Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
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.
Life and work
Born Adeline Virginia Stephen in London, Woolf was brought up and educated in a classically Victorian household at 22 Hyde Park Gate. In 1895, following the death of her mother, she had the first of several nervous breakdowns. She later indicated in an autobiographical account, "Moments of Being," that she and her sister Vanessa Bell had been sexually abused by their half-brothers, George and Gerald Duckworth. Following the death of her father (Sir Leslie Stephen, a well-known editor and literary critic) in 1904, she and her sister, Vanessa, moved to a home in Bloomsbury, forming the initial kernel for the intellectual circle known as the Bloomsbury group. While nowhere near a simple recapitulation of the coterie's ideals, Woolf's work can be understood as consistently in dialogue with Bloomsbury, particularly its tendency (informed by G.E. Moore, among others) towards doctrinaire rationalism.
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. This novel was originally titled "Melymbrosia," but due to criticism Virginia received about the political nature of the book, she changed the novel and its title. She went on to publish novels and essays as a public intellectual to both critical and popular success. Much of her work was self-published through the Hogarth Press. She is hailed as one of the greatest novelists of the twentieth century and one of the foremost Modernists, though she disdained some artists in this category, such as James Joyce.
Woolf is considered 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.
On March 28, 1941, Woolf 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 shan't recover this time. I begin to hear voices, and can't concentrate. So I am doing what seems the best thing to do. You have given me the greatest possible happiness... I can't 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).
Hermione Lee's Virginia Woolf provides an authoritative examination of Woolf's life, updating the earlier biography by Woolf's own nephew, Quentin Bell .
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, A Room of One's Own and Three Guineas , discusses the largely failed role of women in the literary canon and the future of women in education and society.
In 2002, The Hours, a film loosely based on Woolf's life and 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. Many Virginia Woolf scholars are highly critical of the portrayal of Woolf and her works in the film, and neither the film nor the novel should be considered as an accurate account or literary criticism of Mrs. Dalloway.
- The Voyage Out (1915)
- Night and Day (1919)
- Jacob's Room (1922)
- Mrs. Dalloway (1925)
- To the Lighthouse (1927)
- The Waves (1931)
- The Years (1937)
- Between the Acts (1941)
- Short Fiction:
- The Common Reader (1925)
- A Room of One's Own (1929)
- The Second Common Reader (1933)
- Three Guineas (1938)
- Roger Fry: A Biography (1940)
- The Death of the Moth and Other Essays (1942)
- The Moment and Other Essays (1948)
- Moments of Being
- Modern Fiction (1919)
- Read her literature at online-literature.com
- Online editions of her works from eBooks@Adelaide
- Passing Glances. A list of incidental mentions of Woolf and her work in various media.
- Virginia Woolf Society
- International Virginia Woolf Society
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