Virginia Woolf, the War Without, the War Within
Her Final Diaries and the Diaries She Read
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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
“Lounsberry uses these [diaries] to demonstrate that as fascism flourished and dear friends died, diaries—as a lifeline and a path forward—became integral to both Woolf’s doing and her undoing. . . . Essential.”—Choice
“In her comprehensive, close readings of Woolf’s entire diary, Lounsberry significantly advances scholarship on Woolf’s most sustained literary endeavor. . . . Copiously detailed and driven by unprecedented attention to the complete diary, Lounsberry proves her points via the book’s controlling metaphor, ‘the war without, the war within’.”—The Review of English Studies
“An authoritative, close textual reading of Virginia Woolf’s diary notebooks. . . . What Woolf achieved in these thirty-eight notebook diaries, as Lounsberry shows us, is nothing less than an expansion of the boundaries of the diary form, while at the same time offering a fascinating—and at times, moving—barometer of her mental state across the years.”—Virginia Woolf Bulletin
“Lounsberry’s patient, perceptive study . . . offer[s] an education in diary reading and diary history, while providing a sure-handed guide to what may be Woolf’s most daunting work.”—Life Writing
“Lounsberry establishes how central to Woolf’s personal and creative being was diary-writing.”—Panthea Reid, author of Art and Affection: A Life of Virginia Woolf
“A tour de force. Insightfully retraces Woolf’s movement from joyful confidence to restless struggles, persuasively illustrates the antiwar nature of all of Woolf’s work during the 1930s, and movingly interprets Woolf’s last diary entry.”—Beth Rigel Daugherty, coeditor of Approaches to Teaching Woolf’s “To the Lighthouse”
In her third and final volume on Virginia Woolf’s diaries, Barbara Lounsberry reveals new insights about the courageous last years of the modernist writer’s life, from 1929 until Woolf’s suicide in 1941. Woolf turned more to her diary—and to the diaries of others—for support in these years as she engaged in inner artistic wars, including the struggle with her most difficult work, The Waves, and as the threat of fascism in the world outside culminated in World War II.
During this period, the war began to bleed into Woolf’s diary entries. Woolf writes about Hitler, Mussolini, and Stalin; copies down the headlines of the day; and captures how war changed her daily life. Alongside Woolf’s own entries, Lounsberry explores the diaries of 18 other writers as Woolf read them, including the diaries of Leo Tolstoy, Dorothy Wordsworth, Guy de Maupassant, Alice James, and André Gide. Lounsberry shows how reading diaries was both respite from Woolf’s public writing and also an inspiration for it. Tellingly, shortly before her suicide Woolf had stopped reading them completely.
The outer war and Woolf’s inner life collide in this dramatic conclusion to the trilogy that resoundingly demonstrates why Virginia Woolf has been called “the Shakespeare of the diary.” Lounsberry’s masterful study is essential reading for a complete understanding of this extraordinary writer and thinker and the development of modernist literature.
Barbara Lounsberry is professor emerita of English at the University of Northern Iowa. She is the author of Becoming Virginia Woolf: Her Early Diaries and the Diaries She Read and Virginia Woolf’s Modernist Path: Her Middle Diaries and the Diaries She Read.
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