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Virginia Woolf

Virginia Woolf: A Portrait

VIVIANE FORRESTER
Translated by Jody Gladding
Copyright Date: 2015
Pages: 256
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7312/forr15356
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    Virginia Woolf
    Book Description:

    Winner of the prestigious Prix Goncourt award for biography, this remarkable portrait sheds new light on Virginia Woolf's relationships with her family and friends and how they shaped her work.Virginia Woolf: A Portraitblends recently unearthed documents, key primary sources, and personal interviews with Woolf's relatives and other acquaintances to render in unmatched detail the author's complicated relationship with her husband, Leonard; her father, Leslie Stephen; and her half-sister, Vanessa Bell. Forrester connects these figures to Woolf's mental breakdown while introducing the concept of "Virginia seule," or Virginia alone: an uncommon paragon of female strength and conviction. Forrester's biography inhabits her characters and vivifies their perspective, weaving a colorful, intense drama that forces readers to rethink their understanding of Woolf, her writing, and her world.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-53512-0
    Subjects: History, Language & Literature, Sociology
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Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. v-viii)
  3. Part 1 (pp. 1-68)

    HEARING the breath issuing from another body as it brushes against the skin: this can and does endlessly result from the pages brought to life by Virginia Woolf.

    There she is. In these signs. Virginia, so distant from herself, as is each of us, but ever relentless in her attempt to assemble, to feel the scattered mobility, the multiplicity that constitutes her. Worried as well about responding to the “impossible desires to embrace the whole world with the arms of understanding.”¹

    And endlessly failing in this, having failed, having admitted that “no, no, nothing is proved, nothing is known,”² having...

  4. Part 2 (pp. 69-108)

    THE adolescent bicycling down the streets of London is a ghost, unless, flesh and blood, she is moving among fantasies. She lives between two worlds, each of which destabilizes the other. She struggles in these Victorian times, clings to details, to the everyday, takes note of it; she is afraid of horses, of the accidents they cause in the city thoroughfares, where she notices the dangers everywhere. Dressmakers terrify her, with their fittings, make her want to stab them with their own scissors (she is joking here, she is not mad). Books reassure her; she consumes them one after another,...

  5. Part 3 (pp. 109-154)

    1904. Leslie Stephen is dead. Virginia has watched over him for more than two years. Vanessa, having firmly and definitively rejected her father, has kept her distance. Hyde Park Gate is over. The Stephens and the Duckworths look for new addresses, they go their separate ways. The Stephens consider Bloomsbury, an unusual neighborhood.

    Henceforth, Virginia Woolf cuts a path through Virginia Stephen. One will soon come into being so that the other, shortly before dying, can write: “I feel in my fingers the weight of every word.”¹

    Some of these words surfaced over the course of the crisis that followed her...

  6. Part 4 (pp. 155-184)

    VIRGINIA Woolf is well known, and thus she is protected. Soon, between her and those close to her, between her and Leonard, between her and herself, there will be a rampart consisting of her anonymous readership, her literary circle, and, most intimately, the Bloomsbury group. They will keep her steady with regard to her legitimacy. Her public persona. That of a recognized author, who will become famous. They will free her, in appearance at least, from the uncertain Virginia Stephen, confined until now within the family circle (nest or cesspool?), the pool of memories from which she will always draw....

  7. Part 5 (pp. 185-204)

    “ALL the walls, the protecting & reflecting walls, wear so terribly thin in this war.” And soon: “No audience. No echo. Thats part of one’s death.” Especially as her solitude with Leonard increases and the rampart formed by the public, friends, others gradually dissolves.¹

    But at first, after they leave London to take permanent refuge at Monk’s House, there will be the happiness of days that ring “from one simple melody to another,” and Virginia will have “never had a better writing season.” For months, she will be seized with a passionate desire to live despite the pact we know about,...

  8. Abbreviations (pp. 205-206)
  9. Notes (pp. 207-226)
  10. Works Cited (pp. 227-230)
  11. Index (pp. 231-248)