A Season for Woolfs: A Virginia Woolf Reading Challenge discussion

Jacob's Room
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Jacob's Room

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John Bradley (_johnbradley) | 5 comments Mod

Sami (shildebrandt) | 3 comments fun fact: this was published the same year as James Joyce's Ulysses ...

John Bradley (_johnbradley) | 5 comments Mod

Sami (shildebrandt) | 3 comments https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DcMLk...
Interesting Ted-Ed video of Virginia Woolf.

John | 4 comments Some Thoughts on “Flanders”

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies grow
Between the crosses, row on row,
  That mark our place; and in the sky
  The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
  Loved and were loved, and now we lie
      In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
  The torch; be yours to hold it high.
  If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
      In Flanders fields.

— John McCrae

This poem, published in 1915, was immensely populaT of the third stanza made it very useful as a motivational and propaganda piece. The popularity of the red poppy as a Remembrance Day symbol is in large part due to campaigns inspired by this poem. It would strain credulity to think that Virginia Woolf was unaware of it. As a committed pacifist, she quite likely despised it.

By naming the central character (it seems wrong to say “protagonist”) Jacob Flanders, Woolf could be referring to both the poem and the secnd battle of Ypres (in Flanders) which led to the poem’s composition. Second Ypres was particularly brutal, being the occasion of the first mass chemical attack of the war, using chlorine gas. The stark contrast between the uplifting mood of the poem and the brutal reality of the war would be a fertile source of inspiration.

Looking at the book, Jacob appears to be mostly missing right from the start. He was not heroic in life, and looking back after his death Jacob is seen mostly as a void. He appears primarily as the subject of the thoughts, feelings, and actions of others. Even the title, Jacob’s Room, with a slight stretch becomes Jacob’s Space - which is what the book is really about. That space that Jacob occupied, but which he scarcely used and vacated by the end of the novel. The “honored dead” are nowhere to be found. They are less than meaningless, being in retrospect only holes that moved through the world.

At the end of the book, Jacob’s mother and his good friend (bon ami) are left to clean out his space. There is nothing meaningful there. The space that was Jacob is gone, and so the book ends. There is no torch passed, nor dead for whom the cause is to be pursued, nor heroes - only ordinary lives.

message 6: by Matthew (new) - added it

Matthew | 5 comments Love these! Thank you for the video and the poem...made it so much richer for me :)

Martha | 3 comments Here's what's been rattling around in my head this morning.

I keep thinking about how VW gives us an immersion in the idea that we all are super important, and super insignificant... all at the same time.

Jacob is a precious son with all kinds of social potential, attractive to men and women of all stripes... and a shallow hick who ends up cannon fodder.
Greece is the grand birthplace of western civilization... and a collection of ruins that looks sort of like the Cornish coast.
The colonels and captains and admirals are heroic warriors... and feeble old guys with limps and disappointing marriages.
Mrs. Flanders is a canny operator... and a stultified widow, dependent on the men around her.

And it's like Mrs. Flanders grapples with all that at the end with Jacob's shoes - one minute they are very useful, very personal objects... to garbage [or relics].

message 8: by Matthew (new) - added it

Matthew | 5 comments Love that, Martha! The tension of being alive as codified by the way good/bad, useful/useless, etc. are inescapably bound? Kind of like the idea that you can’t have light without darkness? You’re making me think about it all over again, too :)

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