Inside the Lighthouse family

Virginia Woolf: An inner life is reviewed in The Guardian.

Virginia Woolf by Julia Briggs

Woolf’s continuing status as a novelist is part of the reason why biographers find it hard to let her alone, but it is also true that hers is an iconic life. Good cheekbones, bisexuality, genius and suicide are all claims to posthumous celebrity, but it is as if Woolf’s particular combination of talent, beauty and vulnerability has acquired a significance beyond that of an individual story.

Her important contributions to feminist writing in England are an aspect of this, since the process of her thinking about women in the world is carried forward in her novels, her essays and even her suicide. Having invented the myth of Judith Shakespeare (in A Room of One’s Own), she brutally illustrated the point that the world was not yet ready for a woman of genius by choosing her heroine’s fate of death by drowning. Her tragedy, like that of Sylvia Plath, has therefore been treated as a paradigm for creative women’s experience in the 20th century.

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