Virginia Woolf, Orlando (1928)
Virginia Woolf was the daughter of Leslie Stephens, a major scholar and literary critic.  She grew up reading and discussing literature not only with her family but also with notable literary figures of the late nineteenth century.  After her father's death, she and her sister Vanessa moved to a flat in the Bloomsbury district of London.  There they began hosting regular get-togethers of friends interested in art, literature, and philosophy.  This group of friends became known as the Bloomsbury Group.  It was here that Virginia met Leonard Woolf.

In 1917 the Woolfs began the Hogarth Press.  Their policy was to publish new and experimental works of literature.  They also published translations of major Russian and German writers and pamphlets on psychoanalysis, politics, aesthetics, and disarmament.

Considered a major Modernist writer, Woolf rejects the "materialism" of many early twentieth-century writers.  She is interested instead in a more delicate rendering of areas of consciousness where, she felt, human experience really lay.  She experiments with the movement between specific external events and the flow of consciousness where the mind moves between retrospect and anticipation.  Her fiction deals with the problem of self-identity, personal relationships, and the significance of time, change, and memory on the individual.

What is Woolf's concept of androgyny? What is its role in literature? Is it primarily a feminine concept or structure? Why (or why not)?
How true do you find Woolf's assessment of the history of women writers? What about the educational, social, and financial disadvantages and prejudices she argues that women faced? Do these still exist? Have they disappeared or have they lessened?
In a 1919 essay on Joyce, Woolf calls upon novelists to ". . . record the atoms as they fall upon the mind in the order in which they fall. . . ." What do you think she means? How successful is Woolf at this goal?
Woolf had often been criticized for being too detached from social and political problems, for being "a novelist's novelist." Are the critics right? What do they mean, "a novelist's novelist"? Can you give specific examples?
According to Nigel Nicolson, Vita Sackville-West's son, Orlando is "the longest and most charming love letter in literature" (from Woolf to Sackville-West). In what ways might this novel be considered a "love letter"? Why would Woolf express her affection this way?
In writing in her journal about her plans for the novel, Woolf comments that "it should be truthful; but fantastic." What does she mean? How can the story be both? Which elements fall in which categories?

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