Virginia Woolf’s Good Housekeeping Essays: 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Virginia Woolf’s Good Housekeeping Essays

1st Edition

By Christine Reynier


180 pages

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Hardback: 9781138321113
pub: 2018-07-04
eBook (VitalSource) : 9780429452932
pub: 2018-07-11
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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.

Table of Contents




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

About the Author

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).

About the Series

Literary Texts and the Popular Marketplace

In the past, the critics and writers who formulated the boundaries of the literary canon in British literature restricted its membership to ‘high culture’ and the ‘highbrow’. Writers whose work lies outside these selectively applied parameters of literary taste and value have been assigned to the derogatory category of ‘middlebrow’ or ‘popular’ literature. Some of these writers were rejected from the canon by their willing embrace of popular appeal, and their openness to a wide readership. Many texts were not included because they were written by women, addressed women’s concerns, or because they were concerned with middle- and working-class values and aspirations that were inimical to the literature of high culture. Other categories that have been disadvantaged by the institutional application of canonicity in British literary culture include regionality, the literature of impairment, political stance, and writers of colour.

This series offers monographs and edited collections of essays that examine the extents and effects of writing that resists the regulation of the canon. Crossing both cultural and geographic boundaries, this series brings together studies of texts, writers, readers, producers, and distributors. It will highlight current debates about the politics of mainstream readerships and media, about the designation of audiences and material methods of circulation, and will address contemporary critical concerns. By attending to how these texts resist the ‘high’ cultural imperative the works in this series make it possible to learn how culture is commodified for particular classes, and the role that gender and social class play in the production of those categories.

Manuscripts should be in the range of 80,000 to 100,000 words. Proposals should be eight to ten pages in length and should include a brief overview of the relevant scholarship in the field, the contribution which your work will make, a breakdown of the contents by chapter, an account of the number and type of illustrations, a brief survey of competing works, to whom the proposed book could be marketed, and the intended audience. Proposals should include a minimum of two sample chapters.

Please send all queries and proposals to the series editors, Kate Macdonald ( and Ann Rea (, for preliminary review.

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