Blog #20: Fathers and Virginia Woolf

“My father is a chemist, Mrs. Ramsey. He keeps a shop.” He himself had paid his own way since he was thirteen. Often he went without a greatcoat in winter. He could never ‘return hospitality’ (those were his parched stiff words) at college. He had to make things last twice the time other people did; he smoked the cheapest tobacco; shag; the same the old men smoked on the quays. He worked hard—seven hours a day; his subject was now the influence of something upon somebody—they were walking on and Mrs. Ramsay did not quite catch the meaning, only the words, here and there… dissertation… fellowship… readership… lectureship. She could not follow the ugly academic jargon, that rattled itself off so glibly, but said to herself that she saw now why going to the circus had knocked him off his perch, poor little man, and why he came out, instantly, with all that about his father and mother and brothers and sisters, and she would see to it that they didn’t laugh at him any more; she would tell Prue about it. What he would have liked, she supposed, would have been to say how he had been to Ibsen with the Ramsays. He was an awful prig—oh yes, and insufferable bore.

The above passage is a description of Charles Tansley in Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse. It may also become part of my next marketing campaign. Would you believe it? I, Andre Gerard, debasing Virginia Woolf—for publicity purposes. Heavens! There is simply no shame in the marketing game.

And how and why am I turning To the Lighthouse into marketing copy? One of my marketing strategies is to try to present papers at academic conferences, and in the process make university professors aware of Fathers. With its excellent essays and poems, Fathers is a good textbook for Life-writing courses or even 1st-year university English courses, and who better to enlist in my marketing efforts than university professors.

I’m already submitted two proposals for papers about Edmund Gosse to a NeMLA conference to be held in Rochester, New York, next March. Now, thanks to Blogging Woolf, I’ve become aware of two Virginia Woolf conferences set for next year, one in Saskatoon and one in Vancouver. To come up with interesting ideas worthy of submission, I am rereading many of Virginia’s essays and To the Lighthouse. The Charles Tansley passage has great potential, and in my next blog I’ll explain why.

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