Why is Virginia Woolf still modern?

    The name of Virginia Woolf It is linked both to a current of literary renewal that changed prose at the beginning of the 20th century and to feminism, of which it is considered one of the main pioneers. He was born on January 25, 1882 in Londons as Adeline Virginia Stephen, daughter of a historian and a nurse. She was educated at home, read many of the volumes in her family’s Victorian library, and as a young woman, she is remembered as a creative and curious girl: she invented a newspaper to tell her family’s news called the Hyde Park Gate News.

    But soon the problems began suffered sexual abuse on her half-siblings’ side, her mother died when she was a teenager (causing her first mental problems), and two years later, another half-sister. She studied at King’s College, where she came into contact with a group of feminists who were attempting educational reforms. The death of her father caused another mental crisis that led her to be admitted for the first time.

    The three Woolf brothers moved to Bloomsbury, where Virginia met a number of Bloomsbury Group intellectuals: the art critic Clive Bell, the novelist EM Forster, the painter Duncan Grant, the biographer Lytton Strachey, the economist John Maynard Keynes, and the essayist Leonard Woolf, whom she married in 1912. Three years later she published her first novel, ‘Journey’s End’, in which he already experimented with literary tools. In 1917, the Woolfs created their own publishing house, Hogarth Press, where they published some of their works, as well as those of Sigmund Freud, Katharine Mansfield, and TS Eliot.

    After moving to the country, to Rodmell, in 1919, Woolf published ‘Night and Day’, set in Edwardian England, and in 1922 ‘Jacob’s Room’ would arrive. It was a very important year for her, because she met the writer, poet and landscape artist Vita Sackville-West, muse of his novel ‘Orlando’ who would first become his best friend and then his lover. Their relationship ended but they were friends until Virginia’s death. His next work was ‘Mrs Dalloway‘, for which he received rave reviews, and in 1928 he published ‘To the lighthouse’ and ‘Orlando’, in 1928.

    ‘A room of my own‘ (1929) would be the essay that marked his name, in which reflects on the economic and personal independence that women need to be able to write quietly. In 1931 he would publish a mixture of play and poetry, ‘Waves’, while in 1937 his last novel published in life would arrive, ‘The years’, about the history of a family throughout a generation.

    His work as an intellectual led him not only to write novels and essays, but also to give lectures at colleges and universities and to write numerous stories. She was recognized for her ability to balance dreamlike scenes with high-tension plots, but his enormous success did not prevent him from continuing to suffer from mental health problems. He committed suicide in 1941 and, although she spent a few years in oblivion, her name was recovered in the feminist wave of the 70s and since then it has not gone out of style.

    virginia woolf in a 1928 portrait

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    Why is Virginia Woolf still modern?

    For being a pioneer of feminism

    In her books, Virginia Woolf he was interested in the inner life of women, for your emotions. And he did it not only expressing them, but writing sentences that arose from their thoughts. The British author also knew how to be progressive within feminism and talk, in ‘A room of one’s own’, about something that would be talked about many years later: the difference in salary between men and women that did not allow them to be independent.

    In ‘Three Guineas’ (1938), a letter in which she answers a question about how to avoid war, she assures that it is not just about pacifism, but about valuing her political ideas that, just because she is a woman, are not taken into account. Wrote: “Behind us is the patriarchal system; the private house, with its nullity, its immorality, its hypocrisy, its servility. Before us is the public world, the professional system, with its possessiveness, its jealousy, its pugnacity, its greed.”

    for his lifestyle

    At the time Virginia Woolf lived, women had few rights, but she knew how to turn that difficulty into a strength. She was unable to participate in the First World War, a warlike event that all her contemporaries wrote about, but she turned the mishap around in ‘Jacob’s Room’, where she spoke about how the war had affected domestic life. Although she was criticized for not talking about the conflict more directly, she continued to do what she believed.

    In addition to openly acknowledging his relationship with his friend Vita Sackville-West, he had a really modern point of view on gender identity – something he defined as fluid. In a letter he explains that gender desires are often a source of violence, as he developed in ‘End of journey’. On the other hand, he defended the power of the individual to have their own criteria on anything, above what was established, something of which she herself was an example because she always maintained her points of view despite being criticized for not having a university education.

    virginia woolf portrait of the english novelist and essayist

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    For the literary revolution of his works

    Many of his novels and essays were very renovating the prose of his time. For example, in ‘End of Journey’ (1915) he experimented with the most unusual narrative perspectives, dreamlike states, and free-associative prose. While ‘Jacob’s Room’ (1922) was praised for its modernist touches, ‘Mrs. Dalloway’ raised issues such as the situation of women in her time, mental health and homosexuality in post-Great War England.

    ‘Al faro’ (1928) is considered revolutionary for its flow-of-consciousness narrative, while in ‘The waves’ (1931) tworked with the monologues of six different characters, some texts that ‘come and go’ like the waves of the sea, that sometimes come together and sometimes move away from each other. Virginia Woolf, in short, tried to create a new literary variant of what authors like William Faulkner or James Joyce, the so-called “stream of consciousness” in which interior monologues are transcribed.

    Because of its relationship with mental health

    His mental problems were very relevant to trace the consciences of his characters and to be able to write from their minds. She herself exposed them in an essay entitled ‘The Illness’ (1925) and experts have described several of her episodes: suicide attempts, depression, violent agitation, visions of her dead mother, delusions, etc. Some have diagnosed Virginia Woolf as suffering from manic-depressive psychosis and others as bipolar disorder, but at that time there was no treatment other than rest.

    Leonard and Virginia Woolf, worried about the development of the Second World War (their London house had been destroyed in a bombing) decided that they would commit suicide together if Germany invaded England, because Leonard could be in danger as a Jew. Virginia grew increasingly desperate from the events of the war, and by March 1941, she could no longer overcome them. He put on his coat, filled his pockets with stones and waded into the River Ouse. They found his body after three weeks.

    Three books to discover it

    ‘Mrs Dalloway’

    ‘Mrs Dalloway’



    ‘Mrs. Dalloway’, published in 1925, was Virginia Woolf’s fourth novel but the first to strongly impact readers and literary criticism for the narrative revolution that appeared in it. It takes place on a day in 1923 and tells us about the life of Clarissa, a woman from high society, married to a Conservative MP and mother of a teenage girl, who is going to throw a party that night. In parallel, we are told another story, that of a young man with mental health problems who has just returned from the war and who will have a tragic end.

    It is not an easy work to read; You have to be very relaxed and attentive because the story is told from the minds of the characters. The language used by Woolf expresses very well how the mind does not have a linear thought, which sometimes makes it complicated, but without a doubt it is a very interesting book.






    Orlando is actually Vita Sackwille-West, one of Woolf’s best friends and also her lover. This novel takes place over three centuries and begins when Orlando, a young nobleman from the England of Elizabeth I, awaits a visit from the Queen. Then, when he is already an ambassador in Constantinople, one day he wakes up and discovers that he is a woman, and the play focuses on ironically narrating the role of women in the 18th and 19th centuries.

    The final part of the novel takes place in 1928, with Orlando already converted into a wife and mother, in a year in which full female suffrage is approved and which seems to begin a period full of hope for women. A work of art full of feminine sensibility that offers a new perspective on the role of women in recent centuries and addresses the issue of change and gender identity from an interesting point of view.

    ‘A room of one’s own’

    ‘A room of one’s own’



    Virginia Woolf’s most important feminist essay is ‘A Room of One’s Own’, which brings together all the reflections she made in 1928 during a series of conferences on the relationship between women and literature. In it, she goes through the literary history of women and then goes on to try to answer a question: what do women need to write good novels? There is only one possible answer. ‘A room of one’s own’, that is, economic and personal independence.

    Its intention is to vindicate women’s access to a culture hitherto unique to men, in a patriarchal society like the English. Fascinating and up-to-date like few others, ‘A Room of One’s Own’ is essential for understanding the core of Woolf’s feminist thought and that of many women of her time.

    and a movie

    ‘The hours’

    the hours movie nicole kidman


    Stephen Daldry skillfully brought to life Michael Cunningham’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name, which tells how ‘Mrs. Dalloway’ has influenced three different women in three different historical eras, women who have had to deal with suicide. One of them is Virginia Wool herself (Nicole Kidman, who won the Oscar for best actress for this role), who appears in the film on the days when she writes that same play. Laura Brown (Julianne Moore) lives in 1949 and behind her facade of a happy wife hides a tremendously boring woman. Finally Clarissa Vaughan (Meryl Streep) lives with a woman after divorcing her husband, a bisexual poet with AIDS.


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