History of Literature #69 – Virginia Woolf and Her Enemies (with Professor Andrea Zemgulys) / Children’s Books

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Early in her career, novelist Virginia Woolf (1882-1941) wrote a critical essay in which she set forth her views of what fiction can and should do. The essay was called “Modern Fiction” (1919), and it has served critics and readers as a guide to Modernism (and Woolf) ever since. But while it’s easy to follow her arguments about the authors who became giants in the world of literature such as Joyce and Chekhov, it’s less easy to understand her statements about the authors she criticized, contemporary best sellers H.G. Wells, Arnold Bennett, and John Galsworthy. What was behind her savage criticism of these three? What does her animosity tell us about Woolf’s views of fiction? Professor Andrea Zemgulys of the University of Michigan joins Jacke to help him figure this out. Then a pair of children’s book experts (Jacke Wilson Jr. and Jacke Wilson Jr. Jr.) join Jacke in the studio to discuss buying holiday books for children.

Play

Show Notes: 

Contact the host at jackewilsonauthor@gmail.com or by leaving a voicemail at 1-361-4WILSON (1-361-494-5766).

You can find more literary discussion at jackewilson.com and more episodes of the series at historyofliterature.com.

Check out our Facebook page at facebook.com/historyofliterature.

Music Credits:

Handel – Entrance to the Queen of Sheba” by Advent Chamber Orchestra (From the Free Music Archive / CC by SA).

“Quirky Dog,” “Sweeter Vermouth, and “Monkeys Spinning Monkeys” by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0

 

Virginia Woolf Speaks

Ah, this is EXACTLY what I would have guessed her voice sounds like. This extended metaphor is a little long, but it earns its length. Enjoy!

Happy Thursday!

Virginia Woolf on How to Read a Book


Via Maria Popova’s Brainpickings (of course!), we get this amazing overview of Virginia Woolf’s amazing advice on how to read a book.

The whole post is worth reading, but here’s a taste:

To read a novel is a difficult and complex art. You must be capable not only of great fineness of perception, but of great boldness of imagination if you are going to make use of all that the novelist — the great artist — gives you.

Virginia made a cameo here on the Jacke blog once before, when she visited Stonehenge. Glad to have you back, Virginia!

Let’s try a little K.T. Tunstall for our onward and upward. With the legendary Daryl Hall. Can’t we all just go hang out there, at Daryl’s house?

Popova on Woolf

I’m still absorbing yesterday’s Terrible Poem Breakdown and its use of the Druid. I still kind of like the poem! Undeniably terrible, but even so. Terrible poems with druids are not all bad. (Please don’t try to prove me wrong, poets!)

Running through some research on the druids, I came across Maria Popova’s look at Virginia Woolf’s visit to Stonehenge:

In August of 1903, young Woolf journeyed to visit Stonehenge — the legendary prehistoric monument in Wiltshire, England, which archaeologists believe was built sometime between 3000 BC and 2000 BC by a culture that left no written records and which has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1986. From A Passionate Apprentice: The Early Journals, 1897–1909 (public library) — which also gave us the beloved writer on imitation and the arts, the glory of the human mind, and the joy of music and dance — comes 21-year-old Woolf’s beautiful account of visiting the mysterious monument.

Fans of Woolf will enjoy this book – and with passages like these who can blame them!

There are theories I know — without end; & we, naturally, made a great many fresh, & indisputable discoveries of our own. The most attractive, & I suppose most likely, is that some forgotten people built here a Temple where they worshipped the sun; there is a rugged pillar someway out side the circle whose peak makes exactly that point on the rim of the earth where the sun rises in the summer solstice. And there is a fallen stone in the middle, longer & larger than the other hewn rocks it lies among which may have been an altar — & the moment the sun rose the Priest of that savage people slaughtered his victim here in honour of the Sun God. We certainly saw the dent of his axe in the stone. Set up the pillars though in some other shape, & we have an entirely fresh picture; but the thing that remains in ones mind, whatever one does, is the stupendous mystery of it all. Man has done nothing to change Salisbury plain since these stones were set here; they have seen sunrise & moonrise over those identical swells & ridges for — I know not how many thousand years.

This is Woolf at her best: wondrous and awestruck, yet fully in command of her own intelligence and perspicacity. I want to visit Stonehenge! And to read Virginia Woolf all over again! Thank you, Maria Popova.

And now, for someone around my age, and for whom Stonehenge can only conjure up one possible thing (and those of you who know who you are know exactly what that is, and have been smiling for several paragraphs), this passage by Woolf:

I suddenly looked ahead, & saw with the start with which one sees in real life what ones eye has always known in pictures, the famous circle of Stonehenge. Pictures give one no idea of size; & I had imagined something on a much larger scale.

Oh YES, Virginia!!!

Nigel Tufnel and David St. Hubbins know exactly how you feel.