Campus & Community / Magazine Feature

Virginia Woolf conference brings scholars to campus

About 150 people gathered at the University of Denver June 19–22 to discuss author Virginia Woolf as part of the 18th Annual Virginia Woolf International Conference.

“The University of Denver is proud to have had this opportunity to bring internationally recognized scholars and common readers and lovers of Woolf to campus for the 2008 conference,” said Eleanor McNees, conference host and professor of English at DU.

During the conference opening, Chancellor Robert Coombe joked that as a chemist he was awed by the fact that there was such a gathering around such a person.

“That would not happen in the sciences,” Coombe said.

But as McNees explained, it happens in English departments and in women’s studies programs around the world because of Woolf’s popularity.

“Virginia Woolf’s work appealed both to the highbrow intellectual audience of her time and to the common reader of today,” McNees said. “Her nine novels marked her as one of the major modernists of the 20th century.”

Lorienne Schwenk has been a Woolf fan for years and became more interested as a way to learn more about her own mother.

“It all began for me with my mother’s thorough readings of all things Virginia Woolf,” Schwenk said. “My mother died in 1986 and I have sometimes turned to Woolf to try to understand [my mother].”

Schwenk, who lives in Boulder, found out about the conference from the International Virginia Woolf Society and was pleased she could drive to DU daily to attend the conference.

“I was fascinated by hearing professors talk about how they connect Woolf with their students in various parts of the country where there may be differences of race, economy and even religion,” she said. “But an overwhelming highlight was seeing in the flesh all of the great scholars and Woolf experts I have known about or chatted with online for years.”

The conference hosted several well-known Woolf scholars, including Brenda Silver, Mark Hussey, Andrew McNeillie, Jane Lilienfeld and James Haule. Speakers and panelists discussed the conference theme, “Woolf Editing / Editing Woolf.”

“Editing is undergoing a resurgence with new technology,” said McNees, who will edit the selected conference papers, to be published by the Clemson University Press.

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