Virginia Woolf: An Inner Life


The myth of modernism sets aesthetic innovators against the philistine indifference of a literary world mired in Victorian complacency and sexism. True, her early Jacob's Room met with a profoundly underwhelmed reception, but as Woolf persevered, the reading public came to meet her: The Waves, just as experimental, sold 5, in the first week and did very well thereafter.

Briggs shows how Woolf's developing feminism was often at odds with her desire to earn money and please her friends; her self-censorship in a world of largely male reviewers, commissioning editors and publishers.

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Woolf writes eloquently and angrily about the compromises and disabilities forced on women as writers and readers, but never quite faced the fact that she was, for all that, a fully paid-up member of London's literary mafia herself, an influential reviewer and publisher of new fiction. Though she was, uniquely, in a position to meet the problem of publishing experimental novels by establishing her own press, unlike Lawrence or Joyce, she was not prepared to follow her principles through to the point where she risked alienating London's network of opinion formers.

Thus, as Briggs shows, clearly but with great charity, there were occasional yawning gaps between Woolf's principles and her life. She wrote in Three Guineas that women should not commit 'adultery of the brain' by writing for money, but as Queenie Leavis pointed out acidly, she never tried to answer the question of how anyone without a private income was to support themselves nor was she indifferent to her earning power. Woolf outlined a loftily Utopian comic vision in a speech to a feminist society of an enraged patriarch in some future post-liberation moment, racing from room to room only to find his cook and maids reading Plato or dashing off a mass in B flat; one fears that if her own had shown the slightest desire to enrol at Morley College, her reactions would have been crisply patrician.

Her occasional failures of literary judgment are mostly class-related; egregiously, she dismissed Ulysses as 'the book of a self-taught working man' though she was to argue that women's exclusion from establishment education allowed them to develop independence of mind. A chronological approach is followed. We begin with the first efforts of writing, the first novel, and proceed sequentially through each of her books. A full chapter is given to the period in which each book was written and published.

Each chapter concludes with details on the actual book, including such items as the novel's original cover illustration usually done by her artist sister Vanessa , the size of the print runs, the critics responses, and how the book fared over the years, even up into the s. Honestly, I found information like this very interesting. For one, it was interesting to see how first print runs increased as Woolf gradually grew in popularity.

What I most like about Brigg's approach is that you come away with key insights that any appreciator of Woolf should cherish. One learns a great deal about the process that Woolf went through in creating her works as well as about the life of Woolf herself.

Why should you read Virginia Woolf? - Iseult Gillespie

I lumped this book with the other three biographies of VW that I have read this past year Quentin Bell's, Hermione Lee's, and James King's but Julia Brigg's "biography" is actually quite different, and probably should stand alone, not be compared with the other three. Each of Briggs' fourteen chapters covers one specific work by VW. VW was intensely interested in psychoanalysis as was Gertrude Stein and one could argue that Briggs has used VW's works as a way to psychoanalyze her.

Briggs is well qualified in this endeavor: Julie Briggs is an amazing author and biographer. She was the general editor for the Penguin UK reprint series of Woolf's novels so knows Virginia's work very well I think this knowledge of the work and the structure of the work makes this rather indepth analysis of the famous author's motivation for writing the novels, personal circumstances surrounding the writing, her marriage, her friendships and her ever-declining health and mental problems is what makes this book so fascinating It's no ordinary bio-- it concentrates on the work and the impetus for the work.

Reading this book is like being allowed inside the writer's head and her 'office' while and after she creates her many volumes. Great for any Woolf fan or for use in teaching Woolf or for any writer or would-be writer. Fabulous for use in women's studies programs I made the mistake of reading this biography two years ago when new to Virginia Woolf, and quickly realized that it was not a general biography but a specialized one; as time has passed and I've read more of Woolf's books and criticism on Woolf, I'm now rereading the biography and though it is much more useful and I enjoy certain aspects of it, I still don't like it much.

To me, the explorations of Woolf's creative process seem a little rushed, perhaps the problem I'm picking up is that Briggs is riding the middle road, not fully dedicated to writing a highly subjective and experimental biography, yet not concerned with presenting the facts of the life as in a traditional biography, so that I'm left at the end of each chapter with the feeling that I haven't gotten anywhere. It's wishy-washy, in other words. See all 9 reviews. Most recent customer reviews.

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Virginia Woolf is one of the most influential figures in twentieth-century literature. She was original, passionate, vivid, dedicated to her art. Yet most writing about. In Virginia Woolf: An Inner Life, Julia Briggs uses letters and diaries to paint a portrait of the writer at work. Jane Stevenson finds the result.

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Virginia Woolf is one of the most influential figures in twentieth-century literature. She was original, passionate, vivid, dedicated to her art. Yet most writing about her still revolves around her social life and the Bloomsbury set. Paperback , pages. Published November 6th by Mariner Books first published To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

To ask other readers questions about Virginia Woolf , please sign up. Lists with This Book. This book is not yet featured on Listopia. This book is very much a writer's look at a writer's life.

Virginia Woolf: An Inner Life

Rather than being a conventional biography, going from childhood to adulthood, Briggs takes each of Woolf's major works and writes about her life at the time of writing, drawing extensively on Woolf's own letters and diaries as well as others' writing about her. In this way, we don't find out much about Woolf's childhood until near the end of the book, when Woolf herself started writing her autobiographical notes.

I read this book in orde This book is very much a writer's look at a writer's life. I read this book in order from cover to cover, but I am not convinced this was the best way to approach it. I think it would make more sense to read the relevant chapter alongside reading the Woolf book the chapter is about. As I come to read more of Woolf's work, I think it will be useful to go back to this book and read about the context of the work.

Each chapter ends with the "aftermath" of the relevant book with extracts from contemporaneous reviews and essays.

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I found these interesting. Briggs is clearly very knowledgeable about Virginia Woolf's work and I liked the approach of getting to know a writer's life via that writer's own writings. However, at times the writing was very dry, and I did find it a little bit of a slog as a result. May 30, Maggie rated it really liked it. This is not a full biography by any means, but is wonderfully, thoughtfully and carefully dedicated toward following the emotional and intellectual life of Woolf as it merged with each of her works.

A dream to read. I will keep this book close. The insights into her process were exciting to read; I will be applying some to the draft of my novel I'm working on now. Aug 11, Mary rated it it was ok Shelves: I love the idea of a biography; to glimpse into someone's life and learn who they were and what made them tick. But that can all be ruined by a boring and unengaging biographer.

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There were enough fascinating things in Woolf's life that I shouldn't have been fighting sleep through the whole book. I couldn't get past Brigg's voice in my head, endlessly discussing the most inane aspects of her subject's life. Yeah, I skipped stuff when I thought I wouldn't finish the book if I kep I love the idea of a biography; to glimpse into someone's life and learn who they were and what made them tick. Yeah, I skipped stuff when I thought I wouldn't finish the book if I kept fighting over this awful chapter.

If I were reading Woolf's works in chronological order, I think I'd enjoy this a lot more. The author chose to explain Virginia's life in the context of which novel she was writing at the time. It's tough to understand the life context of each novel she wrote without reading them beforehand. Lesson learned--I might just read them now. However, after all that I'm a huge sucker for tactile experiences.

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It was a pleasure to turn the pages without lifting my fingers off the paper--I just slid them to one side and then the other Aug 15, Kris Underwood rated it really liked it. Woolf has survived into the 21st century as a literary great, holding her place among the men of her time and still, among the writers of today.

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Briggs focuses more on the writing itself: Scrupulously researched and well laid out with a fresh perspective, Virginia Woolf: Aug 05, Andrea rated it it was ok Shelves: Others have written excellent reviews of this book. I'll add my personal response which is 1 I liked the format of moving through Woolf's life based on the chronology of the books she was writing. Off to read hopefully better written biographies about this unique writer. Mar 04, Melissa Jackson rated it it was amazing.