Monday Muse – Virginia Woolf

It can be tragic to see someone with such a great talent who suffers so much. Virginia Woolf battled mental illness for most of her life and yet created some of the most influential writing of the 20th century.

She was a key figure in the genre of Modernism, where writers abandoned form and played with language. Modernists explored the inner angst of the human condition while purposefully trying to confuse you with stream of consciousness writing. The world no longer made sense to the Modernist writer. How could it, after the devastation of the first world war?

Mental illness is something close to my heart, as any regular readers of my blog know, and even today it is not dealt with as much tact as it should be. Imagine then what it would be like at the turn of the 20th century to be diagnosed with something like manic depression. Woolf had few tools at her disposal with which to battle her inner demons. She lost weeks of precious work time due to her bouts with mania or with depression, and she was plagued, during these times of madness, by voices in her head. However, her devoted husband Leonard shepherded her through these difficult periods in her life and she seemed to bounce back and produce another great work of literature.

However, on March 28, 1941, as World War Two raged on, Woolf left her husband two suicide notes, walked to the River Ouse, filled her pockets with heavy stones, and drowned herself. With her suicide, the world lost one of its most gifted voices. She left a canon of experimental, stunning fiction and a collection of insightful and incisive nonfiction and criticism. Her belief that women writers face two hindrances-social inferiority and economic dependence-was a revolutionary stance to take in the twenties when A Room of One’s Own was published. Even more so was her assertion that all women deserved equal opportunity in education and career. Despite having had no educational opportunity herself, Virginia Woolf became, through her own efforts, one of the best writers of the twentieth century.

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I can’t take all the credit for this post; I used these sources for information:

Spark Notes

Virginia Woolf Society

My only excuse is, I’m very tired!

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