(1882-1941), was a major British novelist, critic, and essayist. She was a leading figure
in the literary movement called modernism. Woolf used a literary technique called stream
of consciousness to reveal the inner lives of her characters and to criticize the social
system of the day. See NOVEL (New directions in the novel).
Woolf's most famous novel, To the Lighthouse (1927), examines the life of an upper-middle
class British family. It shows the fragility of human relationships and the collapse of
social values. Some readers believe the portrait of Mr. Ramsay in this novel resembles
Woolf's father, the critic Leslie Stephen.
Woolf's other fiction includes the novels Jacob's Room (1922) and Mrs. Dalloway (1925), in
which she studies the world of characters tragically affected by World War I. Orlando
(1928) and Flush (1933) are fanciful biographies. In The Waves (1931), interior monologues
reveal the personalities of the six central characters. Unlike other modernists, whose
politics were right-wing and often profascist, Woolf was a feminist, socialist, and
pacifist. She expressed her theories in the essays A Room of One's Own (1929) and Three
Guineas (1938). Woolf's last novels, The Years (1939) and Between the Acts (1941), are as
experimental as her earlier work.
Virginia Stephen was born in London. In 1912, she married editor and writer Leonard Woolf.
She belonged to the Bloomsbury Group, an informal group of intellectuals (see BLOOMSBURY
GROUP). With her husband, Woolf founded the Hogarth Press, which published works of noted
modern writers. Her reputation has soared with the publication of several volumes of
letters and diaries and her critical essays.