1st Edition

Virginia Woolf’s Unwritten Histories Conversations with the Nineteenth Century

By Anne Besnault Copyright 2022
    266 Pages
    by Routledge

    266 Pages
    by Routledge

    Virginia Woolf’s Unwritten Histories explores the interrelatedness of Woolf’s modernism, feminism and her understanding of history as a site of knowledge and a writing practice that enabled her to negotiate her heritage, to find her place among the moderns as a female artist and intellectual, and to elaborate her poetics of the "new": not as radical rupture but as the result of a process of unwriting and rewriting "traditional" historiographical orthodoxies. Its central argument is that unless we comprehend the genealogy of Woolf’s historical thought and the complexity of its lineage, we cannot fully grasp the innovative thrust of her attempt to "think back through our mothers." Bringing together canonical texts such as Orlando (1928), A Room of One’s Own (1929), Three Guineas (1938) or Between the Acts (1941) and under-researched ones — among which stand Woolf’s essays on historians and reviews of history books and her pieces on literary history and nineteenth-century women’s literature — this book argues that Woolf’s textual "conversations" with nineteenth-century writers, historians and critics, many of which remain unexplored, are interwoven with her historiographical poiesis and constitute the groundwork for her alternative histories and literary histories: "unwritten," open-textured, unacademic and polemical counter-narratives that keep track of the past and engage politically with the future.



    List of Abbreviations



    Part I: "Historians’ Histories" and Woolf’s New Historiography


    Chapter 1: Prescribed Books and the Possibilities of Knowledge: Making Sense of Tradition

    Chapter 2: History’s Readability: Woolf and Romantic Historiography

    Chapter 3: Rewriting History: Creating Contexts for Change

    Chapter 4: "Why?": The 1930s and History in the Present


    Part II: Virginia Woolf’s Unwritten Literary Histories


    Chapter 5: The Critic as Historiographer: Blurring Illusory Boundaries

    Chapter 6: Literary History as a Laboratory: Practices of Knowledge

    Chapter 7: Virginia Woolf, Fiction and the "Woman Question"

    Chapter 8: Our Perfect and Imperfect Mothers: Woolf's Nineteenth-Century Counter-Narratives





    Anne Besnault is Senior Lecturer at the University of Rouen and the Vice president of the French Virginia Woolf Society (SEW). In 1997, she defended her Ph.D. dissertation "The Short Stories by Katherine Mansfield, Virginia Woolf and Elizabeth Bowen" at the University of Paris III-Sorbonne Nouvelle and obtained first class honours. She is the author of Katherine Mansfield: La voix du Moment (1997), and co-editor of Construire le sujet. Textes réunis et édités par Anne Besnault-Levita, Natalie Depraz et Rolf Wintermeyer (2014) and Beyond the Victorian/Modernist Divide : Remapping the Turn-of-the-Century Break in Literature and the Visual Arts (Routledge, 2018).