Victoria Rosner - Ransom Fellow
Tom Staley and Victoria Rosner at the Ransom Center, December 2000. Photograph by Pete Smith.
Alvin Langdon Coburn
Ransom Center Photography Collection
I spoke with Victoria Rosner, Assistant Professor of English, from Texas A&M University last winter while she was at the Ransom Center for a Mellon Fellowship.
You are writing a book on modernism and the reinvention of domestic life?
Yes, it's tentatively titled Interior Designs: Modernism and the Reconstruction of Domestic Life. It grew out of an observation I made in doing my dissertation research that British modern writers seemed interested in using architecture both metaphorically and materially as a way of expressing ideas about identity or about subjectivity. Architecture seemed to have very personal resonance for a lot of modern British writers. My project is really about, in the broadest sense, the articulation of space in modernism, but I focus on the spaces of private life.
What authors are you looking at?
Virginia Woolf, Lytton Strachey, E. M. Forster, Wyndham Lewis, Radclyffe Hall, Evelyn Waugh, Natalie Barney, and Hilda Doolittle. Those are the main ones, although I'm considering expanding it as I find more material.
No wonder you're here, since we house the archives of most of those writers.
Absolutely. I looked at the authors' personal correspondence and manuscripts. Personal correspondence is particularly important for my project because of a lot of the literary figures who I deal with were working collaboratively, or had personal relationships with some of the avant-garde artists and writers who were concretely involved in thinking about new ways to approach domestic space. Basically, they wanted to get as far away as they could from the Victorian interior which is somewhat reductively maligned as being cluttered, formal, extremely differentiated along gender and class-based linesdark, heavy, patriarchal. The modernists wanted to get away from that.
One of the points that I make on Bloomsbury is that part of our conception of what Bloomsbury is, is bound up with their homes. When we imagine the Bloomsbury writers, I think, we imagine them sitting around together in their homes talking. This is interesting, because normally when we think of what the spaces of modernism are, where modernism happens, we think of public spaces. We think of cafés; we think of the city street; we might even think of the factory. What I found was that many modern British writers and artists were experimenting with transforming the spaces of private life, both in their work and in their own lives.
— Sheree Scarborough