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Virginia Woolf As Feminist
     

Virginia Woolf As Feminist

by Naomi Black
 

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Before the Second World War and long before the second wave of feminism, Virginia Woolf argued that women's experience, particularly in the women's movement, could be the basis for transformative social change. Grounding Virginia Woolf's feminist beliefs in the everyday world, Naomi Black reclaims Three Guineas as a major feminist document. Rather than a book only

Overview

Before the Second World War and long before the second wave of feminism, Virginia Woolf argued that women's experience, particularly in the women's movement, could be the basis for transformative social change. Grounding Virginia Woolf's feminist beliefs in the everyday world, Naomi Black reclaims Three Guineas as a major feminist document. Rather than a book only about war, Black considers it to be the best, clearest presentation of Woolf's feminism.Woolf's changing representation of feminism in publications from 1920 to 1940 parallels her involvement with the contemporary women's movement (suffragism and its descendants, and the pacifist, working-class Women's Co-operative Guild). Black guides us through Woolf's feminist connections and writings, including her public letters from the 1920s as well as "A Society," A Room of One's Own, and the introductory letter to Life As We Have Known It. She assesses the lengthy development of Three Guineas from a 1931 lecture and the way in which the form and illustrations of the book serve as a feminist subversion of male scholarship. Virginia Woolf as Feminist concludes with a discussion of the continuing relevance of Woolf's feminism for third-millennium politics.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"In this convincing new study, Black (political science and women's studies, York Univ., Toronto) demonstrates that Woolf's book-length essay 'Three Guineas' is the clearest, most explicit statement of her feminism—a philosophy Woolf referred to as the 'life of natural happiness.' Black provides a meticulously researched examination of 'Three Guineas,' contending that it is central to Woolf's large body of work. In addition, she carefully considers different versions of the text, along with Woolf's other works; her contacts with the various women's organizations promoting the suffrage movement; and her beliefs about how the world can be transformed into a peaceful society. . . .Highly recommended for academic libraries."—Library Journal, April 1, 2004

"Perhaps none of Virginia Woolf's works has been so little loved and ill-understood as Three Guineas. . . . But now, thanks to Virginia Woolf as Feminist, Naomi Black's learned, tireless argument in favor of this deliberately obdurate work, readers may come to appreciate this most uncompromising of Woolf's feminist pronouncements. Black's major and sustained claim is that Three Guineas is an intrinsically feminist work whose anti-war attitudes cannot be disassociated from Woolf's assault on masculinist privilege and domination. . . . These details, coupled with accurate paraphrase and citation of Woolf's arguments, give Black's study its quiet and insistent authority. Virginia Woolf as Feminist . . . has some new-fashioned, and urgent, literary and historical work to perform, as Black makes clear in the fervid argument she makes for Three Guineas continuing relevance for feminism in the third millennium. She admits Woolf's relative neglect of sexuality and class in her feminist writings, issues that trouble our own time, but in return asks us to consider how much Woolf has to say about women's health issues and the racial politics that also preoccupy us. In closing, she refers to the recent wars in Afghanistan and Chechnya to impress upon us how the feminist objectives underwritten by Woolf's three guineas—'democratization, education, and public professional activity'—still represent a program for political transformation."—Maria DiBattista, Princeton University, English Literature in Transition, 1880–1920, 49:1, 2006

"This book feels remarkably short at 200 pages, and at the end of it I feel—and this is not a criticism—that there is much more to be said about Woolf's feminism: 'We will never, in any simple sense, fully understand either Three Guineas or the feminism it represents'. This is one of those few books that I wish I had been (cap)able to write. The reason I have quoted from it so extensively is that Naomi Black expresses so clearly the arguments she is making."—Stuart N. Clark, Virginia Woolf Bulletin, no. 20, September 2005

"Black . . . provides an excellent account of the textual evolution and development of Woolf's feminism. . . . Black effectively combats the image of Woolf as an aloof artist by enriching our understanding of the feminist contexts in which she worked."—College Literature, 32:2, Summer 2005

"Naomi Black provides a richly detailed account of how Woolf's most controversial feminist book, Three Guineas, was conceived, constructed, and received. Black's powers of historical recovery illuminate the central place of that work in Woolf's career and its continuing challenge to new generations of readers."—Alex Zwerdling, University of California, Berkeley

"Naomi Black has produced a wonderfully astute and compassionate exploration of Virginia Woolf's feminism. Analyses of Woolf's oeuvre have been too long monopolized by literary scholars focused on her novels or by biographers poking into her psychology and sexuality. Black's engaging and beautifully contextualized rereading of Woolf's key essay, Three Guineas, and the works that precede and surround it, is as welcome as it is overdue. The author, a leading feminist political theorist based in Canada and editor of a critical edition of Three Guineas, persuasively and powerfully reclaims Woolf's nonfiction contributions for the history of feminism and the history of political thought."—Karen Offen, Institute for Research on Women and Gender, Stanford University

"Virginia Woolf's process of creating Three Guineas was notoriously long, complex, and scholarly. Naomi Black's book is deeply impressive in its command of that process and the role it played in Woolf's career. Virginia Woolf as Feminist is a book that Woolf scholars will value as a reference work on Three Guineas."—Jessica Berman, University of Maryland, Baltimore County

"As Woolf said,'the triumph of learning is that it leaves something done solidly forever.' We have here an account of all Woolf ever had to say, apart from her fiction, about feminism. And the significance of Three Guineas is established, in its entirety, now and ever more. An invaluable achievement."—Carolyn Heilbrun, author of Writing a Woman's Life

Library Journal
Is there any question that Virginia Woolf was a feminist? In this convincing new study, Black (political science & women's studies, York Univ., Toronto) demonstrates that Woolf's book-length essay Three Guineas is the clearest, most explicit statement of her feminism-a philosophy Woolf referred to as "the life of natural happiness." Black provides a meticulously researched examination of Three Guineas, contending that it is central to Woolf's large body of work. In addition, she carefully considers different versions of the text, along with Woolf's other works; her contacts with the various women's organizations promoting the suffrage movement; and her beliefs about how the world can be transformed into a peaceful society. Black also discusses the hostile reaction to Three Guineas upon its publication as well as its continuing influence into the 21st century. References to Woolf's diaries, letters, and notebooks are numerous and helpful, as are an extensive bibliography and endnotes. Highly recommended for academic libraries.-Kathryn R. Bartelt, Univ. of Evansville Lib., IN Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780801488771
Publisher:
Cornell University Press
Publication date:
12/28/2003
Pages:
272
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x (d)

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