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Virginia Woolf's Essayism

Randi Saloman

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Explores the way Woolf used essay-writing techniques to develop her own conception of the modern novel

The focus of this study is on Virginia Woolf's vast output of essays and their relation to her fiction. Randi Saloman shows that it was by employing tools and methods drawn from the essay genre - such as fragmentation, stream-of-consciousness and dialogic engagement with the reader - that Woolf managed to leave behind the realism of the 19th-century novel.

Saloman draws on key theorists of the essay such as T. W. Adorno and Georg Lukacs, as well as on more recent scholars of 'essayism' (a term devised by Robert Musil to describe the hypothetical quality of the essay mode). She shows that the essay, as genre and mode, shaped Woolf's writing, and modern fiction more generally, in ways that have not yet been articulated.

Key Features:
  • In-depth consideration of Virginia Woolf's shorter essays
  • Revisionary accounts of A Room of One's Own (1929) and Three Guineas (1938)
  • New readings of Woolf's major and less well-known novels, including The Pargiters, her failed 'essay-novel'.
  • Repositions the essay as a major modernist genre, responsible in large part for the creation of the modern (and especially the 'modernist') novel.


1. 'Here again is the usual door': The Modernity of Virginia Woolf's 'Street Haunting'
2. The Common Reader, or How should one read an essay?
3. 'Unsolved Problems': Essayism, Counterfactuals, and the Futures of A Room of One's Own and Three Guineas
4. 'Chasms in the Continuity of Our Ways': From The Voyage Out to To the Lighthouse
5. 'I never felt it in the least about the others': The Importance of Woolf's Essay-Novel
6. Bibliography.

About the Author

Randi Saloman teaches at Wake Forest University. She received her Ph.D. from Yale University and has previously taught at Wesleyan University and at Cornell University, where she served as the Mellon Post-Doctoral Fellow in English from 2008-2010. She has published articles on Virginia Woolf, the essay, and cosmopolitanism. She is currently at work on a book titled Hotels and Modern Literature, a transatlantic study spanning from the late 19th-century to the present day.