Monday, March 31, 2008

No Influence? Please...!

I am desperately sorry that An Anthology of Human Wisdom was never made. It sounds like precisely the sort of book I should have both loved to read, nay devour and the sort of book I would have loved to display pretentiously in a very visible location in my home. I’m curious to know just how many bots and pieces were stored away by Leonard and Virginia before the project was abandoned and if much has been done with them.

I find it astonishing that people (such as Gottlieb) would suggest that the marriage between Leonard and Virginia was not a successful one based on mutual respect and a congress of ideas. I admit that I know very little of them, either as individuals or as a single matrimonial entity. However, What I do know is this: Both were incredibly intelligent people. Both were outspoken on many issues. Regardless of Leonard’s oft repeated assertion that Virginia was not a political animal (or some such), it is abundantly clear from even a cursory perusal of her work that she had many concerns and was passionately outspoken about them. Now, it is possible, even likely that they weren’t activists in the same causes all the time, but their must have been a meeting of minds on many issues in order for their marriage to have functioned as it did. I must therefore agree wholeheartedly with Dr. Chapman and his colleague on their three fundamental assertions: that “influence in the context of intimacy implies a congress of ideas,” that “the issue of such congress is complex,” and that “complexity is detectable in acts of collaboration or collaborative texts.” They go on to show that such collaboration existed and that by logical extension, Leonard and Virginia each influenced the other. I can see no reasonable argument to the contrary; indeed I would consider it an almost absurd suggestion to imply that the two, who obviously valued each other as critics and as authors, wrote without reference to one another. Actually, I would really enjoy reading an article by a scholar who holds that opinion (they must be out there, otherwise why should Chapman and Manson go to the effort of setting out to prove the opposite assertion?) Of course proving a negative is a logical fallacy, but I would like to see someone try none-the-less.

One argument, I suppose, is that they lived and worked “in separate spheres.” That seems to me an argument lodged firmly in a great patch of logical quicksand. Just because they didn’t write on the same topics, or that Leonard wrote and moved in the realm of politics, Virginia in that of the arts, it does not follow that they were unaware or uninfluenced by one another. I confess I haven’t read any Leonard Woolf. From what I have read of Virginia, though, I would say that her art benefits from a political footing. She understands world affairs, she has opinions and the desire to express them, in short, she knows what’s going on in the realm of politics. She may not live in it, but she definitely looks in the window often enough to speak intelligently on world affairs. Is that necessarily because of Leonard’s own involvement? Of course not. I would be completely dashed if it wasn’t touched by his involvement though.

Whatever the case may be, I’d like to register myself on the “influence” and “successful marriage” side of the debate at this time. I hope my membership card is in the mail.

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