is being so squeezed and undervalued, and space is at a premium in family homes and elsewhere during life under lockdown, with working and schooling taking place in the home.”

Share your room of your own or your thoughts about the essay

So here’s the charge: Share photos of your own Room of One’s Own, if you are lucky enough to have one, or your reflections on Woolf’s essay A Room of One’s Own and what it means to you. The society will share contributions on its social media pages.

Email your contribution to marielleoneill88@hotmail.com

And on March 8, check the VWSGB social media accounts:

Facebook: www.facebook.com/VWSGB
Instagram: @virginiawoolfsociety
Twitter: @VirginiaWoolfGB

 

A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction. – Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own

 

Virginia Woolf’s desk in her writing lodge at Monk’s House, 2019

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