Academic journal article Woolf Studies Annual

Virginia Woolf: A Musical Life

Academic journal article Woolf Studies Annual

Virginia Woolf: A Musical Life

Article excerpt

Virginia Woolf: A Musical Life. Emilie Crapoulet. Bloomsbury Heritage Series 50. (London: Cecil Woolf, 2009) 36pp.

Beyond the Icon: Virginia Woolf in Contemporary Fiction. Alice Lowe. Bloomsbury Heritage Series 58. (London: Cecil Woolf, 2010) 32pp.

Desmond and Molly MacCarthy: Bloomsberries. Todd Avery. Bloomsbury Heritage Series 59. (London: Cecil Woolf, 2010) 32pp.

Virginia Woolf and the Thirties Poets. Emily Kopley. Bloomsbury Heritage Series 60. (London: Cecil Woolf, 2011) 76pp.

How Vita Matters. Mary Ann Caws. Bloomsbury Heritage Series 61. (London: Cecil Woolf, 2011) 24pp.

The Bloomsbury Heritage Series, published by Cecil Woolf Publishers and available by request to the publisher, is the project of Cecil Woolf (Leonard Woolf's nephew) and his wife, Jean Moorcroft Wilson, who serves as general editor of the series. The stated goal of the series, subtitled "The Life, Works, and Times of the Bloomsbury Group," is to "provide concise, original, and authoritative introductions to a wide range of approaches to the Bloomsbury group." Purporting to be written for an audience ranging from general readers to academics, Bloomsbury Heritage offers sixty-two volumes as of the latest catalog, which was distributed in June 2011. Though the series offers a wide range of perspectives on and contexts for the members of Bloomsbury and their descendants, its monographs are introduced in conjunction with the Annual Conference on Virginia Woolf, thus the centrality of Woolf to Bloomsbury is often invoked within these pamphlets as a way of justifying the relationship of a more obscure artist or text to the Bloomsbury group.

The five monographs that are the subject of this review represent a wide range of approaches, and provide a striking example of the inconsistent offerings of a series striving to be accessible to all types of readership. While monographs such as Todd Avery's and Emily Kopley's studies of figures and texts represent a more traditionally academic end of the spectrum, some of these booklets seem to have grown out of--and enjoy an ongoing lifespan as--entries on the Blogging Woof website (, which is comprised of blog entries by a group of writers who maintain an exhaustive catalog of Woolf "sightings" in contemporary media, news, and events, and post elsewhere on the web under the collective title, "Woolfwriter." Thus, a particular author's "expertise" seems often to refer to a particular author's "Woolfophilia," as opposed to a more rigorous standard of research-based expertise, since the authors of the Bloomsbury Heritage series titles range from freelance writers to musicians to academics. That being said, the fact that this series is a generic anomaly within the arena of academic journals is also what marks it as a refreshing and enthusiastic contributor to a wide range of fields, including but not limited to Woolf studies and modernism.

Emilie Crapoulet's Virginia Woolf: A Musical Life takes as its starting point the fact that biographical studies of Woolf frequently overlook the influence of music on both her life and writing. Though Crapoulet writes that her perspective is "deliberately biographical," she hedges when establishing whether Woolf has "technical" knowledge of music or not. This biographical focus quickly becomes conflated with technique in her readings of Woolf's fiction, and it is not clear what she hopes to accomplish by invoking this debate about Woolf's musical proficiency, particularly in terms of interpreting Woolf's novels (4). Crapoulet's central argument that Woolf looked to music for inspiration "as she sought to transcend the boundaries of her own art" is an important one, and one that could (and should) be extended to other modernist authors (3). There is more to be said, for instance, about Huxley's concept of the "musicalization of fiction" as it applies to Woolf's novels. Instead, Crapoulet moves quickly through a lengthy list of examples of music and musicians in Woolf's writing, including her diaries, letters, and novels. …

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