Posts Tagged ‘Rebecca Solnit’

Men Explain Things to Me front coverWoolfians who attended the 2009 conference in New York, Woolf in the City, were treated to a keynote address by Rebecca Solnit. In person as in her prose, Rebecca paints beautiful word pictures and reflect thoughtfully on their significance.

Her talk wasn’t included in the selected papers from that conference, but now she has published it as “Woolf’s Darkness: Embracing the Inexplicable” in her newest book, Men Explain Things to Me. The essay’s title in this volume is taken from Woolf’s 1915 diary entry: “The future is dark, which is the best thing the future can be, I think.” In noting the relevance of Woolf’s work today, Solnit says: “Here we are, after all, revisiting the words of a woman who died three quarters of a century ago and yet is still alive in some sense in so many imaginations, part of the conversation, an influence with agency.”

The title essay, “Men Explain Things to Me,” may go down in history as a feminist classic along with Judy Brady’s “I Want a Wife” in the 1972 inaugural issue of Ms. Magazine. And, no surprise, Solnit evokes Woolf in her jibe at male (some, not all, she allows) know-it-allness: “A Freudian would claim to know what they have and I lack, but intelligence is not situated in the crotch—even if you can write one of Virginia Woolf’s long mellifluous musical sentences about the subtle subjugation of women in the snow with your willie.”

Virginia Woolf is clearly a strong influence and appears in almost all of Solnit’s work. In her last book of personal essays, The Faraway Nearby, she is motivated to dig deeper into reflections about her mother by Woolf’s example and words in Moments of Being: “It is only by putting it into words that I make it whole.” Rebecca Solnit puts her stories and arguments into words in a way that does credit to Woolf.


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A Paradise Built in HellAnyone who was charmed and challenged by Rebecca Solnit’s keynote speech at Woolf and the City will want to read the New York Times review of her latest book, A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster.

In the book, the award-winning author takes the reader through five major North American disasters, from the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco to 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.

There is a lot of commentary about the book available online, including this piece in The Guardian. Discussions with the cultural historian are available as well. They include:

You can also listen to Solnit reading from her new book, courtesy of Vanity Fair.

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Registration for Woolf and the City, the 19th Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf that will be held in New York City June 4 to 7, is now open, and conference organizers have planned some exciting events.

Some of the highlights, as posted so far, include:

Early bird registration has been extended to April 20, and online registration is open until May 8. Click here to register and get answers to frequently asked questions.

And if you are looking for three graduate credits, consider taking the summer class taught by Anne Fernald during the week of the conference. It’s called “Woolf: Modern Women and the City.”

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woolf_and_the_cityOrganizers of Woolf and the City, the 19th Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf, have put together some exciting events for the June 4-7 event, which will be held at Fordham University in New York City.

Here is the latest news from Anne Fernald, conference organizer:


Registration will be available in a few weeks. The fee will be $150 for fully employed participants with a concession rate of $100. The banquet will be an additional $50.


The conference Web site will soon offer details on how to reserve a room at the Hudson Hotel at the reduced rate of $259/night. There are many other options, all the way down to hostels at $30 a night and “couch surfing.”

Keynote address

Rebecca Solnit is a progressive journalist and essayist who is the author of numerous books, including Hope in the Dark (2004), Wanderlust: A History of Walking (2001), and As Eve Said to the Serpent: On Landscape, Gender, and Art (2001), which was nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award in Criticism. She is a recipient of the Lannan Literary Award and a grant from the Guggenheim Foundation.

Plenary talks

  • Tamar Katz, Brown University, author of Impressionist Subjects; Gender, Interiority, and Modernist Fiction in England, published by Univeristy of Illinois Press in 2000. She is a member of the Urban Studies Program Committee at Brown, as well as the associate editor of the Modernist Journals Project. She is now at work on a book about modernism’s use of the city and contemporary urban nostalgia.
  • Anna Snaith, Kings College London, author of several books including Virginia Woolf: Public and Private Negotiations,published in 2000. She is currently editing The Years for the Cambridge University Press Edition of Virginia Woolf and working on a monograph titled Colonial London: Nation, Gender and Modernity 1890-1945, which will be published by  Cambridge University Press.
  • Jessica Berman, of the University of Maryland in Baltimore County, is the author of the 2000 book Modernist Fiction, Cosmopolitanism and the Politics of Community. She is currently at work on a book tentatively titled From Ought to Is: Modernism, Ethics, Politics, which will be published by Columbia University Press.

Special events

  • Before the banquet, Katherine Lanpher, host of Barnes and Noble’s acclaimed Upstairs at the Square at the Union Square Will to Create as a WomanB&N, will moderate a conversation with Susan Sellers, author of the new novel Vanessa and Virginia, and Dr. Ruth Gruber, feminist and activist and the author of Virginia Woolf: The Will to Create as a Woman.
  • The Stephen Pelton Dance Theater is collaborating with the up-and-coming band Princeton on a dance and musical performance. ($20 supplement)
  • A theater performance is also being planned. Stay tuned for details. ($15 supplement)
  • The conference book exhibit will be run by Bluestockings, the Lower East Side feminist collective bookstore. This year’s silent auction will benefit Girls Write Now, a local nonprofit that pairs NYC high school girls with women writers as mentors. Some of the girls and their mentors will be reading at a concurrent session.

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