[Msa-discuss] Virginia Woolf and laughter/comedy

Hannah Freed-Thall hannah_freed-thall at brown.edu
Thu Jan 19 11:48:55 EST 2017


Dear Jodi (and Woolfians),

I like this topic too!

Woolf famously described *Orlando *as a "joke." Heterosexual courtship
rituals are a source of particular hilarity for this novel, as in the
following passage:


That was a Tuesday. He came on Wednesday; he came on Thursday; he came on
Friday; and he came on Saturday. It is true that each visit began,
continued, or concluded with a declaration of love, but in between there
was much room for silence. They sat on either side of the fireplace and
sometimes the Archduke knocked over the fire irons and Orlando picked them
up again. Then the Archduke would bethink him how he had shot an elk in
Sweden, and Orlando would ask, was it a very big elk, and the Archduke
would say it was not as big as the reindeer which he shot in Norway and
Orlando would ask, had he ever shot a tiger, and the Archduke would say he
had shot an albatross, and Orlando would say (half hiding her yawn) was an
albatross as big as an elephant, and the Archduke would say--something very
sensible, no doubt, but Orlando heard it not, for she was looking at her
writing table, out of the window, at the door.




On Thu, Jan 19, 2017 at 11:04 AM, Jessica Burstein <jb2 at uw.edu> wrote:

> Dear Jodi Gasson, Great topic. I would love to know what she found funny
> (besides the Dreadnaught hoax), ergo my reply all. There are no happy
> marriages in Henry James (Robert Pippin); what moments of laughter are
> there in her literature and what are their tones (mirthless laughter seems
> a modernist specialty, alongside satire--as Jonathan Greenberg among others
> well know)? Well, that's part of your diss. Life and art are different,
> duh, and I'm personally more interested in the former--which is to say
> sensibility-- but you're asking about the latter. "The Value of Laughter"
> is an exit strategy from the world of language.
>
>
> I'm sure specialised Woolfians will have better recs, but as someone who
> thinks about where yr topic wd fit, you should read Bergson's  Laughter: On
> the Meaning of the Comic--he was a rock star (sic), and in the air she
> breathed (I'd guess unwillingly; I'm not saying she would have liked
> it/him): the contemporary translation (1911/1914) is currently free on
> Google books.
>
>
> My little brain can only think of the wonderful moment I first encountered
> in Banfield's PHANTOM TABLE: the double limerick by Ronald Knox coined for
> when the OxBridge boys were debating little things like God, the nature of
> existence and perception and "the world seen without a self", the latter of
> which she would take up--
>
>
>
>
>
> *There was a young man who said, "God Must think it exceedingly odd If he
> finds that this tree Continues to be When there's no one about in the
> Quad." *
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
> *REPLY Dear Sir: Your astonishment's odd: I am always about in the Quad.
> And that's why the tree Will continue to be, Since observed by Yours
> faithfully, GOD. *
>
>
>
> Actually that's why I'm hitting reply all. It's just so good--penultimate
> enjambment and all.
>
>
> But as you know, there's a difference between being funny and being what
> your people call clever. Americans don't do "clever." Or we won't for a
> while--I'm guessing 4 years and a day. Ahem. Yours faithfully, Jessica
> Burstein
>
>
>
> On 1/19/17 7:10 AM, Jodi Gasson (Student) wrote:
>
> Hello,
>
>
> I am currently researching for my dissertation, and I would like to look
> at Virginia Woolf and the way she uses laughter/comedy in her texts. I am
> already going to look at *Freshwater *by her, "The Value of Laughter" and
> '*A Society': An Aristophanic Comedy. *
>
>
> If anyone has any other ideas, I'll be very grateful!
>
>
> Thank you in advance,
>
>
> Jodi Gasson
>
> University of Roehampton
>
>
> _______________________________________________
> Msa-discuss mailing listMsa-discuss at chaos.press.jhu.eduhttp://chaos.press.jhu.edu/mailman/listinfo/msa-discuss
>
>
> --
> Jessica Burstein
> Associate Professor
> Department of English
> Department of Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies
> University of Washington
> A101 Padelford Hall
> Seattle, WA 98195-4330
>
> Winter Office hours: Padelford A502, Wedn 11-1, and by appt.
>
>
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>
>


-- 
Hannah Freed-Thall
Assistant Professor of Comparative Literature
Brown University
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