[Vwoolf] Doct(o)ress

Jane deGay J.deGay at leedstrinity.ac.uk
Fri Jul 21 05:57:44 EDT 2017

Thanks for the discussion, Stuart and Jean! It’s good to know that people are reading Virginia Woolf and Heritage.

I know that the word ‘widow’ sounds a bit odd, and I thought about this myself when copy-editing Jean’s piece. However, definition 12 of the OED notes that it can be applied to a man and the most recent example given is from 2003 (S. Torres Webbe Lost & Found<javascript:void(0)> viii. 127   ‘He's a widow you know. He probably wants to take you on a date.’). I could have taken this up with Jean and suggested the more usual ‘widower’, but I was working on the editorial principle of preserving the integrity of what a contributor had written, and anyway, I quite liked the queer implications of the word.

It’s nice that the book is being discussed – or at least one tiny word in it!

Best wishes

Virginia Woolf and Heritage: Selected Papers from the 26th Annual Conference on Virginia Woolf
Edited by Jane de Gay, Tom Breckin and Anne Reus
(Clemson: Clemson University Press, 2017)

From: Vwoolf [mailto:vwoolf-bounces+j.degay=leedstrinity.ac.uk at lists.osu.edu] On Behalf Of Jean Mills
Sent: 20 July 2017 19:16
To: Stuart N. Clarke <stuart.n.clarke at btinternet.com>
Cc: vwoolf <vwoolf at lists.osu.edu>
Subject: Re: [Vwoolf] Doct(o)ress

Hahaha! thanks, Stuart. Well, you know what they say in (American) publishing, "what one source calls a widow, another calls an orphan" (Wikipedia)??? Thanks for the good catches; wish you were at my beck and call during the proofing stage, because as we all know: "the only thing worse than not being published, is being published" (Dorothy 'hiccup' Parker).

And Jane did indeed "put it about"!

Much love,

On Thu, Jul 20, 2017 at 8:52 AM, Stuart N. Clarke <stuart.n.clarke at btinternet.com<mailto:stuart.n.clarke at btinternet.com>> wrote:
“It is a serious inconvenience that neither form ... has been brought into any but facetious use as a prefixed title ... See FEMININE DESIGNATIONS.” (H. W. FOWLER, “A Dictionary of Modern English Usage”, 1926).

However, I’m not sure I’m always able to keep up with developments.  For instance, yesterday I was reading “Virginia Woolf and Heritage: Selected Papers from the Twenty-sixth Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf" [at Leeds Trinity University - 16-19 June 2016], with my animal companion (✔) on my lap, when I read this:

“Jane Marcus’s widow, Michael . . .”

[Why, oh why, do some lesbians adopt masculine names?  (Thank you, Radclyffe Hall.)]

Then four pages later:

“Jane’s husband and family”.

[Well, Jane Marcus certainly put it about!]

On second thoughts, perhaps Americans don’t (any longer?) use the word “widower”?


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Jean Mills
Associate Professor
The Department of English
John Jay College/CUNY
524 West 59th Street, Room 7.63.12
New York, NY 10019

"'With every nerve in my body I stand for peace': Jane Ellen Harrison and the Heresy of War" in Reconsidering Peace and Patriotism during the First World War (Palgrave/Macmillan, 2017)

Virginia Woolf, Jane Ellen Harrison, and the Spirit of Modernist Classicism (The Ohio State University Press, 2014)


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