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Virginia Woolf - Moving Beyond a Convoluted Memory of Her Parents Essay

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Virginia Woolf - Moving Beyond a Convoluted Memory of Her Parents


Why would I start with Julia Duckworth Stephen to get to Virginia Woolf? One answer is Virginia’s often quoted statement that "we think back through our mothers if we are women" (Woolf, A Room of One’s Own). Feminism is rooted not just in a response to patriarchy but also in the history of females and their treatment of each other. Part of feminism is a reevaluation of the value of motherhood.

But what does Virginia’s mother have to do with Virginia’s writing? I chose to look at the problem of inheritance by starting with Julia’s first influences on Virginia, particularly her stories for children. I then move on to portraits of mothers in Virginia's novels. This essay is not only about Virginia’s task of overcoming "the Angel in the House" but moving past a confrontational and convoluted memory of a mother, into an orderly, whole picture of females working together.

In talking about Virginia Woolf in the context of Julia Duckworth Stephen and feminism, I will start from the beginning of Virginia Stephen’s life. The idea of ‘Mother’ is a basic, recognizable concept in probably even the most primitive human cultures. Infants start separation of self and other with the body of Mother, since an infant gains a sense of ‘continuity of being’ from his or her mother’s attention. (Rosenman 12) From this definition of relationship-as-self, an infant finds her existence confirmed by feedback from her mother. In this manner, Julia is the first contact for Virginia with the rest of the world, and with all of womankind. Since Virginia will go on to have most of her important relationships with women, this is an important connection.

What kind of connection was it? V...


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...pie and Steele, ed. Julia Duckworth Stephen. Syracuse University Press. New York, 1987.

Ingram, Heather, ed. Women’s Fiction Between the Wars. "Virginia Woolf: Retrieving the Mother." St. Martin's Press. New York, 1998.

Johnsen, William. "Finding the Father:Virginia Woolf, Modernism, and Feminism." February 28, 2003. http://www.msu.edu/course/eng/492h/johnsen/CH6.htm April 16, 2003.

Lee, Hermione. Virginia Woolf. Vintage Books. New York, 1996.

Rosenmann, Ellen Bayuk. The Invisible Presence: Virginia Woolf and the Mother-Daughter Relationship. Louisiana State University Press. Baton Rouge, 1986.

Woolf, Virginia. Jacob’s Room. Penguin. London, 1992.

Mrs. Dalloway. Harcourt Brace. New York, 1981.

To The Lighthouse. Harcourt Brace. New York, 1981.

A Room of One’s Own. Harcourt Brace. New York, 1981.

The Waves. Harcourt Brace. New York, 1981.


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