Where other works of literary criticism are absorbed with the question--How to read a book?--Imagining Virginia Woolf asks a slightly different but more intriguing one: how does one read an author? Maria DiBattista answers this by undertaking an experiment in critical biography. The subject of this work is not Virginia Woolf, the person who wrote the novels, criticism, letWhere other works of literary criticism are absorbed with the question--How to read a book?--Imagining Virginia Woolf asks a slightly different but more intriguing one: how does one read an author? Maria DiBattista answers this by undertaking an experiment in critical biography. The subject of this work is not Virginia Woolf, the person who wrote the novels, criticism, letters, and famous diary, but a different being altogether, someone or something Maria DiBattista identifies as "the figment of the author." This is the Virginia Woolf who lives intermittently in the pages of her writings and in the imagination of her readers. Drawing on Woolf's own extensive remarks on the pleasures and perils of reading, DiBattista argues that reading Woolf, in fact reading any author, involves an encounter with this imaginative figment, whose distinct, stylistic traits combine to produce that beguiling phantom--the literary personality. DiBattista reveals a writer who possessed not a single personality, but a cluster of distinct, yet complementary identities: the Sibyl of Bloomsbury, the Author, the Critic, the World Writer, and the Adventurer, the last of which, DiBattista claims, unites them all.Imagining Virginia Woolf provides an original way of reading, one that captures with variety and subtlety the personality that exists only in Woolf's works and in the minds of her readers....
|Title||:||Imagining Virginia Woolf: An Experiment in Critical Biography|
|Number of Pages||:||194 Pages|
|Status||:||Available For Download|
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Imagining Virginia Woolf: An Experiment in Critical Biography Reviews
DiBattista has fashioned a critical biography out of the several different facets she sees in Virginia Woolf's personality, describing how each of the personalities impinge on her work and appear within the works. She breaks the real Woolf down into 5 parts: the sybil of the drawing room, the author, the critic, the world writer, and the adventurer. What DiBattista is giving us is another way to look at Virginia Woolf and see her in her work. A few of her novels are masterpieces, DiBattista says, precisely because they so closely combine life and form. Such fine novels as To the Lightnouse and Orlando are excellent examples of this. I thought most interesting her treatment of To the Lighthouse as a novel of adventure through the everyday activities of the mother, Mrs Ramsay, and later in the work of Lily Briscoe's restoring calm to the novel by creating a painting which becomes reality. In the end and in this way the quiet To the Lighthouse achieves triumph. It's all convincing criticism and well worth looking into. It'll make you want to become acquainted with Virginia Woolf again.
DiBattista's experiment is an interesting approach to answering the question of who, really, Virginia Woolf was. Exploring Woolf's novels, essays, diaries, and biographical works, DiBattista tries to imagine five facets of Virginia Woolf, author: the sybil of the drawing room, the author, the critic, the world writer, and the adventurer. She intersperses biographical and textual data with her own, clearly labeled, suppositions about what the texts tell us about Woolf. Overall, I found the work captivating, and it expanded my own views of Woolf as author; however, the book seems to rely more on faith in the latter chapters, the world writer and the adventurer. The greater takeaway, it seems, is not as much how DiBattista reads to construct Woolf the author, but her insights into often overlooked areas of Woolf's work. DIBattista takes a common fact and turns it into a supposition or a new reading that encourages rereading the original work and looking for other connections. For example, when talking about Woolf's early approach to writing essay criticisms, DiBattista hypothesizes:Woolf then, might be said to have pioneered reader response criticism of a very sophisticated, if unmethodocial kind (109) The reader familiar with Woolf's critical essays must take a moment and think through this, not because the idea is radical, but rather because DiBattista is touching on an area unexplored by scholars. Imagining Virginia Woolfis a book worth reading for anybody with an interest in either Woolf's life as seen and interpreted in her writing or new avenues of interest for returning to a previously read work. DiBattista's experiment may not be completely successful, but she does offer significant insight and fresh perspectives to reading Virginia Woolf.
DiBattista's writing is beautiful, even lyrical, and she approaches this scholarly book as an essayist in Woolf's spirit -- never imitating Woolf but also never withdrawing from the challenge of the apt phrase, the dancing wit, or the luminescent insight phrased in equally lustrous language. A pleasure to read, and it will infuse my own teaching of Woolf. One of my favorite lines:"A crisis of confidence lurks at the edge of every Woolfian sentence, begetting the suspense we feel in following her sinuous sentences through the many detours, self-interruptions, and self-questionings that threaten to derail her thought and her narrative altogether." I'm not sure I would have called this book a "critical biography," but "imagine Virginia Woolf" is certainly what DiBattista does here, and her vision of Woolf stays poised between personality and impersonality in the same way that Woolf's narrative voice often does. This is never a gossipy book or one that takes undue liberties with "the author" or even one that depends on the life events of the author for its magical readings of her work. I think that might be the risk of misunderstanding the title, although DiBattista does an excellent job in the introduction introducing her reader to the "figment" of the author that a reader glimpses in any text.DiBattista takes five Woolfian "personalities" and teases them out through her work. Some chapters stick to a particular segment of her life and work ("The Sibyl of the Drawing Room" is primarily about her early fiction) and some range more freely (appropriately, the chapter entitled "The Adventurer" does).
An interesting experiment: some would say it's flawed from the beginning, but I think DiBattista does some nice work in trying to find the person of Virginia Woolf in her work. The last two chapters, Woolf as 'world writer' and 'adventurer', are forced and not on par with the rest: Woolf's engagement with the Russians and Ancient Greeks does not make her a world writer in the way I would conceive of that term, and that she is an adventurer (a Columbus!) of the Human Inside becomes almost comical. Yet the points DiBattista makes are valid and interesting.