Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home
Hostname: page-component-6c8bd87754-h9sqt Total loading time: 0.374 Render date: 2022-01-19T17:00:27.616Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "metricsAbstractViews": false, "figures": true, "newCiteModal": false, "newCitedByModal": true, "newEcommerce": true, "newUsageEvents": true }

Considering Contemporaneity: Woolf and “the Maternal Generation”

from Who Are Virginia Woolf's Female Contemporaries?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 January 2018

Mary Jean Corbett
Affiliation:
Miami University
Get access

Summary

Is there any use in contemporaries writing about contemporaries—even if some are older and some younger? I can't see it; but if you can, come and explain it.

—Virginia Woolf to Stephen Spender, December 16, 1939 (L6: 374)

We typically use the noun form of the word “contemporary” in two related but slightly different ways. It can mean not only a person who is the same age as you, but also a person who lives at the same time as you. Scanning the list of writers mentioned in the call for papers for the conference, it would seem that both definitions are in play, even if the one based on chronological age arguably predominates. The eldest, Colette and Dorothy Richardson, were born in 1873, followed by Gertrude Stein and Amy Lowell the next year; the youngest, Kay Boyle and Una Marson, were born several years after the turn of the century. The older contemporaries, then, are about ten years senior to Woolf; the younger contemporaries are at least two decades her junior. Only five on the list of 18 names (which is obviously not meant to be exhaustive) were born in the same decade and only one in the same year. To say that all of these writers were of the same chronological age, then, would be something of a stretch; yet most of us would probably consider all of them as belonging to the same generation.

If we foreground the definition that focuses not on age but on temporal simultaneity or “contemporaneity,” however, a different range of possibilities arises. People who live at the same time as you do are also your contemporaries—no matter how differently each of them might experience that time, based on age and a host of other factors. Sometimes, but very rarely, they are your exact contemporaries, like Joyce and Woolf, born just a week apart. But more often they are younger or older, as my epigraph from Woolf 's letter to Spender, who was born in 1909, suggests that she understood. At the time of writing that letter, near the end of her career, Woolf was quite forcefully engaging with her younger contemporaries—as in the essay in which she describes Auden, Day Lewis, Isherwood, MacNiece, and Spender himself, all born in the first decade of the twentieth century, as the “leaning tower” writers.

Type
Chapter
Information
Publisher: Liverpool University Press
Print publication year: 2016

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)

Send book to Kindle

To send this book to your Kindle, first ensure no-reply@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

Note you can select to send to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Available formats
×

Send book to Dropbox

To send content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

Available formats
×

Send book to Google Drive

To send content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

Available formats
×