Was Virginia Woolf a Feminist?


In the year 2013, a hundred years after her birth, Virginia Woolf remains one of the most misunderstood and influential writers in the British canonical tradition. Generations have deconstructed her essays and novels, in an attempt to better understand her feminist aesthetics and many have questioned the ambiguity of the ideology encoded in her work.
For me, her feminist credentials are not explicit in her texts, but are affirmed in the recorded details of her life. Her involvement in the suffrage movement, estrangement from the traditional heterosexual archetype and frequent retreats into mental distress, highlight her rejection of patriarchal authority. One could argue, however, that more interesting than her endorsement of feminist ideas is an exploration of the extent to which her feminism was a conscious political decision to challenge the prevailing social (patriarchal) order. Was her feminism really given to textual primacy of her aestheticism? Arguably, it is the aesthetics of her texts which live on, but Woolf’s feminism which makes her seem more real.

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