Virginia Woolf and Images: Becoming Photographic – Toulouse, 30 juin-1er juillet 2016

For its 20th birthday the Société des Études Woolfiennes (SEW) will hold a two-day symposium at Toulouse University:

Virginia Woolf and Images: Becoming Photographic

Toulouse, 30 juin-1er juillet 2016


What is the difference between a camera and the whooping-cough? One makes facsimiles and the other makes sick families. (Stephen children, Hyde Park Gate News vol. 1, n° 9, Monday, 6th April 1891)

Virginia Stephen was nine when, with her sister Vanessa and her brother Thoby, she invented riddles and wrote regular chronicles involving photography in the family newspaper. She was still nine when, for Christmas, she drew successive ink vignettes which build up a “story not needing words”1. Later, in 1906, while trying to depict “great melancholy moors”, she passionately penned in her diary: “But words! words! You will find nothing to match the picture”2. For Woolf, be it through a malicious play on words, a lively succession of images or the expression of a young writer’s frustration, words and images are set in fruitful tension. The quotes mark out the intermedial interaction and emulation underlying Woolfian prose, its becoming other.

It is now common knowledge in Woolfian studies that Woolf’s oeuvre enjoys intimate relations with the visual arts; Maggie Humm’s 2010 edition of The Edinburgh Companion to Virginia Woolf and the Arts has proved it admirably. Yet Frances Spalding’s 2014 exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, “Virginia Woolf. Art, Life and Vision” blatantly showed that Woolf is still mainly related to Post-impressionism and to Bloomsbury pictorial influence. While Maggie Humm and Elena Gualtieri, among others, have brought to the fore the crucial part played by photography in Woolf’s life and cultural environment, there is nonetheless a need to focus on photographic intermediality and its textual effects in the oeuvre. This conference therefore intends to consider how, in its relation to photography, the plasticity of the Woolfian text actually becomes photographic and makes us see.

Thus taking its cue from the preceding SEW seminars and conferences – “Outlanding Woolf” in 2013, “Humble Woolf” in 2014 and “Trans-Woolf” in 2015 – this two-days symposium will explore multiple aspects of Virginia Woolf’s relation to photography.

To download the programme click here: Programme Becoming Photographic

Organisation: Adèle CASSIGNEUL (Bordeaux 2 University/CAS EA 801) with Christine REYNIER (Montpellier 3 University)

Contact: <becomingphotographic@outlook.com>

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