At 22 Kingsway, a life-sized Virginia Woolf wax work is exhibited inside a room of her own in the foyer of the Virginia Woolf King’s College London building. Eleanor Crook’s wax work creation is dressed in clothing modelled after the dress, shawl and hat that Woolf famously wore in a 1923 photograph taken by Lady Ottoline Morell.
There is perhaps no greater comfort nor reward granted by reading than resonance. It is an indescribable liberation to have our feelings corroborated; to sift through the works of writers centuries past and happen upon an unassuming strand of words that instantly articulates the inarticulable, that echoes an acute emotion lying dormant within. These discoveries serve as whispers through time, as a consoling hand-squeeze in the ether. In my first year studying on the Strand, Virginia Woolf’s 1930 essay Street Haunting: A London Adventure offered me this solace.
by Max Saunders, Professor of English; Fellow of the English Association; and Director of the Centre for Life Writing and Research.
Almost a century ago a young geneticist, J. B. S. Haldane, made a series of startling predictions in a little book called Daedalus; or, Science and the Future. Genetic modification. Wind power. The gestation of children in artificial wombs, which he called “ectogenesis.” Haldane’s ingenious book did so well that the publishers, Kegan Paul, based a whole series on the idea. They called it To-Day and To-Morrow, and between 1923 and 1931 published over 100 volumes, byrising stars like Haldane, and leading thinkers like Bertrand Russell, who answered Daedalus with a much gloomier warning about the future of science, called Icarus.Continue reading To-Day and To-Morrow; the rediscovered series that shows how to imagine the future→
by Ellie Jones, PhD researcher funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and Tate. Her thesis centres on expressions and perceptions of queerness and race in early twentieth century British art.
“Dearest, at this moment I would give my soul to the Devil if I could kiss you and be kissed.”
In the summer of 1908, the Bloomsbury artist Duncan Grant wrote anguished letters to his sometime lover and lifelong friend, the economist John Maynard Keynes. In the infancy of their romance, the pair had been forced to spend time apart while Grant holidayed with family friends, a period of separation which served only to deepen their emotional closeness. Absence, after all, makes the heart grow fonder.
Grant’s letters expose a longing for the comfort of commonality, the security we find in shared experiences. He needed the company of someone who understood what it meant to be a gay man living in Britain before decriminalisation in 1967. “How much I want to scream sometimes here for want of being able to say something I mean,” one letter reads: “It’s not only that one’s a sodomite that one has to hide but one’s whole philosophy of life; one’s feelings for inanimate things I feel would shock some people.”
These letters are revealing of the ways Grant linked his sense of alienation, at the hands of his sexuality, to a broader sense of difference relating to the way he perceived the world around him. He understood his queerness as a central organising structure of his vision and his personhood; his “whole philosophy of life”. By making an explicit connection between his sexual alterity and his way of seeing, he leads us to consider: in what ways do our sexual pleasures and fantasies inform the way we see the world? Continue reading Painting in circles and loving in triangles: the Bloomsbury Group’s queer ways of seeing→
Introduction by Max Saunders, Professor of English and Director of the Arts and Humanities Research Institute (AHRI)
The idea for Wax Virginia was developed by Prof. Clare Brant, Co-Director of the Centre for Life-Writing Research, and Ruth Richardson, Visiting Research Fellow of the Centre, who both worked closely with the artist Eleanor Crook, on the design of the installation. The project is characteristic of the creativity and imagination they have brought to the Centre. At the unveiling during the Arts & Humanities Festival people were astounded by the way the sculpture transformed the lobby space. It was just what was needed to realise the presence of Arts & Humanities at 22 Kingsway.