Behind the Times - Virginia Woolf in Late-Victorian Contexts
Publisher: Cornell University Press
Virginia Woolf, throughout her career as a novelist and critic, deliberately framed herself as a modern writer invested in literary tradition but not bound to its conventions; engaged with politics but not a propagandist; a woman of letters but not a "lady novelist." As a result, Woolf ignored or disparaged most of the women writers of her parents' generation, leading feminist critics to position her primarily as a forward-thinking modernist who rejected a stultifying Victorian past. In Behind the Times, Mary Jean Corbett finds that Woolf did not dismiss this history as much as she boldly rewrote it.Exploring the connections between Woolf's immediate and extended family and the broader contexts of late-Victorian literary and political culture, Corbett emphasizes the ongoing significance of the previous generation's concerns and controversies to Woolf's considerable achievements. Behind the Times rereads and revises Woolf's creative works, politics, and criticism in relation to women writers including the New Woman novelist Sarah Grand, the novelist and playwright, Lucy Clifford; the novelist and anti-suffragist, Mary Augusta Ward. It explores Woolf's attitudes to late-Victorian women's philanthropy, the social purity movement, and women's suffrage. Closely tracking the ways in which Woolf both followed and departed from these predecessors, Corbett complicates Woolf's identity as a modernist, her navigation of the literary marketplace, her ambivalence about literary professionalism and the mixing of art and politics, and the emergence of feminism as a persistent concern of her work.