The Hours Virginia Woolf Michael Cunningham Michael Cunningham 1. Life: Born in November 6, 1952 in Cincinnati, Ohio, growing up in Pasadena California. B. A. of English literature at Stanford University; Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Iowa Michael Cunningham 2. Awards: 1989: White Angel, „The Best American Short Stories‟ 1993:Guggenheim Fellowship 1995: the Whiting Writers‟ Award 1998: National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship Michael Cunningham 3. Work: teaching at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts and in the creative writing MFA program at Brooklyn College; a producer 4. Novel: 1984: Golden States 1990: A Home at the end of the World Michael Cunningham 4. Novel: 1995: Flesh and Blood 1998: The Hours (establishing Cunningham as a major force in American writing; awarded Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, 1999; PEN/Faulkner Award, 1999; Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgendered Book Award, 1999) 2005: Specimen Days (not well received by American critics) Michael Cunningham Although Cunningham is gay and has been partnered for 18 years, he dislikes being referred to as only a “gay writer”, because while being gay does greatly influence his work, he feels that it is not (and should not be) his defining characteristic. Virginia Woolf 1. Early life Raised in an environment filled with the influences of Victorian literary society: Father: Sir Leslie Stephen, an editor, critic, and biographer; connection to William Thackeray Mother: Julia Stephan, descended from an attendant of Marie Antoinette, coming from a family of renowned beauties who left their mark on Victorian society as models for Pre-Raphaelite artists and early photographers Virginia Woolf Parents’ association: Henry James, George Elliot, George Henry Lewes, Julia Margaret Cameron, and James Russell Lowell 22 Hyde Park Gate: classic and English literature St Ives in Cornwall: childhood memories, a place for the Stephan family to spend summer until 1895 (the Talland House, the Godrevy Lighthouse informed the fiction she wrote in later years, notably To the lighthouse) Virginia Woolf Nervous Breakdowns: led by 1. Family members‟ death: 1895: mother died of influenza 1897: half sister Stella died 1904: the death of her father provoking her most alarming collapse and her being briefly institutionalized Virginia Woolf Nervous Breakdowns: 2. the sexual abuse by her half-brothers George and Gerald (recalled in her autobiographical essays A Sketch of the Past and 22 Hyde Park Gate) 3. bipolar disorder, a posthumous diagnosis, an illness which coloured her work, relationships, and life and eventually led to her suicide Virginia Woolf 46 Gordon Square in Bloomsbury: Lytton Strachey, Clive Bell, Saxon Sydney-Turner, Duncan Grant and Leonard Woolf, forming the nucleus of the intellectual circle known as the Bloomsbury Group The ethos of Bloomsbury discouraged sexual exclusivity Virginia Woolf 2. Personal life Marriage: married writer Leonard Woolf in 1912 (a penniless Jew); a close bond but never fully consummated; Virginia‟s diary wrote “Love-making— after 25 years can‟t bear to be separate…you see it is enormous pleasure being wanted: a wife. And our marriage so complete.” Hogarth Press Virginia Woolf Sexuality: women directed A Lesbian relationship with Vita Sackville-West: through most of the 1920s (In 1928, Woolf presented Sackville-West with Orlando, a fantastical biography in which the eponymous hero‟s life spans three centuries and both genders— the longest and most charming love letter in literature Virginia Woolf Other intimate friendships: Madge Vaughn (the daughter of J. A. Symonds, and inspiration for the character of Mrs. Dalloway), and Violet Dickinson, composer, and Suffragette Ethel Smyth; sister Vanessa Bell Virginia Woolf 3. Death Events that caused her death: 1. mental depression 2. the ongoing war and the destruction of her homes in London during the air raid 3. the cool reception of her biography on her late friend Roger Fry Virginia Woolf On 28 March 1941, rather than having another nervous breakdown, Woolf drowned herself by weighing her pockets with stones and walking into the River Ouse near her home. Her body was not found until April 18. Her husband buried her remains under a tree in the garden of their house in Rodmell, Sussex. Virginia Woolf 4. Contribution 1. One of the greatest innovators in the English literature 2. stream-of-consciousness, the underlying psychological as well as emotional motives of characters, and the various possibilities of fractured narrative and chronology 3. E. M. Forster: she pushed the English language “a little further against the dark.” Virginia Woolf 5. Critics against Woolf: 1. epitomizing the narrow world of the upper-middle class English intelligentsia, lacking in universality and dept, without the power to communicate anything of emotional or ethical relevance to the disillusioned common reader. Virginia Woolf 5. Critics against Woolf: 2. an anti-Semite and a snob: In her diary: “I do not like the Jewish voice; I do not like the Jewish Laugh.” In her 1930 letter to Ethel Smyth: “How I hated marrying a Jew—What a snob I was, for they have immense vitality.” Virginia Woolf 6. Work: Novels The Voyage Out (1915) Night and Day (1919) Jacob's Room (1922) Mrs. Dalloway (1925) To the Lighthouse (1927) Orlando: A Biography (1928) The Waves (1931) The Years (1937) Between the Acts (1941) Mrs Dalloway Characters: 1. Clarissa Dalloway: based on Woolf‟s childhood friend, Kitty Maxse; 2. Richard Dalloway: 3. Elizabeth Dalloway 4. Peter Walsh 5. Sally Seton/Lady Rosseter 6. Miss Kilman 7. Septimus Warren Smith Mrs Dalloway Characters: 8. Lucrezia Warren Smith 9. Dr. Holmes 10. Sir William Bradshaw 11. Lady Bradshaw Mrs Dalloway Themes 1. The sea as symbolic of life: The ebb and flow of life. When the image is portrayed as being harmonized, the sea represents a great confidence and comfort. Yet, when the image is presented as disjointed or uncomfortable, it symbolizes disassociation, loneliness, and fear 2. Doubling: Septimus as Clarissa‟s doppleganger, the alternate persona, the darker, more internal personality compared to Clarissa‟s very social and singular outlook. Virginia Woolf Themes: 3. The intersection of time and timelessness: Woolf‟s prose has blurred the distinction between dream and reality, between the past and present. 4. Social commentary: the flimsy lifestyle of England‟s upper classes at the time of the novel Virginia Woolf Themes 5. The world of the sane and insane side by side: Woolf portrays the sane grasping for significant and substantial connections to life, living among those who have been cut off from such connections and who suffer because of the improper treatment they, henceforth, receive. The Hours (novel) 1. The book concerns three generations of women affected by Virginia Woolf: A. Woolf herself writing Mrs. Dalloway in 1923 and struggling with her own mental illness. B. Mrs. Brown (the name from Woolf‟s short prose Mr. Bennett and Mrs. Brown), wife of a WWII veteran, who is reading Mrs. Dalloway in 1949 as she plans her husband‟s birthday party. The Hours C. Clarissay Vaughn, a lesbian, who plans a party in1999 to celebrate a major literary award received by her good friend and former lover, the poet Richard, who is dying of AIDS. 2. Written in the stream-of- consciousness style The Hours Themes: 1. LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) issues: To some extent the novel examines the freedom with which successive generations have been able to express their sexuality freely, to the public, even to themselves. 2. Mental illness: Cunningham‟s novel suggests to some extent, perceived mental illness can be a legitimate expression of perspective.