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Reading Virginia Woolf

Julia Briggs

Paperback i (Printed to Order)
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The pleasure and excitement of exploring Virginia Woolf's writings is at the heart of this book by a highly respected Woolf critic and biographer. Julia Briggs reconsiders Woolf's work - from some of her earliest fictional experiments to her late short story, 'The Symbol', and from the most to the least familiar of her novels - from a series of highly imaginative and unexpected angles.

Individual essays analyse Woolf's neglected second novel, Night and Day and investigate her links with other writers (Byron, Shakespeare), her ambivalent attitudes to 'Englishness' and to censorship, her fascination with transitional places and moments, with the flow of time (and its relative nature), her concern with visions and revision and with printing and the writing process as a whole. We watch Woolf as she typesets an extraordinarily complex high modernist poem (Hope Mirrlees's 'Paris'), and as she revises her novels so that their structures become formally - and even numerologically - significant. A final essay examines the differences between Woolf's texts as they were first published in England and America, and the further changes she occasionally made after publication, changes that her editors have been slow to acknowledge.

Julia Briggs brings to these discussions an extensive knowledge of Woolf both as a scholar and as an editor. She records her findings and observations in a lively, graceful and approachable style that will entice readers to delve further and more meaningfully into Woolf's work.

Key Features:

  • Addresses a wide range of familiar and less familiar texts, including Woolf's short stories.
  • Opens up difficult texts in an inviting style.
  • Covers aspects of Woolf's work that have been consistently neglected or have never been considered before.


Introduction: 'Such Absences!'
1. VW Reads Shakespeare, or Her Silence on Master William
2. 'The Proper Writing of Lives': Biography versus Fiction in the early short stories
3. Night and Day: the Marriage of Dreams and Realities
4. Reading People, Reading Texts: 'Byron and Mrs Briggs'
5. Modernism's Lost Hope: Virginia Woolf, Hope Mirrlees and the printing of Paris
6. The Search for Form (i): Fry, Formalism and Fiction
7. The Search for Form (ii): Woolf and the Numbers of Time
8. 'This Moment I Stand On': Woolf and the Spaces in Time
9. 'Like a Shell on a Sandhill': the World of Things in To the Lighthouse
10. Constantinople: Woolf at the Crossroads of the Imagination
11. The Conversation Behind the Conversation: Speaking the Unspeakable
12. 'Cut deep... and scored thick...': Woolf's Later Short Stories
13. 'Almost Ashamed of England Being so English': Woolf and Englishness
14. Between the Texts: Woolf's Acts of Revision.

About the Author

Julia Briggs was Professor of English Literature and Women's Studies at De Montfort University. Her research interests included Shakespeare and contemporary dramatists, women's writing in early modern England and late-nineteenth and twentieth-century literature.


[An] elegant collection of fourteen essays.
- Times Literary Supplement
All of the essays are intriguing, providing rare, inspired and provocative readings of Woolf’s work embedded in strong historical and biographical context.
- Vara Neverow, Southern Connecticut State University and President of the International Virginia Woolf Society
Julia Brigg's wide-ranging collection of essays provides readers with multiple avenues by which to explore Virginia Woolf's canon ... This is a book that presents, as Woolf explains in "Modern Fiction" of life itself, "question after question which must be left to sound on and on after the story is over."
- Andrea Adolph, Kent State University Stark Campus, Woolf Studies Annual
Her interpretations and conclusions are stunning in their logic, solid in their scholarship, persuasive in their tone, and stimulating in their implications. Brigg's immersion in Woolf, her wide knowledge, sensitive reading, curious spirit, and love of literature show on every page. To top it off, she writes beautifully.
- Virginia Woolf Miscellany
Each essay casts a fresh eye over well-scrutinised texts. … Blurred images … were suddenly rendered sharp and clean by seeing them through Brigg’s lens. … This is academic writing of the highest order.
- Virginia Woolf Bulletin