69 Virginia Woolf and Her Enemies (with Professor Andrea Zemgulys) / Children’s Books

Early in her career, novelist Virginia Woolf (1882-1941) wrote a critical essay in which she set forth her views of what fiction can and should do. The essay was called “Modern Fiction” (1919), and it has served critics and readers as a guide to Modernism (and Woolf) ever since. But while it’s easy to follow her arguments about the authors who became giants in the world of literature such as Joyce and Chekhov, it’s less easy to understand her statements about the authors she criticized, contemporary best sellers H.G. Wells, Arnold Bennett, and John Galsworthy. What was behind her savage criticism of these three? What does her animosity tell us about Woolf’s views of fiction? Professor Andrea Zemgulys of the University of Michigan joins Jacke to help him figure this out. Then a pair of children’s book experts (Jacke Wilson Jr. and Jacke Wilson Jr. Jr.) join Jacke in the studio to discuss buying holiday books for children.

Show Notes: 

Contact the host at jackewilsonauthor@gmail.com or by leaving a voicemail at 1-361-4WILSON (1-361-494-5766).

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Music Credits:

Handel – Entrance to the Queen of Sheba” by Advent Chamber Orchestra (From the Free Music Archive / CC by SA).

“Quirky Dog,” “Sweeter Vermouth, and “Monkeys Spinning Monkeys” by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0


3 thoughts on “69 Virginia Woolf and Her Enemies (with Professor Andrea Zemgulys) / Children’s Books”

  1. We don’t read Wells? LOL, what? Wells is far more well known and widely read than Woolf is to this day and I daresay that will continue another 100 years into the future.

    1. Thanks for the comment! I wish I’d made my point more carefully in the podcast. I agree that it’s at least arguable that Wells is as widely read as Woolf – or at least, I think we can say that about Wells’s science fiction books The Time Machine (1895), The Island of Dr. Moreau (1896), The Invisible Man (1897), and The War of the Worlds (1898). (What a fantastic run, by the way – I think I need to do an episode on this!) Woolf doesn’t call out any of Wells’s novels specifically in her essay, but given the timing of the essay (written in 1919) and the description of Wells’s work, I’m inclined to think she’s referring to the twenty-odd novels he wrote in the twenty-year span between The War of the Worlds and the time at which Woolf was drafting her essay. Here are the ten most recent Wells novels at the time she was writing “Modern Fiction”: The Undying Fire (1919), Joan and Peter: the Story of an Education (1918), The Soul of a Bishop (1917), Mr. Britling Sees It Through (1916), The Research Magnificent (1915), Boon (1915), Bealby: A Holiday (1915), The Wife of Sir Isaac Harman (1914), The Passionate Friends (1913), and Marriage (1912). Those might be decent novels (and I’m impressed by the quantity of the output), but I think it’s fair to say that those are books that are largely ignored by today’s readers.

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