05 May 2016: Leslie's Philosophy Salon at The School of Life - Virginia Woolf

Hosted by a current philosopher, the Philosophy Salon will explore one important philosopher and their ideas over a two-hour period. Philosophers selected over the series will include a mix of thinkers from different periods, schools of thought, geographical locations and backgrounds. Participants will be presented with a biographical background of the philosopher and will be given an opportunity to discuss their key ideas.

PHILOSOPHER: VIRGINIA WOOLF Virginia Woolf was an English author and feminist. Born in 1882 to an upper class family that valued ideas and education, Woolf’s work was strongly influenced by French Impressionism and the lead-up and aftermath of the First World War. A key member of the Bloomsbury Circle of London intellectuals that included economist John Maynard Keynes (“Keynesian economics”) and novelist E.M. Forester (A Passage to India, A Room with a View), Woolf adopted the liberated sexual values of the group. While married until her death to Jewish writer and publisher Leonard Woolf, she has numerous passionate friendships with women, including a sexual relationship with fellow writer Vita Sackville West.

Sexuality, gender and mental illness are key matters of concern in Woolf’s novels and essays. Though privileged by class – she never had to work to support her writing or lifestyle – she was denied the formal education offered to her brothers, including those who sexually abused both she and her sister during childhood. Gender justice, and the importance of an independent income for a woman writer, was the subject of one of her best known essays “A Room of One’s Own.” They are also taken up in her most well-known fiction: To the Lighthouse, Mrs Dalloway (The Hours) and Orlando, the latter two of which were made into successful late 20th and early 21st century Hollywood films.

In this Philosophy Salon, we will explore three critical ideas from the work of Virginia Woolf. The first is Woolf’s pursuit of freedom from social and literary conventions. Is it possible – or preferable – to think or express oneself outside of the “shoulds” and “oughts” of language and socialization? How can we recognize the constructedness of the social conventions that shape our world, yet still find ourselves compelled to obey them? In Mrs Dalloway (The Hours), Woolf’s most highly praised fiction, she deploys techniques and creates characters to explore the inner workings of both the sane and disturbed mind. What ways of experiencing time and ourselves as we travel through it across a lifetime “normal”, and which make us happier? Are we many selves in the course of a day, or a unified and unique individual over our lifetime, and why does it matter? Following from this, what sort of person should we choose as a life partner, and should we be compelled to choose just one person at all?

ABOUT PHILOSOPHY SALON Philosophy Salon is an intimate experience for those interested in a deep and slightly more academic School of Life experience. Learn about the ideas and works of some of history’s greatest thinkers in an atmosphere of exploration and enjoyment. * Bookings at Link Below*