Hellenism and Loss in the Work of Virginia Woolf
Taking up Virginia Woolf's fascination with Greek literature and culture, this book explores her engagement with the nineteenth-century phenomenon of British Hellenism and her transformation of that multifaceted socio-cultural and political reality into a particular textual aesthetic, which Theodore Koulouris defines as 'Greekness.' Woolf was a lifelong student of Greek, but from 1907 to1909 she kept notes on her Greek readings in the Greek Notebook, an obscure and largely unexamined manuscript that contains her analyses of a number of canonical Greek texts, including Plato's Symposium, Homer's Odyssey, and Euripides' Ion. Koulouris's examination of this manuscript uncovers crucial insights into the early development of Woolf's narrative styles and helps establish the link between Greekness and loss. Woolf's 'Greekness,' Koulouris argues, enabled her to navigate male and female appropriations of British Hellenism and provided her with a means of articulating loss, whether it be loss of a great Hellenic past, women's vocality, immediate family members, or human civilization during the formative decades of the twentieth century. In drawing attention to the centrality of Woolf's early Greek studies for the elegiac quality of her writing, Koulouris maps a new theoretical terrain that involves reassessing long-established views on Woolf and the Greeks.
'... [a] thoughtful and illuminating study of Woolf's complex and distinctive engagements not just with Greek but with British Hellenism... Koulouris has given us a useful and stimulating contribution not just to Woolf criticism but to the emerging field of classical reception studies.' English 'Koulouris does a superb job of contextualizing Woolf's Greek Notebook in relation to Hellenism... The depth of archival research, the rich dialectical relationship he establishes between Woolf's Greek Notebook and "British Hellenism," and the account of Greek language and literature as especially crucial to Woolf's early conceptions of her own aesthetic make Hellenism and Loss in the Work of Virginia Woolf an important contribution both to Woolf studies and to Modernist studies in general.' Pacific Coast Philology 'The book provides a robust introduction to Hellenism and its pervading presence in the Victorian era in which Virginia Stephen was born, as well as a fascinating consideration of her entries in the slight Greek Notebook... Koulouris successfully gets us thinking, and he allows us to see the Greek Notebooks, with its relatively few entries, as a tantalising opportunity for Woolf scholars - as if it might be a magic key to open new understandings of the Woolf who continues to live, immortalised in the words that enliven her anew each time we return to them.' Virginia Woolf Bulletin 'The range of Woolf criticism has illustrated Woolf’s narrative techniques, especially in the novels, are so much a product of her vast reading of literary history that is impossible to definitively define their origins. Koulouris, however, has certainly shown that the Greeks were among her earliest and most powerful influences.' Tulsa Studies in Women’s Literature 'This study offers a welcome reevaluation of Woolf’s relation to the Greeks and to British Hellenism and the consequences of her private study on her political views and aesthetics.' Virginia Woolf Miscellany 'Koulou