Virginia Woolf was a remarkable English publisher, journalist, and an eminent modernist of the 20th century. She was born in a wealthy family in 1882 (Coverley 1865) and was raised by the freethinking parents. Woolf started to write in adolescence, and she published her first novel The Voyage Out in 1915 (Coverley 1865). Constant bouts of depression and mood swings led to the writer’s suicide in 1941 (Coverley 1865). She was 59. Virginia Woolf was well-known for the unique prose style, particularly noted in her outstanding works To the Lighthouse and Mrs. Dalloway. Woolf was also a distinguished essayist and critic in the influential weekly journal The Times Literary Supplement, and a prominent member of the Bloomsbury group of associated artists, philosophers, and intellectuals. The writer’s non-linear, free-style form of prose inspired colleagues as well as brought much praise to the British modernist, who made an ingenious contribution to the novel’s form.
Virginia Woolf was raised in the intellectual household. Her father was a famous historian and an eminent figure in a golden era of mountaineering. Woolf’s mother was born in India and served as a model for the renowned Pre-Raphaelite artists including Hunt, Millais, and Rossetti (Todd 11). She also worked as a nurse, who gained experience and wrote a book on her profession. Artistic, socially active, and extremely well connected parents had a strong association with literary circles (Woolf 4). Therefore, Virginia Woolf appreciated and ideally experimented with the art of writing.
In adolescence, Woolf was playful and cheerful. She created a family newspaper to document humorous stories of her relatives. However, Virginia had been exposed to violence at the age of six when her half-brothers sexually abused her. The dark spot was permanent and deep, especially when her mother died. The hardships of adolescence and a huge loss led to the Woolf’s nervous breakdown. The situation became much worse and pitiable when her stepsister died.
Despite her misery, Virginia Woolf took classes in Latin, Greek, and German in the King’s College London. During her four-year studies, she met many radical feminists, who stood at the helm of comprehensive educational reforms. Virginia’s father died in 1904 (Woolf 4), and after his passing, she was institutionalized as a personality. Woolf’s dance between personal state of despair and literary expressiveness continued for the rest of her life.
Woolf’s professional literary career started in 1910. Before releasing her first novel, she worked for the famous journal Times Literary Supplement (Woolf 5). Set in South America, the first novel The Voyage Out of 1915 narrates about tourists and their emotions near the Amazon River. The author had never visited those places. Therefore, the whole scene was imaginary and one could read a story as an allegory art.
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Virginia Woolf met with intellectuals including writers and artists that established the elite Bloomsbury group (Goldman 32). The group became well-known owing to the planned Dreadnought hoax, where Woolf participated using an assumed male name. In this group, the writer met her future husband. Virginia married Leonard Woolf despite his poverty. The spouses led a happy married life and also cooperated professionally. They founded the Hogarth Press that commissioned modern artworks and published literary works by the dramatist Eliot and Woolf. The Bloomsbury group was well-known for its liberal approach to sexuality, and Virginia started a relationship with the wife of Harold Nicolson, namely the poet Vita Sackville-West (Sproles 51). The women remained good friends until the death of Woolf, who wrote Orlando, a literary love letter to Vita.
Virginia Woolf released many works through the publishing house Hogarth Press. In 1925, the writer published Mrs. Dalloway (Woolf 5), the story of the high-society woman Clarissa, who prepared a party that she would host. The story was set in England, and the narrative travelled back in time as well as in and out of the personages’ minds, thus developing a unique perspective on the post-war society and the Mrs. Dalloway’s life in particular. Many literary critics compared the novel’s style to Ulysses by the Irish writer James Joyce. However, Woolf always denied a direct connection between two works. The author emphasized the theme of mental illness in the personage of a shell-shocked war survivor that ultimately committed suicide. The novel also examined feminist challenges in the figure of Clarissa herself, as a personification of economically and sexually repressed female stereotype and the character of carefree and independent woman Sally Seton, who appeared as Mrs. Dalloway’s opposite.
In the late 1920s, Woolf established herself as a leading modernist writer owing to her two works To The Lighthouse of 1927 and The Waves of 1931 (5). The novel To the Lighthouse was set in 2 days with a gap of 10 years and narrated about the Ramsay family’s drama, and reflections on their visit to the lighthouse. The novel’s main theme was the creative process of the artist Lily Briscoe within the family drama. Moreover, Woolf explored everyday life of people in the wartime and the unbalanced relations between females and males. The Waves is regarded by many critics as the most difficult work by Woolf. It was based on monologues of six individuals and their life from childhood to old age. The U.S. critic Louis Kronenberger noted in The New York Times that Virginia Woolf was not concerned with personages (Shukla 57), but the poetic symbols, death, birth, cold, fire, wine, bread, night, and day.
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In 1928, the writer published the successful novel Orlando, a portrait of her lover Vita Sackville-West (Woolf 5). In her book, Woolf offered a parodic biography of an eternally young man, who lived for three centuries not aging, and suddenly turned into a female. In Orlando, the writer satirically assumed the role of the historical biographer and mocked its pomp. The novel also satirized Sackville-West as a consolation for the loss of her ancestral home. Critics regarded Orlando as the lightest work by Woolf. In 1929, she published the celebrated non-fiction work A Room of One’s Own (Sellers 153). The author mentioned that if a woman decided to write fiction, she should have her own room and money (Sellers 152). A series of interesting lectures based on the book was given in different educational establishments throughout 1928. The book developed around lesbianism, the history of female writers, novel characters, and access to education. The work highly criticized the lack of freedom and space that women suffered.
As the most prominent literary figure of the 20th century, Woolf was widely admired for the unique technical innovations in a novel, especially, the development of narrative subjectivity. She was one of the few, who managed to reject the boundaries of traditional narrative form. The writer believed that this form had become restrictive and artificial for the impressionistic and poetic renderings of life. Woolf was constantly attempting to produce every novel in the distinctive narrative style that was characterized by the formal use of silence, the poetic presentational technique, and the stream of consciousness. Once one has accustomed to the Virginia Woolf’s style, it becomes easy to understand all the messages that the author tried to send to the readers.
Woolf’s novels were published not only in England but also in America, and translated into fifty languages. Wolfe is regarded by many as the main English innovator and the best novelist of the 20th century. In her works, she emphasized not only psychological but also emotional component in the behavior of the main personages. She also experimented with the stream of consciousness that in the literary criticism is regarded as a narrative mode that depicts feelings and thoughts passing through the mind. Though Woolf’s popularity waned after the Second World War, her works rang true again during the feminist movement of the 20th century. Woolf was undoubtedly the most renowned author, whose novels brought a large share of experimentality, when narrative had no clear plot and scene. Deep lyricism and stylistic virtuosity are connected, filling novels with auditory and visual images.
Most of the Woolf’s great works reflected the woman’s inner conflicts. Headaches, depression, physical ailments, mood swings, and other symptoms are currently considered psychosomatic including neurasthenic syndromes. The modernist author developed innovative literary techniques that revealed women’s experience and helped to find alternatives to the prevailing views of reality. In order to get underneath these surfaces, a human being should have a less limited presentation of own life, abandon linear narratives, and use inner monologue as well as stream of consciousness. Virginia Woolf ironically dealt with the marital disappointments. During the inter-war period, the famous writer was a main character on the literary scene in London and her home in Modell. The Woolf’s suicide in 1941, like the Sylvia Plath’s one in 1963 (Berman 2), has colored the interpretation of their literary achievements, madness, and outstanding works.
As an essayist, Woolf was creative and prolific. Since 1905, the author has published numerous essays in periodicals. In order to find her own voice, Virginia wrote voraciously. However, it was not observed until her middle ages, when she finally felt confident in her craft. The Woolf’s essays can be characterized as the dialogic nature of style. The readers are usually directly addressed through a conversational tone. Throughout her literary career, Virginia regularly spoke at various universities, wrote dramatic letters, touching essays and published own short stories. By her mid-40s, Woolf had established herself as an innovative thinker and intellectual. The author’s ability to balance a terrific scene with intense and deep storylines brought her incredible respect from the public and colleagues. Despite great success, Virginia Woolf continued to suffer from constant mood swings and depression leading to her suicide at the age of 59.
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