Both as a novelist and as an essayist, Virginia Woolf was a pioneer of what Marguerite Duras would later call "ecriture feminine." Her unusual style, lyrical and slow as aging, is best exemplified in her later novels, which include "Mrs. Dalloway"... [more]
Both as a novelist and as an essayist, Virginia Woolf was a pioneer of what Marguerite Duras would later call "ecriture feminine." Her unusual style, lyrical and slow as aging, is best exemplified in her later novels, which include "Mrs. Dalloway" (1925), "To The Lighthouse" (1927), and "Orlando" (1928). She was a master of depicting the unfolding of internal monologue, the flowering of thought in multiple directions, intermingling the conscious and the subconscious. This achievement took years of experimentation; she started out using a relatively realistic style in early works such as "The Voyage Out" (1915).
A Londoner born and bred, Woolf was educated at home by her parents and a series of governesses. When she was a young woman, she and her brother Adrian took up residence on Fitzroy Square in a house that provided the main meeting-place for the Bloomsbury Group -- a collection of artists, writers, and philosophers that included Maynard Keynes, E.M. Forster, and Lytton Strachey. At 23, Woolf began what would be a lengthy connection with the Times Literary Supplement.
Despite poor health and bouts of depression, Woolf continued to expand her literary efforts. She and husband Leonard Woolf founded the avant-garde Hogarth Press in 1917, publishing authors such as T.S. Eliot, Katherine Mansfield, and, in translation, Sigmund Freud. Hogarth also published Virginia's first critically acclaimed work, "Jacob's Room," in 1922. With its focus on interior reality, this novel established Woolf as "an archetypal Modernist."
Her essay, "A Room Of One's Own" (1924), demonstrated her ability to write seamless and persuasive expository prose. This slim volume has become a feminist classic, addressing the challenges faced by female intellects and writers -- Woolf imagines what happened to talented women of past eras, posing the question, what if Shakespeare had had a brilliantly talented sister? Major obstacles Woolf outlined include economic dependence on men, entrapment in marriage, and the age-old prejudices embodied in academic institutions such as Oxford and Cambridge, which in Woolf's day did not admit women.
Unfortunately, Woolf's personal struggles plagued her as she grew older, severe headaches compounding her already debilitating mental and physical illness. In 1941, Woolf turned her back on the world, loaded her pockets with stones, and drowned herself in the River Ouse. [show less]