Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Avant-Garde: War, Civilization, Modernity

By Christine Froula | Go to book overview

Preface

Bertie "Bertrand Russell"… thinks he's going to found new civilisa-
tions.

—Woolf, Letters, 23 January 1916

"You women" who are trying to earn your livings in the professions…
call out… all those sympathies which, in literature, are stimulated by
the explorers who set out in crazy cockle shells to discover new lands,
and found new civilisations.

—Woolf, The Pargiters, 1932.

This book situates Virginia Woolf and Bloomsbury within a modernity understood as a "permanent revolution" in the sense Thomas Jefferson evoked when he wrote that he could die content if he knew that the revolution he had helped to make would never be written in stone but would remain always alive— not laying down the law for generations to come but always debated and contested, actively reaffirmed or creatively transformed by the living.1 Twenty years ago the intellectual historian Perry Anderson could write, "My own country England, the pioneer of capitalist industrialization and master of the world market for a century,… beachhead for Eliot or Pound, offshore to Joyce,… produced virtually no significant native movement of a modernist type in the first decades of this century—unlike Germany or Italy, France or Russia, Holland or America. "2 Today Virginia Woolf has emerged on the world stage, read around the world in English and translation amid an array of Bloomsburies: Leon Edel's house of lions, Raymond Williams's oppositional fraction of England's ruling class, S. P. Rosenbaum's interconnected writers, as well as wide-ranging discussions of Bloomsbury biographies, personalities, sexualities, friendships, lifestyle, decor, and affinities with material culture, consumer culture, and the popular imagination. Still, it is easy to overlook Bloomsbury's import and specificity as a modernist movement, in part because its enormous multidisciplinary archive tends to obscure the strong lines of

-xi-

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