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Virginia Woolf's Novels and the Literary Past

Jane de Gay

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REVIEWS FROM HARDBACK EDITION: 'A number of interesting and powerful themes emerge in this study of Virginia Woolf's relation to the literary past...The strong account of Woolf's relation to tradition in Virginia Woolf's Novels and the Literary Past will surely facilitate further study of the gender politics of Modernism.' - Times Literary Supplement

'An important intervention at a time in which there is particular interest in Woolf's relationship to the past.'

Professor Laura Marcus, University of Sussex

'Essential and intellectually provocative reading for Woolf scholars and for common readers alike.'

Vara Neverow, University of Connecticut

Now available in paperback, this is the first book to explore Virginia Woolf's preoccupation with the literary past and its profound impact on the content and structure of her novels.

It analyses Woolf's reading and writing practices via her essays, diaries and reading notebooks and presents chronological studies of eight of her novels, exploring how Woolf's intensive reading surfaced in her fiction. The book sheds light on Woolf's varied and intricate use of literary allusions; examines ways in which Woolf revisited and revised plots and tropes from earlier fiction; and looks at how she used parody as a means both of critical comment and homage.

Key Features

  • The first book-length study of intertextuality in Virginia Woolf's novels
  • Offers a challenging and provocative new perspective on Woolf's art as a novelist
  • Develops detailed close readings offering fresh insights into individual works
  • Presents complex ideas in a lucid and accessible fashion


Chapter 1. From Woman Reader to Woman Writer: The Voyage Out
Chapter 2. Tradition and Exploration in Night and Day
Chapter 3. Literature and Survival: Jacob's Room and Mrs Dalloway
Chapter 4. To the Lighthouse and the Ghost of Leslie Stephen
Chapter 5. Rewriting Literary History in Orlando
Chapter 6. 'Lives Together': Literary and Spiritual Autobiographies
in The Waves
Chapter 7. Bringing the Literary Past to Life in Between the Acts
Select Bibliography

About the Author

Jane de Gay is Professor of English Literature at Leeds Trinity University and an Anglican priest. She is author of Virginia Woolf’s Novels and the Literary Past (Edinburgh University Press, 2006). She is co-editor of Virginia Woolf and Heritage (Liverpool University Press, 2017) and Voyages Out, Voyages Home: Proceedings of the Eleventh Annual Virginia Woolf Conference (2010) and a member of the editorial board of the Woolf Studies Annual.


Jane de Gay presents an elegantly written, chronological survey of Woolf's engagement with the literary past.
- Nancy L Paxton, Virginia Woolf Miscellany
...carefully researched and clearly written.
- Woolf Studies Annual