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Virginia Woolf A to Z: A Comprehensive Reference for Students, Teachers, and Common Readers to Her Life, Work, and Critical Reception (Literary A to Z's) Paperback – November 21, 1996
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"Intended primarily for 'readers who are new to the work of Virginia Woolf,' Hussey's encyclopedia, the first on Woolf, will nonetheless delight veteran scholars as well, providing both groups with a wealth of basic information about Woolf's works, critical reception, influences, life and times, friends, and family."--Choice
"A brilliant compendium equally important and useful for specialists and common readers. Anyone who loves, teaches or studies Woolf and the Bloomsberries will find this entertaining and erudite work indispensable."--Louise DeSalvo, author of Virginia Woolf: The Impact of Childhood Sexual Abuse on Her Life and Work
About the Author
Mark Hussey, Associate Professor of English at Pace University, has written and edited many books and articles on Virginia Woolf, including The Singing of the Real World: The Philosophy of Virginia Woolf's Fiction. He is also an editor of Woolf Studies Annual and Virginia Woolf Miscellany.
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Even though two of my professional publications grew out of my study of Virginia Woolf, I am not a Virginia Woolf scholar. So I would describe myself as being a "common reader" - to use the term Hussey uses in the subtitle of his 1995 book VIRGINIA WOOLF A TO Z - a term he borrows from her. As a common reader, I find his book a helpful resource to consult.
But Virginia Woolf is not everybody's cup of tea. You have to acquire a taste for her writing. Once you have acquired a taste for her writing, Hussey's 1995 book VIRGINIA WOOLF A TO Z is a wonderful resource to consult.
Hussey, now an administrator at Texas A&M University, is also the author of the book THE SINGING OF THE REAL WORLD: THE PHILOSOPHY OF VIRGINIA WOOLF'S FICTION (1986).
In the Hebrew Bible, the Psalms and the Song of Songs are for singing. The Homeric epics were sung as songs. St. Francis of Assisi's "Canticle of Brother Sun" is a medieval song. In Virginia Woolf's essay "Anon," which she wrote when she was writing her novel BETWEEN THE ACTS (1941), she invokes the oral world of song - oral culture 1.0.
In the scholarly world, Albert B. Lord's book THE SINGER OF TALES (1960) and Eric A. Havelock's book PREFACE TO PLATO (1963) call attention to the singing of tales such as the Homeric epics. Over the last half century or so, certain literary scholars have begun taking oral tradition into consideration - oral culture 1.0. See, for example, the 550-page anthology TEACHING ORAL TRADITION, edited by John Miles Foley (MLA, 1998).
More recently, Hussey has served as the general editor of Harcourt's annotated series of Virginia Woolf's books. I hope that the annotated editions of her books that he has edited will help more people today to acquire a taste for her writing.
Virginia Woolf (1882-1941) was not an oral singer of tales in oral culture 1.0. Nor did she write any scripts for plays, as Shakespeare and other playwrights did, nor for radio programs (in oral culture 2.0) - or for movies. Instead, she was a writer of tales for publication in print culture 1.0. In addition, she was a prolific writer of essays, book reviews, letters, diaries, and even biographies. She was also a feminist, pacifist, and activist. Periodically, she suffered breakdowns - she could be the famous face in ads for a public-awareness campaign about bipolar disorder and/or suicide prevention and/or complicated grief.
No doubt her fear of another breakdown contributed to her decision to commit suicide in 1941.
In her breakdowns, powerful forces in her psyche overpowered her ego-consciousness. At times in her breakdowns, she heard voices. In the Hebrew Bible, individual persons who hear voices are known as prophets. In other instantiations of oral culture 1.0, shamans experienced what we today refer to as auditory and visual hallucinations.
In the controversial book THE ORIGINS OF CONSCIOUSNESS IN THE BREAKDOWN OF THE BICAMERAL MIND (1977), Julian Jaynes claims that our pre-historic ancestors in oral culture 1.0 heard voices.
For a more recent relevant discussion, see Daniel B. Smith's book MUSES, MADMEN, AND PROPHETS: RETHINKING THE HISTORY, SCIENCE, AND MEANING OF AUDITORY HALLUCINATIONS (2007).
In any event, Virginia Woolf had multiple breakdowns over her lifetime and recovered from them and went on her way writing. We should remember and celebrate her resilience. After all, in his book THE DAEMON KNOWS: LITERARY GREATNESS AND THE AMERICAN SUBLIME (2015, page 199), the literary critic Harold Bloom connects Walt Whitman with shamanism. However, in my estimate, Virginia Woolf has a much more substantial claim for being connected with shamanism.
The Jungian theorist Robert L. Moore at the Chicago Theological Seminary claims that all men and all women have both a masculine shaman archetype and a feminine shaman archetype in their psyches. However, he has published only a book about the masculine shaman archetype. See Moore and Douglas Gillette's book THE MAGICIAN WITHIN: ACCESSING THE SHAMAN [ARCHETYPE] IN THE MALE PSYCHE (1993).
Now, over the last half century or so, Virginia Woolf has been lionized by certain American literary scholars. Literary scholars are the custodians of print culture 1.0, except for those few literary scholars who are aware of oral tradition.
As far as I know, the literary scholars who have lionized Virginia Woolf over the last half century or so have not connected with the literary scholars who have begun taking oral tradition into consideration, and vice versa. The connection would be Virginia Woolf's essay "Anon."
Now, thanks to our contemporary cultural conditioning in what the American cultural historian and theorist Walter J. Ong, S.J. (1912-2003), aptly describes as our secondary oral culture (oral culture 2.0), our contemporary American cultural conditioning has evolved over the last half century or so from print culture 1.0 into print culture 2.0.
In any event, Hussey is not wrong in suggesting in the subtitle of his above-mentioned 1986 book that the so-called philosophy expressed in Virginia Woolf's novels can be characterized, figuratively speaking, as singing the real world.
For a relevant discussion of expressing a so-called philosophy in oral culture 1.0, see David M. Smith's perceptive 1997 essay "World as Event: Aspects of Chipewyan Ontology," which is reprinted in the 360-page anthology OF ONG AND MEDIA ECOLOGY: ESSAYS IN COMMUNICATION, COMPOSITION, AND LITERARY STUDIES (2012, pages 117-141). Smith is an anthropologist who lived and worked with the Chipewyan people in western Canada. Many of his professional publications center on their narratives.
As the title of Hussey's 1995 book indicates, he has organized the contents alphabetically from A to Z. This is a linear way to organize material.
In his book THE HIDDEN BOOK IN THE BIBLE (1998), the biblical scholar Richard Elliott Friedman has discerned a chronological narrative in the Hebrew Bible that represents linear-time organization. However, apart from that hidden chronological narrative in the Hebrew Bible, the Hebrew Bible in other respects is an anthology of thought and expression in a residual form of oral culture 1.0.
But oral culture 1.0 typically did not favor extended linear-time organization (for example, the Homeric epics are recursive, not strictly linear), or linear-space organization either (such as Hussey's A to Z spatial arrangement). See, for example, Donald L. Fixico's book THE AMERICAN INDIAN MIND IN A LINEAR WORLD: AMERICAN INDIAN STUDIES AND TRADITIONAL KNOWLEDGE (2003). What he refers to as traditional Native American knowledge represents oral culture 1.0.
Now, Beatrice Bruteau (1930-2014; Ph.D. in philosophy, Fordham University, 1969) identified what she refers to as the paleo-feminine era in the human psyche and the new feminine era in the human psyche. Each is typically expressed as what she refers to as communion consciousness.
Concerning the paleo-feminine era in the human psyche, see M. Esther Harding's book WOMAN'S MYSTERIES: ANCIENT AND MODERN (1971) and Erich Neumann's books THE ORIGINS AND HISTORY OF CONSCIOUSNESS (1954) and THE GREAT MOTHER: AN ANALYSIS OF THE ARCHETYPE (1955).
Concerning the new feminine era in the human psyche, see Edward C. Whitmont's book RETURN OF THE GODDESS (1982).
The paleo-feminine era in the human psyche dominated in oral culture 1.0. It is characterized by what Ong refers to as the world-as-event sense of life - David M. Smith borrowed Ong's expression in his above-mentioned essay.
See Ong's article "World as View and World as Event" in the AMERICAN ANTHROPOLOGIST, volume 71, number 4 (August 1969): pages 634-647.
In contrast with the world-as-event sense of life in oral culture 1.0, Ong sees the world-as-view sense of life as emerging historically in ancient Greek philosophic thought as exemplified in the works of Plato and Aristotle.
Concerning the world-as-view sense of life expressed in ancient Greek philosophy, see Andrea Wilson Nightingale's book SPECTACLES OF TRUTH IN CLASSICAL GREEK PHILOSOPHY: THEORIA IN ITS CULTURAL CONTEXTS (2004).
Virginia Woolf's mature novels (in print culture 1.0) express communion consciousness, which characterizes oral culture 1.0 and oral culture 2.0 as it has emerged at least from the time of commercial radio in the 1920s onward in Western culture.
In the book THE DUALITY OF HUMAN EXISTENCE: AN ESSAY ON PSYCHOLOGY AND RELIGION (1966), David Bakan, a Jewish faculty member in psychology at the University of Chicago, identifies the duality of human existence as involving agency and communion. (But of course he was not the first to use those two terms.)
In her 700-page textbook THE PSYCHOLOGY OF GENDER, now in its fourth edition, Vicki S. Helgeson in psychology at Carnegie Mellon University summarizes her own research projects on agency and communion.
By definition, persons who develop both agency and communion optimally are psychologically androgynous persons.
In his 1995 book VIRGINIA WOOLF A TO Z, Hussey discusses psychological androgyny (pages 3-6).
In Virginia Woolf's elevated but non-psychotic manic moments, the communion dimension in her psyche was in the ascendency. Up to a certain point, the ascendancy of the communion dimension is not psychotic. But of course, it can become psychotic, as it did at times in Virginia Woolf's life. (By definition, being psychotic means losing contact with reality.)
Similarly, up to a certain point, one can experience a steep drop in the agency dimension but without descending into clinical depression. But of course it can descend into clinical depression. (By definition, clinical depression means losing contact with reality.)
In Virginia Woolf's experiences of clinical depression, the agency dimension in her psyche hit bottom, figuratively speaking.
Now, the Victorian Jesuit poet Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote certain sonnets about his own non-clinical-depression. Literary critics have dubbed them the "terrible sonnets" - not because they are terrible poetry (they are not terrible poetry), but because they articulate terrible depths of non-clinical-depression.
For a perceptive discussion of Hopkins, see Ong's book HOPKINS, THE SELF, AND GOD (1986), the published version of Ong's 1981 Alexander Lectures at the University of Toronto.
For one person's highly articulate account of her own psychotic manic experience, see Kay Redfield Jamison's book AN UNQUIET MIND: A MEMOIR OF MOODS AND MADNESS (1995).
For informed discussions of non-psychotic forms of elevated manic tendencies, see John D. Gartner's book THE HYPOMANIC EDGE: THE LINK BETWEEN (A LITTLE) CRAZINESS AND (A LOT OF) SUCCESS IN AMERICA (2005) and Peter C. Whybrow's book AMERICAN MANIA: WHEN MORE IS NOT ENOUGH (2005).
Finally, I should say that I think that Hussey should now undertake to update this fine reference work and bring out an updated second edition.
In addition to all the expected entries, the book includes photographs of the dust jackets of her works; an exhaustive (17 pages) of the works cited by the author; that list arranged alphabetically and topically; a most comprehensive topical list of entries; a comprehensive (8 charts) of genealogies (to include Leslie Stephen, Harriet Thackeray, Julia Prinsep (her mother), Leonard, Duncan Grant and Lytton Strachey, and Roger Fry; and, of course, a most excellent index.
If there is any question whether this is simply a showy coffee-table book or a serious work of scholarship, all one needs to do is read, not just glance, but actually read the 15 pages devoted to "The Waves."
I originally bought this book to add to my Virginia Woolf library, but I now realize what a treasure this book is. Highly, highly recommend it for all students of Woolf, whether novices or seasoned.