Virginia Woolf: Author Profile

Why is Virginia Woolf referred to as a feminist saint?

Brief Bio

Her maiden name was Adeline Virginia Stephen. She moved to Bloomsbury because her parents died, and it was more affordable than London. She was a British novelist who experimented with stream of consciousness to write her novels. She was a major player in the Modernist movement. Virginia Woolf was a feminist, socialist and pacifist. Other Modernists were mostly pro-fascist and very right-wing. There are two essays that really show these views and are famous: “A Room of One’s Own” (1929) and “Three Guineas,” (1938).

She married editor and writer Leonard Woolf with whom she started the Hogarth press. Their magazine published works of modernist writers. She drowned herself on March 28th, 1941.

“My brain is ferociously active. I want to have at my books as if I were conscious of the lapse of time; age and death,” she wrote in her journal while working on To the Lighthouse.

Hogarth Press

This joint venture was a godsend to Modernists. Sigmund Freud, T. S. Elliott and others were published at this house. It is now defunct but its titles are under Random House’s large umbrella.

The couple bought a press and just started publishing their own stories during the war. From there it grew.

Books

The Voyage Out, (1915)
Jacob’s Room, (1922)
Mrs. Dalloway, (1925)
To the Lighthouse, (1927)
Orlando, (1928)
The Waves, (1931)
Flush, (1933)
The Years, (1939)
Between the Acts, (1941)

(This is a partial list of titles.)

Inspiration Poem

“The Wolf Has Eyes”

A Barber Adagio and the absurdity of the humming noise,
Drumming in my ears small crevice agitating fluid,
Causing me to hear it’s incessant moaning.

The strings in the Adagio
Cry to be heard.
I plucked termite wings off of an old glass,
The ultimate sacrifice for the colony.
The glass clean, I dwell for an instant
Satisfied
With my productivity.

Did that termite consider her little sacrifice similarly?

Maybe I will meditate on lotus
And become friends with the noise.
It is 80° f outside.

The air conditioner exhales cool air on my face.
Hum.

Helen Lemus, 2023.

Notes on “The Mark on the Wall”

As I read her short story, I wanted to know what was going on. I read to find out what the mark on the wall was, just as she lay there contemplating the same thing. It felt like I was right there with her.

Nothing much happens in this story. She is enjoying a cigarette and notices a mark on the wall. It is an unbroken stream of seemingly disconnected thoughts. She considers fire, Shakespeare, dust, Troy, ceramic pottery, pride, etc.. Yet even though nothing is happening as far as action, conflict, horses running, swords swinging, I become amazed at the sheer volume of thoughts from a character’s mind.

“How shocking, and yet how wonderful it was to discover that these real things, Sunday luncheons, Sunday walks, country houses, and tablecloths were not entirely real, or indeed half phantoms, and the damnation which visited the disbeliever in them was only a sense of illegitimate freedom. What now takes the place of those things, I wonder, those real standard things?” Pg. 5 of “The Mark on the Wall.”

I took down this quote because it seemed interesting to me how she related damnation to illegitimate freedom. Something illegitimate to me means something illegal. So, is she saying that when she stopped believing in Sunday’s reality, then she became free?

She asks questions of philosophy. She seeks to define knowledge, freedom and reality.

“…If you can’t be comforted, if you must shatter this hour of peace, think of the mark on the wall.” Pg. 7.

I took down this quote following the earlier questions surrounding the Sunday walks and the activities relating to the day of rest. She couldn’t simply relax after tea, but had to focus and question the mark on the wall.

Her essays described her philosophy. “A Room of One’s Own” is the reason why she is considered by some to be a saint of feminism.

Feel free to download the short story referenced above.

Happy reading!

Location Miami, Florida USA E-mail helen@lemushelen.blog Hours M - Th 8 - 10 PM EST and Saturday 4 - 8 PM EST
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