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Posts Tagged ‘Virginia Woolf’

Virginia Woolf reading at home

If you are an undergraduate with an interest in Virginia Woolf’s work, consider entering the International Virginia Woolf Society’s annual undergraduate essay competition. Winner of the 2022 Angelica Garnett Undergraduate Essay Prize will receive a cash prize and their essay will be published in the society’s newsletter.

The essay competition is held annually in honor of Virginia Woolf and in memory of Angelica Garnett, writer, artist, and daughter of Woolf’s sister, Vanessa Bell.

Essay requirements

  • Undergraduate essays can be on any topic pertaining to the Woolf’s writing.
  • Essays should be between 2,000 and 2,500 words, including notes and works cited, with an original title of the entrant’s choosing.

Essays will be judged by the society’s officers: Benjamin Hagen, president; Amanda Golden, vice-president; Susan Wegener, secretary-treasurer); and Catherine Hollis, historian-bibliographer.

Past prize winning essays can be read online.

The winnings

The winner will receive $200 and have the essay published in a future issue of the Virginia Woolf Miscellany.

To submit an essay, fill out the entry form and send your essay to Benjamin D. Hagen at Benjamin.Hagen@usd.edu.

All entries must be received by June 30, 2022.

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Sunday, I published a post about Virginia and Leonard Woolf’s wartime music — and its availability as a Spotify playlist, thanks to Marielle O’Neill. Today, I want to share additional resources related to Virginia Woolf’s musical tastes and their influence on her writing.

  • On the Virginia Woolf Podcast page on the Literature Cambridge website, listen to a 2021 podcast titled “Emma Sutton on Virginia Woolf and Classical Music.” In it, Emma Sutton talks to Woolf scholar and Literature Cambridge lecturer Karina Jakubowicz about Woolf’s fascination with classical music, as well as the importance of music in Woolf’s life and writing. Sutton, professor of English at the University of St Andrews, Scotland, is the author of Virginia Woolf and Classical Music (2013).
  • How Virginia Woolf’s Work Was Shaped by Music” (2021), by Emma Sutton, which is available on The Conversation website.
  • The Virginia Woolf & Music project, which “explores the role of music in the lives and legacies of Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group through concerts, research, workshops, public talks, exhibitions and commissions of new works of art.” The UK-based project was founded in 2015 and “embraces the feminist, pacifist and cosmopolitan spirit of the Bloomsbury Group.”

I always think of my books as music before I write them. – Virginia Woolf in a 1940 letter to the violinist Elizabeth Trevelyan

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Tomorrow is Memorial Day in the U.S., the day when we remember and honor those who died in the service of our country. Although I consider myself a pacifist, I feel a special sense of gratitude to those who fought in World War II, the conflict I often think of as “the Good War.”

I am not alone. Elizabeth D. Samet, author of Looking for the Good War: American Amnesia and the Violent Pursuit of Happiness (2021), explains that this “flattering and seductive narrative” regarding World War II took hold in the 1990s, around the time of the 50th anniversary of the conflict. And it has become engrained in American consciousness since then.

The U.S., ambivalence and isolationism

Samet makes the case for a different reality, one of American ambivalence about the war, as well as a reluctance to become involved.  The bombing of Pearl Harbor changed that, but it still did not result in universal American support. The ambivalence, differences of opinion, and different levels of support for the war existed before, during — and even after — U.S. involvement, she explains.

“The idea that we went to war specifically or primarily to liberate Europe is largely a fiction, even though we obviously helped to accomplish that feat,” Samet explains. “We went to war because we were attacked and because we felt suddenly that there was an existential threat.”

The lives of the Woolfs during World War II

Virginia and Leonard Woolf, living in London and Lewes during the war years, experienced deprivation, bombing, and enemy planes flying overhead, leaving them no choice but to support the war. Leonard was a member of the Home Guard. Virginia wove messages about war and its consequences into her writing. Most notable from the mid-1930s on are three novels: The Years (1937), Three Guineas (1938), and the posthumously published Between the Acts (1941), as well as essays such as “The Leaning Tower” (1940) and “Thoughts on Peace in an Air Raid” (1940).

Nevertheless, they tried to live their lives as normally as possible, despite the enemy planes that flew above their heads at Monk’s House. This passage from Leonard’s Downhill All the Way (1967), volume four in his five-volume autobiography, provides a good example.

I will end … with a little scene that took place in the last months of peace. They were the most terrible months of my life, for, helplessly and hopelessly, one watched the inevitable approach of war. One of the most horrible things at that time was to listen on the wireless to the speeches of Hitler — the savage and insane ravings of a vindictive underdog who suddenly saw himself to be all-powerful. We were in Rodmell during the late summer of 1939, and I used to listen to those ranting, raving speeches. One afternoon I was planting in the orchard under an apple-tree iris reticulata, those lovely violet flowers. … Suddenly I heard Virginia’s voice calling to me from the sitting room window: “Hitler is making a speech.” I shouted back, “I shan’t come. I’m planting iris and they will be flowering long after he is dead.” Last March, twenty-one years after Hitler committed suicide in the bunker, a few of those violet flowers still flowered under the apple-tree in the orchard.

The Woolfs and wartime music

As part of their effort to get on with their lives, the Woolf listened to music on the wireless, as well as on their gramophone. And now, thanks to Marielle O’Neill, doctoral researcher at Leeds Trinity University and Executive Council Member of the Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain, we can listen in on the wartime music they enjoyed.

With the help of Stephen Barkway’s classical music expertise, O’Neill has created a playlist on Spotify of the Woolfs’ wartime music. She based her list on a purchase of Woolfs’ gramophone records made by Sheila Wilkinson, Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain co-founder.

Wilkinson purchased the records and their annotated storage box at a Lewes auction 20 years ago. According to Barkway, Leonard recorded — in his own shaky hand — the dates on which he and Virginia listened to each record on index cards cut in half. Wilkinson found four of these cards in the archive that corresponded with the records she had purchased.

Wilkinson donated the records to Charleston, who later sold them to the National Trust, which ultimately returned them to Monk’s House.

Listen to the Woolfs’ wartime music on Spotify

The Woolfs’ Wartime Music can now be accessed by everyone, thanks to O’Neill’s ingenuity. She has included old recordings that appeared on the 78 rpm records purchased from Monk’s House. They include music by Beethoven, Schubert, Mozart, and Brahms.

In addition, members of the Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain can read Barkway’s article about the Woolfs’ musical tastes around the time of the Second World War in the May issue of the society’s Virginia Woolf Bulletin. In “Some of the Woolfs’ Gramophone Records: A Spotify Playlist,” Barkway pairs the Woolfs’ musical selections with events from the Woolfs’ life, as well as with quotes from Virginia’s diary, letters, and autobiographical writing.

The article includes information that Wilkinson shared in a booklet she produced for delegates during a “Virginia in Yorkshire” study week in Settle. On the final night that week, Barkway introduced and played the Woolfs’ records at Wilkinson’s request.

Join the VWSGB

If you are not a member of the VWSGB but would like to be, you can easily join.

 

 

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Recently I revisited an old post about The Lost Garden, a moving homage to Virginia Woolf. I’ve read almost everything Helen Humphreys has written and was delighted with her most recent work, And a Dog Called Fig. A memoir, subtitled Solitude, Connection, the Writing Life, it weaves her life and writing with the dogs who have shared her journey, including the incumbent, a vizsla named Fig.

Lacking a college education, Humphreys relied on reading literature, starting alphabetically until “impatient with my methodical approach, I skipped ahead to W so that I could read Virginia Woolf.”

Woolf as model

Woolf became her model when she started writing: “I followed Woolf’s example of how to live a writing day—working in the morning, walking in the afternoon, writing letters or listening to music in the evenings.”

Humphreys always had dogs, and Woolf too had dogs to accompany her on her walks as well as to stimulate her work. First Grizzle, who was memorialized in her story “Gipsy, the Mongrel,” then Pinka, who graced the cover of her novel Flush.

Their respective dogs connected Humphreys more closely to Woolf:  “When I can recognize the look in Virginia Woolf’s dog’s eyes as being a look I have seen on my own dog … I can imagine her interactions with Grizzle as being similar to some of my interactions with Charlotte [Fig’s predecessor, also a vizsla].”

Writers whose dogs were prominent

Emily Bronte, Gertrude Stein, Agatha Christie, and Zora Neale Hurston are among the writers Humphreys cites whose dogs were prominent in their lives.

She thinks these bonds are significant:

“Structure in a novel, and in life, is the perfect balance of order and chaos. The structure of a day could be the four dog walks undertaken at regular intervals.” She constructed her novel Wild Dogs after “the way that a dog turns and turns before settling down to sleep … I wanted the story to turn like that, to circle back on itself and then continue again before coming to rest.”

Humphreys relates the joys and lessons she found in her lifetime with dogs, about discipline and patience, loneliness and grief, communion and communication, and ponders near the end: “Do they make us better, or do they simply return us to who we are?”

More on Woolf and dogs

For more on this topic, see our post on Shaggy Muses: The Dogs Who Inspired Virginia Woolf, Emily Dickinson, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Edith Wharton and Emily Bronte.

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Got time for a short broadcast with a Virginia Woolf connection? Yesterday’s BBC Radio 4 Short Works fits the bill and is available online.

“Dance of the Wild,” a story by Amanthi Harris, is set in contemporary Alpujarras in Spain. That’s where Gerald Brenan spent his summers and where Virginia Woolf visited him. The story focuses on a young woman who “sees” and “hears” Woolf talking to herself about creating Mrs. Dalloway.

They seem very real here, don’t they? – “Dance of the Wild”

The Woolf character’s words are based on Woolf’s diary and the manuscripts of the novel held in the British Library and the New York Public Library.

This news comes from the Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain. The 14-minute reading, which will be available online for more than one year, can be found on BBC Sounds.

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