Virginia Woolf's Novels and the Literary Past

Virginia Woolf's Novels and the Literary Past

Virginia Woolf's Novels and the Literary Past

Virginia Woolf's Novels and the Literary Past

Synopsis

The first book to explore Virginia Woolf's preoccupation with the literary past and its profound impact on the content and structure of her novels. It analyses Woolf's reading and writing practices via her essays, diaries and reading notebooks and presents chronological studies of eight of her novels, exploring how Woolf's intensive reading surfaced in her fiction. The book sheds light on Woolf's varied and intricate use of literary allusions; examines ways in which Woolf revisited and revised plots and tropes from earlier fiction; and looks at how she used parody as a means both of critical comment and homage. Key Features
• The first book-length study of intertextuality in Virginia Woolf's novels;• Offers a challenging and provocative new perspective on Woolf's art as a novelist;• Develops detailed close readings offering fresh insights into individual works;• Presents complex ideas in a lucid and accessible fashion.

Excerpt

Virginia Woolf has long been celebrated as an innovative novelist and a radical thinker who broke with the aesthetics of earlier generations and challenged their values; some critics have even suggested that she anticipated ideas and approaches which emerged long after her time. However, it is less widely acknowledged that Woolf also looked backwards; that she was immersed in the literary past and her intellectual heritage as a reader and critic; and that this had an impact on her fiction. Although Beth Carole Rosenberg has drawn attention to Woolf's dialogue with other writers in her essays and fiction, and Sally Greene's edited collection, Virginia Woolf: Reading the Renaissance, has demonstrated that the strength of Woolf's interest in the Renaissance can be seen in both her scholarship and her fiction, many scholars are none the less reluctant to see the presence of the literary past in the novels. So, for example, although Elena Gualtieri and Juliet Dusinberre have drawn attention to Woolf's intimacy with the literary past in her essays, both resist applying these insights to her novels: Gualtieri makes a distinction between the essay, which 'remained for her attached to the paternal figure and therefore became the arena where the relationship between tradition and modernity was explored', and the novel, which 'represented the possibility of experimenting with new forms and shapes'; and Dusinberre argues that Woolf 'used the past for a purpose, as an empowering model for herself as woman writer, and particularly as a writer not of fiction but of criticism and literary history'.

This book will demonstrate that Woolf's preoccupation with the literary past had a profound impact on the content of her novels, on her philosophies of fiction and on certain aspects of her fictional method. It will explore how Woolf continually engaged with the literary past in her fiction: by revisiting and revising plots which had made an impression on her as a reader, by using densely packed literary allusions and even by using her fiction as a forum for exploring literary history. As a result, her . . .

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