Seven Reasons Why I Love Virginia Woolf
by Jacqueline Manni (guest poster for read-a-longs)
Why seven? Because Virginia Woolf was an iconoclast, and would hate to have ten things like everyone else!
1. She was one of the pioneers of the literary technique Stream of Consciousness, and is considered one of the founders of Modernism. Both of these are very evident in To the Lighthouse, and I think it’s fruitful to think about technique and the spirit of the time as we try and understand the book.
2. She wrote one of the most unique love letters of all time, the novel Orlando. You can read it looking for tidbits about Vita Sackville-West, or you can read it as an exploration of gender and sexuality, or you can even read it to question the intersection of imagination and history, but do read it. It’s loads of fun.
3. She let other women know how important having A Room of One’ s Own was to creativity. After I read this book, I always made sure that I had a space to call my own. It started out as a corner of a shared room; don’t let size constrain you. What matters is that it’s yours, and that you take the time to use it. Also, make your own money.
4. One of her first professional writings was about the Brontes’ home, Haworth, for the Times Literary Supplement. I find this so interesting as a person who greatly admires the writing of the Brontes, and Woolf. I have always felt that Villette especially was so Modern.
5. She was an important member of the Bloomsbury group, one of the most famous circles of writers, artists, and intellectuals of this century. In fact, the painting of Virginia Woolf that I shared in this post is by Roger Fry, one of the Bloomsbury painters. I’m such a lone wolf that I find it endlessly fascinating to read and think about what it must have been like to be in a circle such as this one, or the Beats, or the Pre-Raphaelites, or ,or, or!
6. She bucked society. She married Leonard Woolf, a Jew, at a time when anti-Jewish sentiment was on the rise. Together, they went on to found Hogarth Press. Imagine, publishing for the first time Eliot, Isherwood, Forster, and bringing Freud to English readers! All started on a press sitting on a dining room table!
7. She fought demons. She lost her mother when she was thirteen, and half-sister two years later, which is said to have led to the first of her nervous breakdowns. She was also subjected to sexual abuse by her half-brothers. She was institutionalized after her father died in 1904. Imagine her suicide, pockets full of rocks, walking slowly into the lake. Haunting. How she was able to be so incredibly prolific and groundbreaking whilst trying to make it through amazes me, and I admire her greatly for it.
What an amazing person. I hope my little shout out to Virginia Woolf adds to your appreciation of To The Lighthouse. What did you think of this week’s reading? I’ll share my thoughts in the comments along with the rest of you!
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