Congratulations to Professor Janine Utell, English department chair, who has just published a new article entitled “View from the Sickroom: Virginia Woolf, Dorothy Wordsworth, and Writing Women’s Lives of Illness” in the journal Life Writing, published by Routledge. The publisher has published the article online for subscribers to the journal in advance of its print publication later this year.
The focus here is the letters and unpublished journals of Dorothy Wordsworth, concentrating on the period of her first serious illness, situated next to Virginia Woolf’s attempts at pathography. Under consideration is a selection of Woolf’s diaries; her essay ‘On Being Ill’; her biographical-critical essay on Dorothy Wordsworth published in the second Common Reader in 1932; and her ‘biography’ of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Flush, published in 1933. In selecting certain women to write about during the late 1920s/early 1930s, Woolf is extending her project of rethinking and retheorising life writing, particularly in the context of her interest in the subjectivity of illness. At stake is the question of how the lines of a writing life are shaped by illness; how writing renders a transgressive space beyond the ‘normal’ rhythms of life in which to work through a subject’s altered relation to her mind and body; and the ways writing can be restorative for a subject grappling with how she has been othered within the context of her most intimate relationships and everyday life.