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Adeline Virginia Woolf, better known as Virginia Woolf, was an outstanding English writer, who inspired many women to take up writing. She was considered a pioneer in the use of stream of consciousness as a narrative device. Stream of consciousness directly reflects the character or the narrator’s thought process either by way of a loose interior monologue or through their actions and expressed in words. James Joyce also used this technique in his novel ‘ Ulysses‘ in (1922).
Virginia Woolf was born as Adeline Virginia Stephen on 25 January 1882, at London, England to Julia Prinsep Jackson and Leslie Stephen as their seventh child in a blended family of eight that also included modernist painter Vanessa Bell. As a child, she was educated at home and learned English classics and Victorian literature. Further, she joined the Ladies’ Department of King’s College London, from 1897 to 1901, where she pursued the study of Classics and History. She also came into the contact of the reformers advocating women’s higher education and the women’s rights movement.
Virginia Woolf’s writing career began in 1900, and was encouraged by her father to continue writing. After the death of her father in 1904, Virginia moved from Kensington to Bloomsbury with her family. Virginia Woolf collaborated with her brothers’ intellectual friends to form the Bloomsbury group that sponsored artistic and literary talent. She married Leonard Woolf in 1912 and they established the Hogarth Press. The couple moved to Sussex where they rented a home in 1940. Woolf led a controversial life over her alleged romantic relationships with women, especially, Vita Sackville-West, another author who published her books through Hogarth Press. Their literature drew inspiration from their relationship which continued until Woolf’s death.
The movement of feminist criticism focussed on the works of Virginia Woolf in the 1970s. Her work was considered to inspire feminism. She became popular with her books like Mrs Dalloway (1925), To the Lighthouse (1927) and Orlando (1928). I read her famous essay A Room of One’s Own (1929) in 2014 , as a part of my curriculum for MA (English Literature). Her first published work was the novel, The Voyage Out, in 1915. Her books are so popular that they have been translated into more than 50 languages.
Unfair, this exceptionally talented writer and a creative genius suffered from mental illness for which she was institutionalized. As per Dalsimer (2004), she showed symptoms similar to bipolar disorder. She already attempted suicide twice and finally, drowned herself in the River Ouse at Lewes in 1941 at the age of 59. It’s sad that some talented writers like Ernest Hemingway, Sylvia Plath and Virginia Woolf resorted to these extreme steps.
Legends like these might have left their physical bodies but they are immortal and continue to live through their books which enthrall the lovers of English literature. Woolf’s works are certainly a priceless treasure to be cherished.
Her most popular books :
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