2nd of 3 parts – “The Presence of Memory”
(Part 3 – August 12)
The three-part series looks at Virginia Woolf’s memoir, “A Sketch of the Past,” which is a pleasure to read and available in a collection of her memoirs called Moments of Being, a book that is easy to find in bookstores and the library.
Or you may download it free here:
The series explores the memoir in relation to Virginia Woolf’s statement that in 1910, human character changed. Woolf's essays on character and her novel, To the Lighthouse, are used to interpret the first thirty pages of the memoir, which cover the period from Woolf's first memories to the death of her mother, when Woolf was thirteen. The main character in this part of the memoir is her mother, and the talks show the centrality of Woolf's mother in shaping Woolf's belief that character is the most important aspect of a work of fiction. The difficulty that Woolf had in writing about her mother relates to the challenge her generation of writers faced in creating character, representing life, and capturing truth.
The second talk is called “The Presence of Memory.” It is a close reading of the first thirty pages of "A Sketch of the Past" in the context of To the Lighthouse and Mrs. Dalloway, Woolf's most representative novels. The first thirty pages of the Sketch deal with the period from Woolf’s first memories to the death of her mother and reflect on the process of memoir-writing. These thirty pages also reveal Woolf's artistic credo and how her views of people, life, and art evolve from her early life: her first memories, her experiences of childhood, and her relationship with her mother. My close reading of this part of the memoir shows the importance, perhaps the centrality, of Woolf's early childhood to her later life, writing, and thought.
Glenn Deefholts teaches English at Langara College. In a previous lifetime, he was a tennis instructor for two summers. He currently enjoys making music with friends. Last summer, he published two books: Only So Many Breaths: Selected Poems 1995 - 2015 and Genderfluid: A Way of Being."