1st Edition

Virginia Woolf’s Good Housekeeping Essays

By Christine Reynier Copyright 2019
    188 Pages
    by Routledge

    188 Pages
    by Routledge

    In the mid-twentieth century, Virginia Woolf published ‘Six Articles on London Life’ in Good Housekeeping magazine, a popular magazine where fashion, cookery and house decoration is largely featured. This first book-length study of what Woolf calls ‘little articles’ proposes to reassess the commissioned essays and read them in a chronological sequence in their original context as well as in the larger context of Woolf’s work. Drawing primarily on literary theory, intermedial studies, periodical studies and philosophy, this volume argues the essays which provided an original guided tour of London are creative and innovative works, combining several art forms while developing a photographic method. Further investigation examines the construct of Woolf’s essays as intermedial and as partaking both of theory and praxis; intermediality is closely connected here with her defense of a democratic ideal, itself grounded in a dialogue with her forebears. Far from being second-rate, the Good Housekeeping essays bring together aesthetic and political concerns and come out as playing a pivotal role: they redefine the essay as intermedial, signal Woolf’s turn to a more openly committed form of writing, and fit perfectly within Woolf’s essayistic and fictional oeuvre which they in turn illuminate.




    Woolf’s essays and their critical appraisal.

    Woolf’s essays in Good Housekeeping magazine. Composition, publication, reception

    The purpose of the book

    Part I: The Good Housekeeping Essays as Intermedial essays

    Chapter One

    The humble art of description in the ‘Six Articles on London life’


    The documentary impulse

    Practicing the art of description in ‘The Docks of London’ and ‘Oxford Street Tide’

    Renewing the art of description in Good Housekeeping magazine

    Developing the ‘critical attitude’


    Chapter Two

    The Art of photography in the Good Housekeeping essays

    ‘The Docks of London’ as an apparatus for the other essays

    The photographic method in ‘Great Men’s Houses’

    The photographic method in ‘Abbeys and Cathedrals’

    Chapter Three

    The art of architecture in the Good Housekeeping essays

    Redefining architecture as democracy in ‘This is the House of Commons’ and ‘Portrait of a Londoner’

    Intermediality and Woolf’s ethics of doubt

    Constructing the essay as an intermedial form

    Part II: ‘The Common Pool’

    Chapter Four

    Woolf’s ghosts in the Good Housekeeping essays

    Woolf’s plea for democracy: a dialogue with her forebears

    The intermedial dialogue with John Ruskin

    ‘Adaptive reuse’ and the political debates of the 1930s

    Chapter Five

    Virginia Woolf and Heritage

    Woolf’s survival theory

    Poverty as usus: the ‘common pool’

    An ethical posture?

    Poverty as an economic and aesthetic concept

    Woolf and Benjamin

    Part III Reassessing the Good Housekeeping essays

    Chapter 6

    The Good Housekeeping essays as cultural and creative essays

    The Good Housekeeping essays as part and parcel of Woolf’s essays

    The theoretical thrust of Woolf’s essays

    Woolf’s ‘humble’ theory

    Chapter Seven

    The Good Housekeeping essays at the crossroads

    The photographic turn

    Implementing the theory of usus

    Constructing history as trace

    The political turn


    The Good Housekeeping essays and The Arcades Project

    Straddling the divide between high and low culture


    Christine Reynier is Professor of English Literature at the University Paul-Valéry Montpellier3, France. She is the author of Virginia Woolf's Ethics of the Short Story (Palgrave 2009) and a number of articles on modernist writers (Ford Madox Ford, Rebecca West, Virginia Woolf, etc.). She is co-editor (with M. Duyck and M. Basseler) of Reframing the Modernist Short Story (Journal of the Short Story in English, 2015) and (with B. Coste and C. Delyfer) of Reconnecting Aestheticism and Modernism (Routledge, 2017).