Breaking the surface of silence : the essays and journalism of Virginia Woolf
This thesis investigates the non-fiction of Virginia Woolf, a writer who is viewed primarily as a novelist. In so doing it shifts the critical perspective on Woolf as a literary figure and on her often overlooked non-fiction works. Through an analysis of the historical and material circumstances which conditioned her non-fiction — looking at the prose as 'journalism' — it locates Woolf in the culture of the period known as Modernism, thus positioning her as a figure capable of both commenting upon, and revealing, the relationship between 'literature' and 'literary history'. Through an analysis of Woolf's textual practice — looking at the prose as literary 'essays' — this thesis examines the relationship between gender and genre in writing, determining whether Woolf succeeds in creating a gendered subjectivity in writing. Because it is concerned with notions of culture and language in relation to a major woman writer in the twentieth century literary canon, this thesis also engages with the works of cultural and post-structural theorists, especially as they intersect with feminist literary theory. Working on Virginia Woolf as an essayist and journalist, therefore, allows the critic to audit and contribute to contemporary debates in critical theory, whilst reassessing the writings by, and construction of, a canonical woman writer.