XX: Extant Documents

Virginia Woolf as a child
Image via Greig Roselli

Scholarly excerpts concerning (possibly) alternate historical figures that failed, for various reasons, to make history.


…Emulating the prose of 17th century men of leisure, the author’s narratives can in fact be considered more stereotypically “masculine” than that of her male contemporaries, most notably in her focus upon the politics of the day. And yet, it is just such definitions that bring our highly subjective notions of gender into question.  It is generally accepted that [XX] avoided domestic subjects in order to avoid detection as a woman writing under a pen name. But it is also well known that the author was the favourite of her father, [XY], no minor literary figure in his own day and a member of Parliament to boot. Can it then be said that only so-called “novels of the bedroom” comprise the authentic female narratives of this period? Or is this another, equally genuine female perspective—perhaps one of even greater value, in that it expresses a rare female perspective on the explosive political topics of the day?

…Even in the intellectual and social ferment that was Wittgenstein’s Vienna, very few were prepared to indulge the self-published philosophies of an unmarried lady pianoforte teacher. And yet the ideas presented within the pages of On the Nature of Conscious Agency, a mere hundred pages in length, proved to be oddly prescient in light of the discoveries of quantum physics, nearly a century hence. Like the Jesuit priest/philosopher Teillhard de Chardin, [XX] also seemed to intuit a number of innovations that would forever alter the landscape of the twenty-first century, (e.g., “thinking machines”). Her notes indicate that this slim tract was only the beginning of a five-hundred page treatise, to be published in serial, as funds allowed. Unfortunately, notes are all that remain. Her untimely demise condemned the only known copy of the manuscript to the same fate she chose for herself: a watery grave at the bottom of the Wien.

…Was it truly a lack of mathematical rigor, as was claimed, or a lack of imagination that caused the academy reject her proof? As with the Postulate of Indeterminacy itself, the answer may never be known. What is known is that a paper documenting a very similar proof was considered basis enough to award the highest honor of the Societe de Mathematique to [XY] not five years later. It has been argued that her paper was not presented in the standard mathematical style of the time—which does not seem unlikely, considering the fact that no woman had ever been admitted to the Societe, and no papers at that time were published outside of it. It has also been argued that her well-known affair with [XY] damaged her reputation (though it could easily be argued that without this liaison, she never would have gained an audience with the Societe). However, amid all the speculation on the subject, Occam’s Razor urges us to consider the simplest explanation: when the paper was returned by the Societe, [XX] noted that it had scarcely been disturbed, leading many modern theorists to believe that the paper presenting the original Postulate of Indeterminacy had never in fact even been considered at all.

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