VIRGINIA WOOLF: Woman of Letters by Phyllis Rose

VIRGINIA WOOLF: Woman of Letters

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Unlike previous students of VW, who have dwelled on either her life or her works, Phyllis Rose (English, Wesleyan) contends that VW's character and the events of her life found expression in the works, and the work shaped her life. Uniting both she identifies one dominant theme, feminism. Sometimes manifest, but often only a hint of anguished vulnerability and hesitancy, this feminism led her to divide the world into opposing realms: ""the threatening and the nonthreatening""--masculine vs. feminine, body vs. mind, logic vs. intuition, etc. While her work was a refuge, it drew much of its inspiration from awareness of all those threatening parts of life--like university education and free social and sexual experience--denied her as a woman; and ""in coming to terms with her exclusion, she came to terms with her own identity."" Her marriage reinforced this identity, as the gentle Leonard protected her and asked nothing in return. And her writing reflected it: eschewing the masculine ""novel of certainties,"" she would express a feminine temper, ""shifting, subjective, unassertive in its moral stance,"" the very essence, in fact, of modernist fiction. Thus, she took her most fruitful themes from female experience: the styles of Bloomsbury elitism as viewed by a woman in The Voyage Out, the ambiguities of Every-woman in Mrs. Dalloway, a woman's difficulties in being an artist in A Room of One's Own. Although the weight given to feminism puts the book out of balance as biography--personalities are not so simply formed--Rose has created a rich tapestry of critical ideas and sensible psychological judgment which illumines a particular aspect of her work more fully than heretofore.

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1978
Publisher: Oxford Univ. Press