CFP: Virginia Woolf and the Writing of History, 8–10 Nov 2018, Rouen

Virginia Woolf and the Writing of History

8-10 November 2018
University of Rouen

Organisers: Dr. Anne Besnault-Levita, Dr. Marie Laniel, Dr. Anne-Marie Smith-di Biasio HDR
With the collaboration of the University of Picardie – Jules Verne
And the Société d’Etudes Woolfiennes

Confirmed keynote speakers:
Prof. Anna Snaith (King’s College, London)
Dr. Seamus O’Malley (Yeshiva University, New York)

Call for papers
Proposal submission deadline: January 30th, 2018

We propose to examine Virginia Woolf’s relationship to history by reflecting on her reading and writing of history,[1] be that the history of her own time, of the past, women’s history or literary history. This will involve analysing how the literary and historicity are interlinked not only in her novels, but also in the essays, letters and journals. This in turn might lead us to consider the question of anteriority and tradition, engaging both the po-ethical and political dimensions of a Woolfian writing of history and of pre-history, such as that which informs her late essay “Anon,” but is also present throughout her writing in the attention it accords to a cultural unconscious, subtending the present of language like a sometimes conscious, sometimes not yet conscious memory of the past.[2] We might also be led to see Woolfian historiography from the perspective of materialist revisionism, a feminist rewriting of the past, or an infinite working through the library of her father, Leslie Stephen. Other possible perspectives would be to consider her work as that of an archivist writing against the archives of patriarchy in search of her own arkhe,[3]or examining how she reinvents the historiographical, biographical and literary traditions. Woolf’s engagement in the history of Modernity might in turn be considered from a Benjaminian perspective, as a form of historiographical reconfiguration anticipating post-modern philosophy.
The question of Woolf’s hermeneutics of history might lead us to define the different forms of her engagement in women’s history, in the history of class, of her queering of history, her heterodoxy. We can also read her writing as a form of archeology delving into the written and non-written traces of history, attentive to the emergence of spectres and forms of survival or survivance[4] but also as a response to what Woolf herself called, in Three Guineas, “history in the raw.” Thus addressing how Woolf arrests the kairos of historical moment, her own inscription of two world wars as if in negative, might lead us furthermore to consider her writing as a form of resistance, nonetheless steeped in the Real of history, the present and the body.
We invite papers which address these questions among others from a variety of theoretical, literary and cultural approaches.

Possible topics may include:
• Virginia Woolf as a reader and interpreter of history
• Virginia Woolf as an apprentice historian
• Virginia Woolf’s revisionist historiography
• Virginia Woolf’s counter literary histories
• Virginia Woolf’s complex relations to past and present historiographical traditions
• Virginia Woolf, Historicism and New Historicism
• Virginia Woolf, historicity and the new biography
• Virginia Woolf’s feminist take on history and literary history
• Virginia Woolf, history and its “effect upon mind and body” (Three Guineas)
• Virginia Woolf’s writing of history and pre-history
• Memory, the immemorial, oral tradition
• History, historiography and chronotopes in Virginia Woolf’s works (libraries, museums, monuments…)
• Archeology, material artifacts and the archive


Paper proposals (a 300-word abstract with a title plus a separate biographical statement) should be sent by January 30th 2018 to Anne Besnault-Levita (, Anne-Marie Smith-Di Biasio ( and Marie Laniel (

Advisory Committee

Prof. Michael Bentley, University of St Andrews
Dr. Anne Besnault-Levita, University of Rouen
Prof. Catherine Bernard, University of Paris 7
Dr. Nicolas Boileau, University of Aix-Marseille
Prof. Melba Cuddy-Keane, University of Toronto
Prof. Claire Davison, University of Paris 3 – Sorbonne Nouvelle
Dr. Anne-Marie Di Biasio, Institut Catholique de Paris
Prof. Camille Fort, University of Picardie
Prof. Trevor Harris, University of Picardie
Dr. Marie Laniel, University of Picardie
Prof. Scott McCracken, Queen Mary, University of London
Dr. Caroline Pollentier, University of Paris 3 – Sorbonne Nouvelle
Dr. Floriane Reviron-Piégay, University of St Etienne
Dr. Angeliki Spiropoulou, University of the Peloponnese