Charleston and Monk's House

Charleston and Monk's House: The Intimate House Museums of Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell

Nuala Hancock
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 256
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.3366/j.ctt3fgrqp
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  • Book Info
    Charleston and Monk's House
    Book Description:

    The interwoven biographies of Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell and the houses they lived inWhat can we learn from a commemorative house? What biographical narratives emerge as we travel through the spaces of another's home? This new study unveils the revelatory potential of the house museum to inform and enrich our understanding of the lived past of its former inhabitants. It focuses on the emotionally textured interiors of Charleston and Monk's House, the literary/artistic house museums of Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell, seeking out traces of their shared biography.Fresh perspectives unfold on Woolf's and Bell's' sisterhood and their continuous artistic exchange, as we shadow their daily lives through the richly painted rooms and atmospheric gardens of their former Sussex homes. Discover these celebrated artists in a different light - animated, moving, handling the tools of their related arts and brought vividly to life through the tangible fabric of their past living.Key Features:* Reveals, through an emplaced investigation, the potential of Charleston and Monk's House to illuminate the shared histories of Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell* Provides new insights into aspects of Woolf's and Bell's lives* Explores the poetic relationship between house and dweller, and points the way to a richer interpretative response to house museums* Demonstrates the central role of embodied and sensory responses, alongside intellectual analysis, as tools in a multi-dimensional interpretation of the material world

    eISBN: 978-0-7486-4674-6
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. LIST OF FIGURES
    (pp. vi-viii)
  4. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-11)

    I first discovered Charleston in 1986, when it opened to the public under the custodianship of the Charleston Trust. This redolent house, the former home of the Bloomsbury artists, Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell, situated beneath the Sussex Downs, immediately became a touchstone in my memory and imagination. I knew Monk’s House a little later, the former country retreat of Virginia and Leonard Woolf, situated a few miles away from Charleston, and also a commemorative site, under the custodianship of the National Trust. This house too left an enduring impression on me – a singular and potent taste in the mind....

  6. 1 BIOGRAPHY AND THE LITERARY ARTISTIC HOUSE MUSEUM
    (pp. 12-29)

    A museum, according to the International Council of Museums, is ‘a non-profit making, permanent institution in the service of society and its development, open to the public, which acquires, conserves, researches, communicates and exhibits the tangible and intangible heritage of humanity and its environment for purposes of education, study and enjoyment.’² Implicit in this definition, as Magaly Cabral suggests,³ is the idea of the museum as a space or setting in which ‘objects / cultural assets’ are collected, interpreted, ‘housed’ and displayed. In the case of the house museum, however, as the inherent conflation suggests, the relationship between collection and...

  7. 2 SPATIAL CHOREOGRAPHY: GESTURAL BODIES AND THE RHYTHMS OF LIVING
    (pp. 30-54)

    The house museum offers an embodied encounter with the intimate inhabitation of the other. As we move through the spaces of the commemorative house we are led through a sequence of experiences and sensations, which inform our perception and understanding of the place. Touching (with the hands) is disallowed – but we negotiate the space through the soles of our feet, interpreting not only the textural surfaces of the ground but, standing upright, the way the space unfolds around us. Through entering and exiting and journeying through rooms we come to understand the physiology of the house – its openings and enclosures,...

  8. 3 SPATIAL EMBODIMENT: THE ANATOMY OF THE HOUSE; THE ARCHITECTURE OF INTERIOR SPACE
    (pp. 55-89)

    Writers in the fields of both architecture and phenomenology explore the notion of the house as analogous with the human body.² Buildings, like bodies, adopt stances and postures. Vertical or horizontal, upright or prone, they may stand tall, or nestle, recumbent, in the landscape. Each is composed of an exterior and an interior: a presentational face or façade which protects a private, inner space. Windows and doors, like eyes and mouths, mediate between exterior and interior. The outer surfaces of the building enclose an internal structure – a compartmentalisation of space into corridors and rooms, openings and enclosures – just as the...

  9. 4 A POETICS OF GARDENS
    (pp. 90-113)

    Charleston and Monk’s House are set within the Sussex Downs, but around the houses, the landscape is composed into private gardens. These gardens play a highly significant role in the house museum ensemble as organic artefacts, expressive arenas, supporting and enriching the exposition of the house, and richly redolent of their past inhabitants. Visitors to the house museums arrive in gardens. It is the gardens that announce the mood, declare the tempo of the performative encounter; elicit the first movements of choreographic engagement; introduce the visitor to the sensate qualities of the site. They offer a space for primary attunement,...

  10. 5 SPATIAL REVELATIONS: THE ARTEFACT UNVEILED
    (pp. 114-141)

    House museums offer a peculiarly direct encounter with the materiality of another’s life. Entering the interior spaces of the house, we immerse ourselves in the lived context of the commemorated life. Walls and floors, drapes and furnishings envelop us. The material fabric of the other’s life wraps itself around us. Attuning to the material enclosure of the house, we discover ourselves surrounded by objects; thronged with things. For the materiality of the house museum is doubly layered: this is an archive within an archive, both container and contained.² Within the interior spaces of these memorial rooms, the material accoutrements of...

  11. 6 MUSEUM SPACE: SPACE POETICALLY RECONSTRUCTED
    (pp. 142-164)

    The illusion suggested by the house museum – as we enter into the interior spaces of the other, as we find ourselves surrounded by the residual materials of their lives – is that we have happened upon our protagonists in the mid-stream of their living, that we have indeed surprised them, ‘discovered’ them, ‘among their things’. Such is the mimetic quality of the ‘room sets’ at Charleston and Monk’s House. While innocent of the teasing provocation of the interiors of Dennis Severs’s House² – all signs of food at Charleston and Monk’s House have been cleared away, all signifiers of corporeal exigencies held...

  12. CONCLUSION
    (pp. 165-173)

    A biographical project centred on the spaces and contents of the commemorative house is particular in tenor and in quality. Such an encounter with the material vestiges of a former life is not easy to articulate, and yet it is dramatically felt, molecularly experienced. This is a different way of knowing the life of another – through the multi-vocality of the museum artefact, the emotionally textured spaces of their intimate inhabitation, the evocation of memory. To spend time inhabiting the commemorative house of an absent other is to become entangled in their living and their dying – to be implicated in the...

  13. NOTES
    (pp. 174-207)
  14. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 208-217)
  15. SOURCES OF ILLUSTRATIONS
    (pp. 218-220)
  16. INDEX
    (pp. 221-230)