Virginia Woolf (1882-1941)
For Virginia, human personality was a continuous shift of impressions and emotions.
Her father was a Victorian man of letters, so she grew up in a literary and intellectual atmosphere. She spent her summers at St. Ives, Cornwall and the sea was a central part in her art, considerate as a symbol;
The symbol of water was very important for her; water represented :
- What is harmonious, feminine;
- The possibility of the resolution of intolerable conflicts in death.
After her mother death she had her first breakdown, and began to be in revolt against her father, considerated an aggressive and tyrannical character. Only after his death she started her poetical career.
Virginia moved to Bloomsbury and she became a member of Bloomsbury Group which included the avant-garde of early 20 century London. They were radical thinkers who rejected artistic convention.
She challenged Victorian values, which were founded on an ideal of morality and respectability, and questioned the conventional values of sexual and personal relations. In fact the images she used establish her idea of true reality and at the same time reject a whole tradition of literature.
In Woolf’s novels there isn’t the omniscient narrator and the point of view shifts inside the characters’ mind through flashback, association of ideas, momentary impression presented as a continuous flux (the so-called «stream of consciousness»).
In 1912 Virginia married Leonard Woolf and in 1915 she published her first novel, The Voyage Out, which still followed a traditional pattern.
Because of her severe headaches and her sleep badly, she entered in a nursing home but this made matters worse, in fact she was isolated from those she loved; she attempted suicide by taking drugs.
In 1917 she founded with her husband a publishing company, the Hogarth Press. In the following years appeared Mrs Dalloway, The Common Reader, To The Lighthouse, and Orlando, in which she extended the character’s life over four centuries and she didn’t make a rigid distinction putting in her characters both masculine and feminine traits.
In October 1929 she delivered two lectures at Cambridge, which became A Room of One’s One, a work of great impact on the feminist movement of 1960s and 1970s, in which she explored many aspects connected with women and writing, but in particular she insisted on the inseparable link between economic independence and artistic independence. In 1931 was published The Waves.
The Second World War increased her anxiety and fears. She became worried by the terror of loosing her mind. She chose the only possible death for her, «death by water» and drowned herself in the river Ouse. She was fifty-nine.