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Virginia Woolf, Fashion and Literary Modernity

R. S. Koppen

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Virginia Woolf, Fashion and Literary Modernity places Woolf´s writing in the context of sartorial practice from the Victorian period to the 1930s, and theories of dress and fashion from Thomas Carlyle to Walter Benjamin, Wyndham Lewis and J.C. Flugel. Bringing together studies in fashion, body culture and modernism, the book explores the modern fascination with sartorial fashion as well as with clothes as objects, signs, things, and embodied practice.

Fashion was deeply implicated with the nineteenth-century modern and remained in focus for the modernities that continued to be proclaimed in the early decades of the following century. Clothing connects with the modernist topoi of the threshold, the trace and the interface; it is the place where character becomes image and where relations between subject and object, organic and inorganic play themselves out in a series of encounters and ruptures. Clothes also facilitate explorations in modern materialism, for instance as informing surrealist attempts to think the materiality of things outside the system of commodities and their fetishisation. Woolf´s work as cultural analyst and writer of fiction provides illuminating illustrations of all of these aspects, "thinking through clothes" in representations of the present, investigations of the archives of the past, and projections for the future.

Key Features

  • Contributes new research to Woolf and Modernism studies
  • Explores the significance of textual representations of dress and sartorial fashion in modernist literature
  • Interdisciplinary approach which brings together studies of fashion, culture and literature
  • Adds a specific author focused analysis to current work on cultural embodiment and performance


List of illustrations
1. Modern Clothes-Consciousness
2. From Symbolism in Loose Robes to the Figure of the Androgyne
3. Fashion and Literary Modernity
4. Modernism Against Fashion
5. Civilised Minds, Fashioned Bodies, and the Nude Future
6. Hats and Veils: Texere in the Age of Rupture

About the Author

R.S. Koppen is Professor in British literature in the Department of Foreign Languages in the University of Bergen. Dr. Koppen has published articles on modern literature and drama in New Literary History and Modern Drama, and a monograph on contemporary feminist theatre (Scenes of Infidelity: Feminism in the Theatre, Oslo: Solum, 1997). She has also published on the topic of fashion in the Selected Papers of the Annual International Virginia Woolf Conference (2006 and 2007). Current book projects include a collection of essays on Literature and Science, of which she is a co-editor.


Koppen's work sets out an elegant and complex argument … Highly innovative, wide-ranging, meticulously written and carefully argued.

- Routledge ABES

Koppen's work sets out an elegant and complex argument … Highly innovative, wide-ranging, meticulously written and carefully argued.

- Routledge ABES

A rigorously researched, persuasively written study, and a compelling read. Its breadth of scope adds to its value as a resource for scholars of Woolf, theorists of dress and historians of moder¬nity alike. R. S. Koppen has crafted a seamlessly interwoven and richly rewarding tapestry of myriad theoretical, historiographical and socio-cultural sources.

- Woolf Studies Annual, Volume 18, 2012
Opens up new perspectives and sources, weaving philosophical debate with the historical, literary and cultural.
- Virginia Woolf Bulletin