Virginia Woolf

Woolf, Virginia (Stephen)

Virginia (Stephen) Woolf, 1882–1941, English novelist and essayist; daughter of Sir Leslie Stephen. A successful innovator in the form of the novel, she is considered a significant force in 20th-century fiction. She was educated at home from the resources of her father's huge library. In 1912 she married Leonard Woolf, a critic and writer on economics, with whom she set up the Hogarth Press in 1917. Their home became a gathering place for a circle of artists, critics, and writers known as the Bloomsbury group. As a novelist Woolf's primary concern was to represent the flow of ordinary experience. Her emphasis was not on plot or characterization but on a character's consciousness, his thoughts and feelings, which she brilliantly illuminated by the stream of consciousness technique. She did not limit herself to one consciousness, however, but slipped from mind to mind, particularly in The Waves, probably her most experimental novel. Her prose style is poetic, heavily symbolic, and filled with superb visual images.

Woolf's early works, The Voyage Out (1915) and Night and Day (1919), were traditional in method, but she became increasingly innovative in Jacob's Room (1922), Mrs. Dalloway (1925), To the Lighthouse (1927), and The Waves (1931). Other experimental novels are Orlando (1928), The Years (1937), and Between the Acts (1941). She was a master of the critical essay, and some of her finest pieces are included in The Common Reader (1925), The Second Common Reader (1933), The Death of the Moth and Other Essays (1942), and The Moment and Other Essays (1948). A Room of One's Own (1929) and Three Guineas (1938) are feminist tracts. Her biography of Roger Fry (1940) is a careful study of a friend. Some of her short stories from Monday or Tuesday (1921) appear with others in A Haunted House (1944). Virginia Woolf suffered mental breakdowns in 1895 and 1915; she drowned herself in 1941 because she feared another breakdown from which she might not recover. Most of her posthumously published works were edited by her husband.


See her Writer's Diary, ed. by L. Woolf (1953) and Correspondence with Lytton Strachey, ed. by L. Woolf and J. Strachey (1956); diary, ed. by A. O. Bell (4 vol., 1979–83); letters, ed. by N. Nicolson and J. Trautmann (6 vol., 1977–82); essays, ed. by A. McNeillie and S. N. Clarke (6 vol., 1989–2000); biographies by Q. Bell (2 vol., 1972), P. Rose (1978), L. Gordon (1985), M. Rosenthal (1987), J. King (1995), P. Reid (1996), H. Lee (1997), N. Nicolson (2000), and J. Briggs (2005); studies by E. M. Forster (1942), J. Bennett (2d ed. 1964), R. Freedman (1980), and J. Marcus, ed. (1983). See also the autobiography of her husband, Leonard Sidney Woolf (5 vol., 1960–69).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2014, The Columbia University Press.

Virginia Woolf: Selected full-text books and articles

Reading Virginia Woolf
Julia Briggs.
Edinburgh University Press, 2006
Virginia Woolf's Novels and the Literary Past
Jane De Gay.
Edinburgh University Press, 2006
Virginia Woolf, the Intellectual, and the Public Sphere
Melba Cuddy-Keane.
Cambridge University Press, 2003
The Moth and the Star: A Biography of Virginia Woolf
Aileen Pippett.
Little, Brown, 1955
Outsiders Together: Virginia and Leonard Woolf
Natania Rosenfeld.
Princeton University Press, 2000
Virginia Woolf: Centennial Essays
Elaine K. Ginsberg; Laura Moss Gottlieb.
Whitston, 1983
Virginia Woolf: The Critical Heritage
Robin Majumdar; Allen McLaurin.
Routledge, 1997
To the Lighthouse
Virginia Woolf.
Harcourt, Brace & World, 1955
FREE! The Voyage Out
Virginia Woolf.
Blue Ribbon Books, 1920
Glass Roof: Virginia Woolf as Novelist
James Hafley.
University of California Press, 1954
Wild Outbursts of Freedom: Reading Virginia Woolf's Short Fiction
Nena Skrbic.
Praeger, 2004
Feminist Destinations and Further Essays on Virginia Woolf
Rachel Bowlby.
Edinburgh University Press, 1997
Virginia Woolf: Feminism, Creativity, and the Unconscious
John R. Maze.
Greenwood Press, 1997
Reading Virginia Woolf's Essays and Journalism: Breaking the Surface of Silence
Leila Brosnan.
Edinburgh University Press, 1997
The Edinburgh Companion to Virginia Woolf and the Arts
Maggie Humm.
Edinburgh University Press, 2010
Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Avant-Garde: War, Civilization, Modernity
Christine Froula.
Columbia University Press, 2005
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