Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Avant-Garde traces the dynamic emergence of Woolf's art and thought against Bloomsbury's public thinking about Europe's future in a period marked by two world wars and rising threats of totalitarianism. Educated informally in her father's library and in Bloomsbury's London extension of Cambridge, Virginia Woolf came of age in the prewar decades, when progressive political and social movements gave hope that Europe "might really be on the brink of becoming civilized," as Leonard Woolf put it. For pacifist Bloomsbury, heir to Europe's unfinished Enlightenment project of human rights, democratic self-governance, and world peaceand, in E. M. Forster's words, "the only genuine movement in English civilization" the 1914 "civil war" exposed barbarities within Europe: belligerent nationalisms, rapacious racialized economic imperialism, oppressive class and sex/gender systems, a tragic and unnecessary war that mobilized sixty-five million and left thirty-seven million casualties. An avant-garde in the twentieth-century struggle against the violence within European civilization, Bloomsbury and Woolf contributed richly to interwar debates on Europe's future at a moment when democracy's triumph over fascism and communism was by no means assured.
Woolf honed her public voice in dialogue with contemporaries in and beyond Bloomsbury John Maynard Keynes and Roger Fry to Sigmund Freud (published by the Woolfs'Hogarth Press), Bertrand Russell, T. S. Eliot, E. M. Forster, Katherine Mansfield, and many othersand her works embody and illuminate the convergence of aesthetics and politics in post-Enlightenment thought. An ambitious history of her writings in relation to important currents in British intellectual life in the first half of the twentieth century, this book explores Virginia Woolf's narrative journey from her first novel, The Voyage Out, through her last, Between the Acts.
About the Author
Christine Froula is professor of English, comparative literature, and gender studies at Northwestern University and a past president of the International Virginia Woolf Society. Her extensive publications include Modernism's Body: Sex, Culture, and Joyce.
Table of Contents
List of Abbreviations
1. Civilization and "my civilisation": Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Avant-Garde
2. Rachel's Great War: Civilization, Sacrifice, and the Enlightenment of Women in Melymbrosia and The Voyage Out
3. The Death of Jacob Flanders: Greek Illusion and Modern War in Jacob's Room
4. Mrs. Dalloway's Postwar Elegy: Women, War, and the Art of Mourning
5. Picture the World: The Quest for the Thing Itself in To the Lighthouse
6. A Fin in a Waste of Waters: Women, Genius, Freedom in Orlando, A Room of One's Own, and The Waves
7. The Sexual Life of Women: Experimental Genres, Experimental Publics from The Pargiters to The Years
8. St. Virginia's Epistle to an English Gentleman: Sex, Violence, and the Public Sphere in Three Guineas
9. The Play in the Sky of the Mind: Between the Acts of Civilization's Masterplot
What People are Saying About This
This is, bar none, the best reading of Woolf's total oeuvre I have ever seen. It will become the standard text of Woolf studies; all future work on Woolf will have to refer to it.
Marianne DeKoven, Rutgers University
An important book that restores a public voice to Virginia Woolf and Bloomsbury. Froula takes pains to show how Woolf's formal experiments crafted the artist's address to a public who witnessed the drama of the two World Wars and momentous social upheaval. In emphasizing Woolf's rhetorical construction of her audience, Froula links Woolf the writer to the Woolfs as publishers of the Hogarth Press. She admirably charts Virginia Woolf's dual ventures of reforming society and re-forming the genre of the novel.
Tough-minded, richly detailed, Christine Froula's engaging argument compellingly situates Woolf at the heart of modernism's Enlightenment project. 'Thinking is my fighting,' Woolf wrote; Froula brilliantly does the same, challenging us to take seriously Woolf's provocative assertion that 'this civilisation... depends upon me.'