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    Nünning, Vera 2017. “A Theory of the Art of Writing”: Virginia Woolf’s Aesthetics from the Point of View of Her Critical Essays. English Studies, Vol. 98, Issue. 8, p. 978.

  • Print publication year: 2000
  • Online publication date: May 2006

5 - Virginia Woolf's essays


The conversation Virginia Woolf has been having with her readers for nearly a hundred years now (her first publication was in 1904) has gone on changing, as conversations do. As a pioneer of reader-response theory, Virginia Woolf was extremely interested in the two-way dialogue between readers and writers. Books change their readers; they teach you how to read them. But readers also change books: 'Undoubtedly all writers are immensely influenced by the people who read them.' Writers must adapt to changing conditions. Books alter as they are re-read: 'Even things in a book-case change if they are alive; we find ourselves wanting to meet them again; we find them altered' ('The Modern Essay', 1922, 1925, E4, p. 220). They are read differently by different generations: 'In 1930 we shall miss a great deal that was obvious to 1655; we shall see some things that the eighteenth century ignored.' Readers, therefore, need always to be aware of themselves not as isolated individuals, but as part of 'a long succession of readers', joining in the conversation.

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The Cambridge Companion to Virginia Woolf
  • Online ISBN: 9780511999406
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