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Virginia Woolf and Christian Culture

Jane de Gay

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Reveals Virginia Woolf’s interest in Christianity, its ideas and cultural artefacts

This wide-ranging study demonstrates that Woolf, despite her agnostic upbringing, was profoundly interested in, and knowledgeable about, Christianity as a faith and a socio-political movement. Jane de Gay provides a strongly contextual approach, first revealing the extent of the Christian influences on Woolf’s upbringing, including an analysis of the far-reaching influence of the Clapham Sect, and then drawing attention to the importance of Christianity among Woolf’s friends and associates. It shows that Woolf’s awareness of the ongoing influence of Christian ideas and institutions informed her feminist critique of society in Three Guineas. The book sheds new light on works including Mrs Dalloway, To the Lighthouse and The Waves by revealing her fascination with the clergy, the Madonna, churches and cathedrals; her interest in the Bible as artefact and literary text; and her wrestling with questions about salvation and the nature of God.

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1. Family Background: Clapham and After
2. Contemporary Conversations
3. Reverend Gentlemen and Prophetesses
4. Sacred Spaces: Churches and Cathedrals
5. Domestic Sacred Spaces
6. The Purple Triangle and Blue Madonnas: The Virgin Mary
7. How Should One Read the Bible?
Conclusion: A New Religion?

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.


With wisdom and conviction, De Gay shows how seriously Woolf engaged with Christianity and, especially, with what it means to renounce faith. For readers of Woolf and for all who care about the literature of agnosticism, this will be a book that matters.

- Alexandra Harris, University of Birmingham

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