SEMINAR IN THE CITY: Queer Bloomsbury/Buggersbury

Facilitator: Andrea Freud Loewenstein Thursday Evenings in October, 7- 9 PM

“How queer,” Virginia Woolf wrote, to have so many selves.” If you would like to read Woolf’s work but don’t know which self to start with, if you have found the writing of Woolf’s friend Lytton Strachey obscure and that of her lover, Vita Sackville West unreadable, or if you wonder what relevance those upper class, entitled Brits in the Bloomsbury group have to us as GLBT people in this day and age, this seminar is for you. In fact, most of the members of Bloomsbury would have felt more at home with today’s queer identity than with the more binary choices of the gay liberation generation. For them, the personal was truly political. The choices they made and the lives they lived were courageous and way ahead of their time, and the close friendship and mutual support that held them together as a group and fostered their creative work provide a model for us today.
Did you know that:
– E.M. Forster, author of A Passage to India, had his first sexual experience, with an Egyptian tram driver, when he was almost forty and that he suppressed most of the writing he did afterwards because he was afraid of suffering Oscar Wilde’s fate?
– Vita Sackvlle West’s husband, Harold Nicholson, infected her with gonorrhea he caught from his gay male lovers?
– Virginia Woolf, who was celibate with her devoted husband, Leonard, enjoyed a brief affair with Vita Sackville West?
– Lytton Strachey enjoyed sex with working class young men but his only lasting relationship was with the female artist, Carrington, who was so devoted to him that she committed suicide soon after his death?
-Vanessa Stephen-Bell, Virginia Woolf’s sister and an important post impressionist painter, invited her male lover’s gay lovers into her family circle with her three children?
– Angelica, Vanessa ‘s daughter, grew up believing Clive Bell was her father and only learned that Duncan Grant had actually fathered her when he was eighteen. Soon after Vanessa married Grant’s lover, Bunny Garnett?
We know all these things because the members of Bloomsbury loved to write about themselves – in letters, diaries, memoirs, essays and stories. The selections from these narratives we will read in this seminar will bring the members of the Bloomsbury group to life and show how they challenged the sexual mores of the time. The seminar will also provide a good introduction to Bloomsbury and a starting place to approach the longer texts by each author.
Please register in advance so that we can get the readings to you before the first meeting. The seminar will run only if at least six people pre-register.