Posts Tagged ‘Woolf online’

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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Was Virginia Woolf a feminist? Sometimes she identified as such. And sometimes she didn’t. But Google searches on her name today, International Women’s Day, make it clear that in the eyes of today’s world, she was, indeed, a true feminist.

London’s feminist mural featuring Virginia Woolf

Eight hours ago, from the other side of the pond, Woolf scholar and novelist Maggie Humm reported that there were 27.7 million references to Woolf on Google today, International Women’s Day, a day first celebrated in 1911, during Woolf’s lifetime. A few moments ago, that number had risen to 29.2 million. Those numbers are nearly double those of less than two years ago.

No wonder. Online references to quotes and books for the day include Woolf’s, and blog posts mention her as well. The Norwegians have even named her a tail fin hero in honor of the day.

Woolf search results on the rise

The number of search results for Woolf’s name varies over time and has been on the rise since I began noting it in 2007.

That year, a Google search on Woolf’s name resulted in 2.4 million hits, according to Jane Wood in “Who’s Afraid That Feminism is Finished? Virginia Woolf and Contemporary Commodification,” published in the Virginia Woolf Miscellany 73 (2008) (22-24).

My search two and a half years later, on 27 June 2009, came up with 2.7 million results. Three years down the road, on 10 May 2012, nearly 4.1 million hits resulted. And five years after that, on 12 May 2017, my search showed a whopping 14.9 million hits, a 520 percent increase in 10 years. And now 29.2 million hits less than two years later. I can’t help wondering how high that number will go.

Woolf as feminist icon

Interest in Woolf on a day identified with feminism is fitting, as Woolf has become an iconic feminist in both pop culture and academic circles, despite the fact that she had contradictory feelings about identifying as such.

Woolf’s changeability

Her views about feminism — as a concept and as a label — were changeable. Woolf herself did not consistently identify as a feminist. The word “feminist,” for example, shows up infrequently in her private and public writing but it does appear just often enough to indicate her complicated and changeable attitudes about identifying as one.

And when the word does show up in her diaries and letters, it always appears in connection with politics and war, paralleling the way feminism and anti-militarism are linked throughout the history of the women’s peace movement.

In a 23 January 1916 letter to lifelong friend and fellow feminist and pacifist Margaret Llewelyn Davies, Woolf notes her growing feminism in response to the Great War and its coverage in the popular press:

I become steadily more feminist, owing to the Times, which I read at breakfast and wonder how this preposterous masculine fiction [the war] keeps going a day longer—without some vigorous young woman pulling us together and marching through it (L2 76).

In a 17 October 1924 diary entry, she considers making a feminist response to a political brouhaha covered in the popular press. But this time she speaks of her own feminism in the past tense. She notes,

If I were still a feminist, I should make capital out of the wrangle” (D2 318).

Woolf’s conflicted feelings about her feminist polemics

Five years later, in the same month that she publishes her openly feminist polemic, A Room of One’s Own, Woolf clearly expresses the conflict she feels about being identified as a feminist.

While her text bravely makes a long public argument about the inequities between the sexes – and makes it with what she describes as “ardour and conviction” – she is privately insecure about how the book will be received if she is identified as an advocate for womankind. She frets that her friends will respond with only evasion and jocularity. She worries that the book has a “shrill feminine tone.”

She is concerned she “shall be attacked [by critics] for a feminist” (D3 262). If she is subject to such attacks, though, she has a self-protective strategy steeped in stereotypically feminine behavior at the ready. She will simply dismiss the book as “a trifle” (262).

In a letter to pioneering suffragette and composer Ethel Smyth dated 15 April 1931, Woolf mentions listening to “two love lorn young men” who “caterwaul—with an egotism that, if I were a feminist, would throw great light on the history of the sexes—such complete self-absorption: such entire belief that a woman has nothing to do but listen” (L4 312).

Woolf’s reluctance to be branded as a feminist even while she is writing a feminist tome shows up again in 1932 as she is working on Three Guineas. In a diary entry dated 16 February, she speculates about a title for a book that she is “quivering & itching to write.” What should she call it, she wonders? She suggests a title, “Men are like that.” But she immediately scraps that idea as “too patently feminist” (D4 77).

For more on this topic, see my essay, “Taking Up Her Pen for World Peace: Virginia Woolf, Feminist Pacifist. Or Not?” in Virginia Woolf Writing the World: Selected Papers from the Twenty-fourth Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf, 2015, edited by Pamela L. Caughie and Diana L. Swanson, and published by Clemson University Press.

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Here is an overdue collection of Woolf sightings from around the Web:

  1. A call for papers: Legacy and the Androgynous Mind: Reading Woolf and the Romantics https://www.cfplist.com/nemla/Home/S/16225
  2. To the Lighthouse is The Wall Street Journal Book Club pick. http://on.wsj.com/29KLes3
  3. Virginia Woolf visited Wordsworth’s Dove Cottage. http://www.cumbriacrack.com/2016/07/14/wordsworths-dove-cottage-celebrates-125-years-open-public/
  4. “Typology of Women” project is an exhibition and a book that includes Virginia Woolf’s essay, “A Room of One’s Own.” http://bit.ly/29F1avz
  5. Radio Girls by Sarah-Jane Stratford, which brings in Virginia Woolf and Vita, is a hit. http://usat.ly/29z8YiC
  6. Bloomsbury in Sussex: A One-day conference https://centreformoderniststudiessussex.wordpress.com/bloomsbury-in-sussex-a-one-day-conference-marking-100-years-at-charleston/
  7. Vanessa Bell will have solo show at Dulwich Picture Gallery next year. http://bit.ly/29p4ECB
  8. An artist who promises to solve a Virginia Woolf riddle, The Waves. http://bit.ly/29noUIL
  9. More on Ethel Smyth’s music, including a video, and news of the biopic on her life, starring Cate Blanchett. http://bit.ly/29nou59
  10. Head writer for Inside Amy Schumer includes reference to Virginia Woolf in book of essays. http://nyti.ms/29p3YwL
  11. The “Virginia Monologues” inspired by Woolf. http://bit.ly/29qGhVZ
  12. On my next trip to London, I plan to visit the The Bloomsbury Club Bar. I hope they’ll comp me a drink. They have 10 of them named after Bloomsbury group members. http://bit.ly/29hNmei
  13. The Guardian on the upcoming Vita and Virginia film. http://bit.ly/29hMHtA
  14. Opera House Arts offers “Orlando.” http://bit.ly/29qFxQp
  15. Is Southern Appalachian writer Julia Franks a 21st-century Virginia Woolf? This reviewer thinks so. http://bit.ly/28SbjnW
  16. The overlooked woman from the BBC who put Virginia Woolf on the air. http://bit.ly/28MC7Yr
  17. Coverage of Virginia Woolf’s connection with Yorkshire and the Bronte Parsonage Museum, along with The International Virginia Woolf Conference 2016 in the Yorkshire Post. http://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/lifestyle/books/when-virginia-woolf-met-the-relics-of-charlotte-bronte-at-haworth-1-7966226
  18. A sustained homage to Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway in AL Kennedy’s “Serious Sweet.” http://on.ft.com/1sAeJnP
  19. Penguin Books bite-sized classics for 80p–including Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway–are luring younger readers. http://bit.ly/1TPRXBi
  20. Virginia Woolf stayed at the Hotel Villa Cimbrone on the Amalfi Coast. Bella! http://bit.ly/1TPR37V
  21. The complete script of “Life in Squares,” the 3-part BBC TV series about the Bloomsbury group, is out. http://amzn.to/1XoXIZm
  22. Here’s a must-see: “A Room of Their Own: Lost Bloomsbury Interiors 1914-1930,” an exhibit June 10 – Sept. 4 in Bath https://bathnewseum.com/2016/05/20/designs-on-the-bloomsbury-group/
  23. What the Dickens does Dickens have to do with Virginia Woolf and Mrs. Dalloway? Andre Gerard explains in Berfrois. http://bit.ly/1TsMtxu

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Graph of the number of times Virginia Woolf's name appears in English language books published between 1920 and 2008

How popular is Virginia Woolf around the world?

The Google Labs Books Ngram Viewer can help us figure that out. The database is culled from nearly 5.2 million digitized books. Its dataset consists of the 500 billion words in books published between 1500 and 2008 in English, French, Spanish, German, Chinese and Russian, explained the New York Times back in December.

This new resource allows anyone who logs onto the site to type in a string of up to five words and see a graph that charts the phrase’s frequency over time.

Take “Virginia Woolf,” for instance. The graph at right shows the number of times her name appeared in English language books between 1920 and 2008. As you can see, she reached the pinnacle of her popularity in those books in the late 1980s.

But we can break this down further. While her popularity peaked in British English books in the mid- to late 1980s, for Americans, the highpoint came in the late 1990s.

Among authors writing in German, Woolf peaked in the late 1980s, but her popularity was still riding high among authors writing in French into the mid-1990s. In both Russian and Chinese, Woolf’s popularity is simply a flat line.

Graph showing the number of times Virginia Woolf's name appears in English language books of fiction published between 1920 and 2008

This next bit will interest Alice Lowe, author of Beyond the Icon: Virginia Woolf in Contemporary Fiction, published by Cecil Woolf Publishers. Woolf peaked in the English fiction category in the late 1990s.

Woolf as commodity

Books, however, are not the only medium invoking Woolf’s name. In Virginia Woolf Icon (1999), Brenda Silver analyzes the appropriation of Woolf by both high and pop culture, from her 1937 appearance on the cover of Time to more recent appearances in movies, TV and theater.

And you can see for yourself the long list of items in the right sidebar that use her name, her words and/or her image. They range from dolls to mugs to tea towels to underwear.

Woolf in the online world

Virginia Woolf is a huge presence online, something that has grown dramatically since Silver published her book. Online sightings of her name and work come in by the dozens each week.

In “Virginia Woolf in the Cyber City: Connecting in the Virtual Public Square” in Woolf and the City: Selected Papers from the Nineteenth Annual Conference on Virginia Woolf, I mention that on 17 May 2009, my Google Web search on the name “Virginia Woolf” turned up 2.7 million hits (215).

On that same date, I found 31,400 hits for “Virginia Woolf groups” and 458,000 hits under the Google Images category for “Virginia Woolf.” My Facebook search conducted on the same date found more than 500 Woolf groups, with the total number of group members ranging from six to 2,600.

Tidbits on Woolf’s popularity in Europe and beyond

Below are some interesting tidbits regarding Woolf’s popularity that I found in The Reception of Virginia Woolf in Europe by Mary Ann Caws and Nicola Luckhurst and other sources.

  • In recent days, Woolfians from Italy, Africa, France and the U.S. have subscribed to Blogging Woolf.
  • According to the Fall/Winter 2010 issue of the Virginia Woolf Miscellany, Woolf organizations exist in the NetherlandsKorea and Japan, in addition to the Société d’Etudes Woolfiennes in France. And, of course, we must not forget the International VW Society and the VW Society of Great Britain. Links to these organizations appear in the right sidebar.
  • During the 1920s and ’30s, Woolf’s texts were translated into French faster than into any other language, according to Caws and Luckhurst (5).
  • On Page 10 of their book, Caws and Luckhurst provide a full list of European languages and dates of publication of translations of the full text of Woolf’s writing in book form. Swedish was first with Jacob’s Room in 1927. Lithuanian was last with Mrs. Dalloway in 1994.
  • The first of Woolf’s books to be translated into Turkish was To the Lighthouse, which appeared in 1945.
  • In “‘For God’s and Virginia’s sake why a translation?’ – Virginia Woolf’s Transfer to the Low Countries,”  published in Comparative Critical Studies in 2006, Els Andringa says the first mention of Woolf in a Dutch publication was in 1920 in a scholarly book on literature. But only after 1925 did regular reviews and essays begin appearing (204), while the first translation of her work in Dutch was not published until 1948. However, the boom in Woolf translations did not arrive until 1976 (205).
  • The Hogarth Press encouraged formal, consistent relationships with foreign publishing houses that may have helped spur translation of Woolf’s works (Caws and Luckhurst 330).
  • Susan Sellers posted an interview with Professor Yang Lixin in which the scholar explained Woolf’s popularity in China: “As an important pioneer of the ‘stream of consciousness’ literary technique and the western feminist movement, Virginia Woolf is well known in China – particularly to the common reader she herself valued so much.”
  • Biljana Dojčinović-Nešic discusses the political ramifications of translations of Woolf’s work, as well as Woolf’s views on translations, in “Translation as Border-Crossing: Virginia Woolf’s Case.”

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002I live in Northeast Ohio. At this time of year, it’s cold and snowy here. At the moment we have at least eight inches piled up around us.

I’m not complaining, though. I actually like winter. I like staying snug and warm inside, sipping mugs of hot tea and nibbling something chocolate while curled up under my favorite wool blanket with a good book — Pat Barker’s Double Vision at the moment.

All of this is preamble to the fact that my hibernation led me to spend too much time online this weekend. One of the things I did was update the Woolf Sightings page on Blogging Woolf.

In the process I found a Cocktail Party Cheat Sheet about Woolf, which is designed to provide chit chat that will impress people. The problem is that it contains inaccuracies and oversimplifications such as these:

  • “Woolf grew up in an intellectual family, but didn’t begin writing books until she was in her 30s, after she’d married Leonard Woolf and founded the Hogarth Press.”
  • “While there’s no question that the work of James Joyce influenced Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, Woolf held a generally low opinion of Joyce and thought him a misogynist.”

It does get some things right:

  • ” Woolf’s literary importance can hardly be overstated.”
  • “Woolf was also a vitally important force in 20th-century feminism.”

Luckily, if one is passing round these remarks with the drinks, fellow party guests are not likely to notice errors of fact or opinion.

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