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The Art of Literary Biography$
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John Batchelor

Print publication date: 1995

Print ISBN-13: 9780198182894

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198182894.001.0001

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Virginia Woolf and Offence

Virginia Woolf and Offence

Chapter:
(p.129) 9 Virginia Woolf and Offence
Source:
The Art of Literary Biography
Author(s):

HERMIONE LEE

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198182894.003.0010

The extracts from Virginia Woolf's writings are quite offensive. The quotations showed feelings and attitudes which are given free play in her diaries and letters and which make themselves felt, less directly but discernibly, in her published work. Today, they would certainly qualify as ‘hate speech’ or ‘fighting words’ to refer to offensive racist and sexist language in need of monitoring. Thus, Virginia Woolf is being represented as a writer who perpetrates offences. There is nothing new in the current attack on this offensiveness. There are famous examples of ‘hate speech’ against her and her elitist group from the 1920s onwards. However, since the 1960s, feminist scholars have been rescuing her from a minoritizing identification with an elite group and replacing her as a heroine of revolutionary socialist feminism in the States. Perhaps there is really not much else to be done about the offence of Woolf: allow that there are ‘less attractive attitudes’ and make the best of them.

Keywords:   Virginia Woolf, offence, feeling, attitude, hate speech, revolutionary socialist feminism

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