As I peer out the back window of my home and look to the left, I see a patch of grass nestled between a fence and porch. What a wonderful place this would be for a meditation garden decorated with rose bushes and a flat stone lanai with geometric designs marking the space. A line of Leland cypress trees strategically planted behind the garden would create a wall of privacy, cordoning this area off from unsuspecting people passing by or neighbors going about their own lawn care duties.
Through my imagination of this space, I make it my own – a place where I may visit to clear my mind, nurture my own creativity and establish a one-ness with myself. The act of carving this unique space, represents a complex, theoretically-charged effort. This blog will explore the intersections of the author Virginia Woolf with the theories of Space and Place.
During the next fifteen weeks, under the tutelage of Dr. Elisa Kay Sparks of Clemson University, we will explore the intersection of Woolf and a multitude of theorists. I will situate these writings based on my own understanding of the Wolf/theory nexus and work to advance the body of knowledge in this arena.
An initial review of literature revealed that Woolf deftly unites real and imagined spaces. For example, in my own mind, the imagined space of my meditation garden in my backyard is a real thought, a real “place” that I may visit, despite that the brick has not been placed for tangible foundation or the ground tilled for rose bushes.
The volume, “Introduction to Locating Woolf: The Politics of Space and Place,” edited by Snaith and Whitworth illuminates this phenomenon. “The broad contention of this volume is that Woolf anticipates what has come to be called postmodern geography not only by combining a materialist and discursive understanding of space, but also implying the inseparability of ‘real and ‘imagined ‘spaces,” according to Snaith and Whitworth.
Elisa Kay Sparks provides a critical overview of the recent movements in space and place theories in the Woolf Studies annual, through an analysis of three books: Moving Through Modernity: Space and Geography in Modernism by Andrew Thacker; Here and Now: The Politics of Social Space in DH Lawrence and Virginia Woolf by Youngoo Son; and Locating Woolf, the Politics of Space and Place, Ed. Anna Snaith and Michael H. Whitworth.
(Sparks, 2008). This article serves as a reference point for understanding of the broadening field.
“While Woolf has long been placed in the context of urban modernity, we want to consider a wider range of spatial formations: broadcasting space, geopolitical space, rural space and imperial space,” state editors Anna Snaith and Michael H. Whitworth in their book, Locating Woolf: The Politics of Space and Place.
“Space is the everywhere of modern thought,” Citing Crang and Thrift, in the book, Key Thinkers on Space and Place.
(Ed. Phil Hubbard, 2004). For further examination in future blog entries, I will analyze the influence of French philosopher Michel deCerteau on Woolf. Sparks documents Thacker’s characterization of deCerteau. “Thacker presents deCerteau’s distinction between a map – a strategic overview of space – and a tour – a tactical account of actual movement through a particular places – as an extension of Lefebrvre’s concepts of conceived and lived space,” (Sparks, 2008). In Virginia Woolf’s work, readers find space characterized by movement, we find lovers taking tours through gardens, we find a snail on a wall, and we find individuals moving on a train.
The movement through my garden would encompass children playing fancifully, a husband and wife holding hands and teen-agers sharing the burden of their hearts with words, tears and embraces. For now, though, it remains a green patch of grass with an aspiring hope not yet plowed into the ground.
Ed. Phil Hubbard, B. K. (2004). Key Thinkers on Space and Place. London: Sage Publishing.
Sparks, E. K. (2008). Woolf Studies Annual.
Whitworth, E. A. (2007). Locating Woolf: The politics of space and place.