Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


This thesis examines the biographies of Virginia Woolf written between 1941 (the year of her death) and the present, focusing first on the myriad of identities constructed for Woolf by biographers and then on the concepts of subjectivity which Woolf herself presents in autobiographical works.;Although contemporary biographical and autobiographical theorists agree that the authentic self is impossible to locate or inscribe, early biographers of Woolf sought to establish a unitary identity for their subject. Aileen Pippett begins this tradition by presenting Woolf as a literary icon to be worshipped from afar; Leonard Woolf and Quentin Bell, while continuing to celebrate Woolf as artist, radically undercut this praise with their dramatic portrayals of Woolf as fragile invalid, victim of unpredictable attacks of "madness." With only a few exceptions, these two biographers, for several decades, profoundly influence Woolf biographers who follow them.;Psychoanalytic biographers following Leonard Woolf and Bell, such as Shirley Panken and Thomas Caramagno, seize on the physical, emotional and mental difficulties which have already been outlined, reinterpreting them as psychological disorders such as Oedipal crises, manic-depressive illness and masochism. Particularly evident is an overemphasis on the periods of time during which Woolf was indeed ill, and a marked underemphasis on her courage and her accomplishments. Fortunately, a few biographers, such as Roger Poole, Stephen Trombley and Leon Edel, call these interpretations, particularly their patriarchal bias, into question.;Feminist biographers, such as Louise DeSalvo, continue to interrogate the entrenched view of Virginia Woolf as the madwoman of Bloomsbury, drawing attention to her victimisation by patriarchal forces in her life: her father, her stepbrothers, her husband and her doctors. Furthermore, these biographers redefine Woolf as biographical subject: she is presented as capable, iconoclastic, and evolving. A study of Woolf' s own construction of self in her memoirs and her diaries reveals her apparent preference for the amorphous and multiple selves which emerge in feminist renditions of her life-history. In fact, these biographies point to a continuing revolutionising of both the auto/biographical subject and the auto/biography itself.



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