Becoming Virginia Woolf:
Her Early Diaries and the Diaries She Read

Barbara Lounsberry

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“Barbara Lounsberry has done for Woolf’s diaries what the diaries once did for Woolf’s novels, and what all great literary criticism seeks to do: It takes a canonical work of literature and offers an entirely new way of seeing it.”—New Republic
 
“Absorbing . . . like the diaries themselves.”—Times Literary Supplement
 
"Explores the history of Woolf's diaries, not only to reveal heretofore unremarked sources but also to trace her evolving sense of possibilities in diary-writing, possibilities which helped shape Woolf as a fiction writer. A must-read for devotees of Virginia Woolf."--Panthea Reid, author of Art and Affection: A Life of Virginia Woolf

"This revealing book gives us a diarist with greater literary range than Pepys and affords us a second pleasure: the infinitely varied voices of the diaries Virginia read. They fascinate us as they fascinate her: those writers who encouraged, warned, comforted, and trained a developing genius."--Nancy Price, author of Sleeping with the Enemy

"Lounsberry’s deeply researched and gracefully written book shows not only Woolf’s development into a great diarist but also her evolvement into the fiction and nonfiction writer revered today."--Gay Talese, author of A Writer’s Life


Encompassing thirty-eight handwritten volumes, Virginia Woolf’s diary is her lengthiest and longest-sustained work--and her last to reach the public. In the only full-length book to explore deeply this luminous and boundary-stretching masterpiece, Barbara Lounsberry traces Woolf’s development as a writer through her first twelve diaries--a fascinating experimental stage, where the earliest hints of Woolf’s pioneering modernist style can be seen.


Starting with fourteen-year-old Woolf’s first palm-sized leather diary, Becoming Virginia Woolf illuminates how her private and public writing was shaped by the diaries of other writers including Samuel Pepys, James Boswell, the French Goncourt brothers, Mary Coleridge, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Woolf’s "diary parents"--Sir Walter Scott and Fanny Burney. These key literary connections open a new and indispensable window onto the story of one of literature’s most renowned modernists.


Barbara Lounsberry is professor emerita of English at the University of Northern Iowa. She is the author of The Art of Fact: Contemporary Artists of Nonfiction and coeditor of Writing Creative Nonfiction: The Literature of Reality.
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This vital study inspires one to reread Woolf’s diaries with special attention to outside influences that helped shape her writing.
--Choice

[A] readable, insightful, and beautifully-informed examination of Woolf’s early diaries.
--Universitas

Lounsberry ultimately helps us see, through her close attention to what she calls the first three phases in Woolf’s diary-keeping, how the Virginia Woolf we know actually became that writer. This book is foundational, one the rest of us will depend on for a long time.
--Woolf Studies Annual

Lounsberry’s imaginative style contributes to the elucidation of the text . . . [her] scholarship is to be commended.
--Virginia Woolf Miscellany

Provides an especially helpful guide to Woolf’s development as a writer through her diaries . . . . a significant contribution to the discussion of Woolf’s work.
--English Literature in Transition 1880-1920

Absorbing . . . like the diaries themselves.
--Times Literary Supplement

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