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Virginia Woolf
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Virginia Woolf

Virginia Woolf (January 25, 1882 - March 28, 1941) was a British author and feminist. Between the world wars, Woolf was a significant figure in London literary society and a member of the Bloomsbury group.

Table of contents
1 Life and Work
2 Modern Scholarship
3 Bibliography
4 External Links

Life and Work

Born Adeline Virginia Stephen in London, Woolf was brought up and educated at home. In 1895, following the death of her mother, she had the first of numerous nervous breakdowns. She later revealed that she and her sister Vanessa Bell had been frequently molested by their half-brothers George and Gerald Duckworth after their mother's death. Her accounts of the sexual abusive and other rememberances of her childhood have been published in her autobiography, Moments of Being. Following the death of her father (Sir Leslie Stephen, an editor and literary critic) in 1904, she moved with her sister, Vanessa, and two brothers to a house in Bloomsbury.

She began writing professionally in 1905, initially for the Times Literary Supplement. In 1912 she married Leonard Woolf, a civil servant and political theorist. Her first novel, The Voyage Out, was published in 1915. Her novels are considered revolutionary as they pioneered literary modernism.

Virginia Woolf is considered a leading modernist, and one of the greatest innovators in the English language. In her works she experimented with stream-of-consciousness, the underlying psychological as well as emotional motives of characters, and the various possibilities of fractured narrative and chronology. She has, in the words of E.M. Forster, pushed the English language "a little further against the dark," and her literary achievements and creativity are influential even today.

A history of manic depression, perhaps caused in part by the tumult of the Stephen household, caused Woolf to be committed to mental hospitals on several occasions. The ineffective treatment she received there left her with a distaste for doctors and sympathy for the ill that is evident in books such as Mrs. Dalloway.

In 1941, Woolf ended her life by suicide. She filled her pockets with stones, and drowned herself in the River Ouse, near her home in Rodmell. She left a suicide note for her husband: "I feel certain that I am going mad again: I feel we cant go through another of those terrible times. And I shant recover this time. I begin to hear voices, and cant concentrate. So I am doing what seems the best thing to do. You have given me the greatest possible happiness... I cant fight it any longer, I know that I am spoiling your life, that without me you could work" (The Letters of Virginia Woolf, vol. VI, p. 481).

Modern Scholarship

Recently, studies of Virginia Woolf have focused on feminist and lesbian themes in her work, such as in the 1997 collection of critical essays, Virginia Woolf: Lesbian Readings, edited by Eileen Barrett and Patricia Cramer. Louise A. DeSalvo offers treatment of the incestuous sexual abuse Woolf suffered as a young woman in her book Virginia Woolf: The Impact of Childhood Sexual Abuse on her Life and World. Her fiction is also studied for its insight into shell shock, war, class, and modern British society. Her best-known nonfiction work, notably A Room of One's Own and Three Guineas, discusses female education and the possibility for female authors' entry into the Western literary canon.

In 2002, The Hours, a film based on Woolf's life and the effect of her novel Mrs. Dalloway, was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture. It did not win, but Nicole Kidman was awarded the Academy Award for Best Actress for her portrayal of Woolf in the movie. The film was adapted from Michael Cunningham's Pulitzer Prize-winning 1998 novel of the same name. The Hours was Woolf's working title for Mrs. Dalloway.



Other Fiction


External Links