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Title: Virginia Woolf's rewriting of Victorian women writers' lives
Author: Reus, Anne Maria
ISNI:       0000 0004 7233 6654
Awarding Body: University of Leeds
Current Institution: University of Leeds
Date of Award: 2018
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This thesis examines Virginia Woolf’s representation of the lives of nineteenth-century women writers in her journalism and essays. I study Woolf’s lifelong engagement with Jane Austen and Charlotte Brontë, as well as her sporadic interest in Mary Russell Mitford, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, George Eliot, Mary Augusta Ward and Margaret Oliphant to reveal her enduring engagement with the Victorian period and complicate her famous feminist statement that ‘we think back through our mothers if we are women’. Woolf’s literary criticism has a strong biographical component and often blends discussions of women’s literary works with extensive examinations of women’s historical and social circumstances. It is therefore perfectly situated for an analysis of the continued influence of Victorian biography and gender ideology on her writing. Based on an analysis of Woolf’s engagement with these writers’ rich biographical afterlives, I argue that Woolf’s responses to Victorian ideology are varied and complex, and range from the outright rejection of exemplary domesticity to the perpetuation of harmful stereotypes and limiting definitions of femininity. My thesis establishes that Woolf ignores changing modes of female authorship as well as the increasing professionalization of literature throughout the nineteenth century and instead prioritizes domestic amateur writers. While Woolf’s engagement with early nineteenth-century writers like Austen and Mitford often revolves around an imaginative reconstruction of their lives, her attitude towards later, better-documented writers like Brontë and Eliot is more contentious and demonstrates that Woolf used her predecessors to position herself as a modern woman writer who is not limited by her gender.
Supervisor: de Gay, Jane ; Taylor-Batty, Juliette Sponsor: Leeds Trinity University
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available