Woolf Scholar Tackles Post-911 Literature

Mark Hussey

Mark Hussey

Virginia Woolf A to Z

Virginia Woolf A to Z

English Professor Mark Hussey’s new course “Cultural Responses to 9/11” might seem a departure from the scholarly work on Virginia Woolf for which he is recognized among international literary circles.

But when taken in the context of war literature, the similarities are striking, he says.

 “Although Woolf hasn’t generally been thought of as a war novelist, she was,” explains Hussey, who edited, among numerous other works about the author, Virginia Woolf and War.  “She’s not writing from the battlefield, but from the home front, and she encodes a world that has been changed by war.”

The same themes will be evident in the texts he has chosen for his new course which developed partly from his passion for teaching war literature, and partly because he began to notice there was an enormous amount of poetry, fiction and visual art being created after September 11th.

“Also, I like teaching contemporary, really current literature,” he added.

In particular he was inspired by an exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum of book artists’ responses to 9/11, as well as texts which he plans to use in the course including Art Spiegelman’s In the Shadow of No Towers, a series of graphic stories, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathon Safran Foer, Poetry After 9/11, and perhaps the graphic version of The 9/11 Commission Report.

“Not many people know there’s a graphic version,” Hussey said. “It tells the story, but it looks like a comic.”

Hussey has been a professor in the English Department of Dyson College since 1984, and has taught everything from Victorian poetry to a class on masculinity, for which he wrote the text, Masculinities: Interdisciplinary Readings, but Woolf has become somewhat of his “calling card.”

He is founder and editor of Woolf Studies Annual, published by Pace University Press, of which he is also editorial director. He is the author of Virginia Woolf A to Z, and has served as a Historian-Bibliographer of the International Virginia Woolf Society. He recently presented at the 18th annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf, a conference which he launched in 1991 at Pace University.

“I can talk about Woolf for hours,” he says.

He recently finished editing a series of nine annotated editions of her works, the first of its kind in the U.S. including an edition of To the Lighthouse which he edited entirely himself. He pitched the project to Harcourt a few years ago with students in mind. While there are multiple annotated editions in Canada and England, there weren’t any in the U.S., he explained.  The new editions include notes, chronologies, and introductions that were included particularly with mainstream American students in mind.

Hussey is also part of the editorial board for the Cambridge University Press edition of Woolf, a major new scholarly edition. For this edition, Hussey will edit her last novel, Between the Acts, himself. Woolf is the only woman author other than Jane Austen to have a Cambridge edition, typically regarded as the pinnacle of scholarly editions.

Essays by Hussey will be included in the catalog for the exhibition This Perpetual Fight which will be on view at the Grolier Club from September 16 to November 22, and in the catalog for the exhibition A Room of Their Own: The Bloomsbury Artists in American Collections, which will be traveling to five universities over the next three years starting December 18, at the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University.