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Outsiders Together

Outsiders Together: Virginia and Leonard Woolf

Natania Rosenfeld
Copyright Date: 2000
Pages: 232
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt7sc2h
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  • Book Info
    Outsiders Together
    Book Description:

    The marriage of Virginia and Leonard Woolf is best understood as a dialogue of two outsiders about ideas of social and political belonging and exclusion. These ideas infused the written work of both partners and carried over into literary modernism itself, in part through the influence of the Woolfs' groundbreaking publishing company, the Hogarth Press. In this book, the first to focus on Virginia Woolf's writings in conjunction with those of her husband, Natania Rosenfeld illuminates Leonard's sense of ambivalent social identity and its affinities to Virginia's complex ideas of subjectivity.

    At the time of the Woolfs' marriage, Leonard was a penniless ex-colonial administrator, a fervent anti-imperialist, a committed socialist, a budding novelist, and an assimilated Jew who vacillated between fierce pride in his ethnicity and repudiation of it. Virginia was an "intellectual aristocrat," socially privileged by her class and family background but hobbled through gender. Leonard helped Virginia elucidate her own prejudices and elitism, and his political engagements intensified her identification with outsiders in British society. Rosenfeld discovers an aesthetic of intersubjectivity constantly at work in Virginia Woolf's prose, links this aesthetic to the intermeshed literary lives of the Woolfs, and connects both these sites of dialogue to the larger sociopolitical debates--about imperialism, capitalism, women, sexuality, international relations, and, finally, fascism--of their historical place and time.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-2366-6
    Subjects: Language & Literature, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. xiii-2)
  5. INTRODUCTION: Border Cases
    (pp. 3-17)

    This study is animated by two contrary, yet intimately related, tropes: marriage and annexation. While Virginia Woolf often represents real marriages as microcosmic forms of colonization, tyranny, or warmongering, marriage as ametaphorin the writings of both Virginia and Leonard Woolf always stands for the opposite: a dialogue, in which neither subjectivity drowns out the other and both partners thrive. Their own marriage negotiated the dangers of inbuilt hierarchy through self-awareness on both sides, always leaning toward the metaphor and away from the traditionally conceived actuality.

    My focus on the relationship of Virginia and Leonard Woolf for the greater...

  6. CHAPTER I Strange Crossings
    (pp. 18-54)

    Marriage is a paradox. In legally uniting man and woman, society attempts to author a hermaphrodite: a single, ambivalent being. Yet flesh is an insuperable barrier, as is subjectivity: bodies cannot meld, nor brains join. And “falling in love” means embarking on a self-created fiction that has no simple resolution in marriage but receives there a continuation either fecund or embattled—or both. What began, often, as mutual cathexis is then, with luck, complicated and enriched through dialogue. For Leonard and Virginia Woolf, who experienced barriers to physical conjunction, true intercourse was verbal, and largely expressed through the remarkably fertile...

  7. CHAPTER II Incongruities; or, The Politics of Character
    (pp. 55-95)

    In May 1912, Leonard and Virginia sent Lytton Strachey a note that read:

    Ha! Ha!

    Virginia Stephen

    Leonard Woolf

    Having been instrumental in their relationship, Lytton would have understood this note as an engagement announcement and shared the joke—a joke, perhaps, both on him and with him. He himself had been engaged to Virginia—for a day—in 1909; her new engagement might, in recalling that earlier fiasco, naturally evoke laughter. The laugh might also be one of conquest on the part of Leonard (“Ha! Ha! I did it!”), or a conspiratorial laugh between the two men, whose scheming...

  8. CHAPTER III Links into Fences
    (pp. 96-112)

    Virginia woolf’s grand stream-of-consciousness debut wasMrs. Dalloway, the novel whose polyphonic style sweeps up characters, and readers, too, in an exhilarating flow of impressions. The famous web technique, linking the minds of disparate people, seems to defy barriers between subjectivities; indeed, the whole book seems founded upon Clarissa Dalloway’s philosophy that the self is unbounded and inheres partly in other people, other things. “Odd affinities she had with people she had never spoken to, some woman in the street, some man behind a counter—even trees, even barns” (MD153). The idea of affinity with a barn, though not...

  9. CHAPTER IV Translations
    (pp. 113-152)

    In a diary entry in August 1924, Virginia described what she saw as the difference between Leonard’s mind and hers. She begins by noting that yesterday’s mood, which she describes as “my silver mist,” is dissipating; and today

    L. has been telling me about Germany, & reparations, how money is paid. Lord what a weak brain I have—like an unused muscle. He talks; & the facts come in, & I can’t deal with them. But by dint of very painful brain exercises, perhaps I understand a little more . . . of the International situation. And L. understands it all—picks up...

  10. CHAPTER V Monstrous Conjugations
    (pp. 153-182)

    In her description of a decidedly nonandrogynous novel inA Room of One’s Own, Virginia Woolf complains of the barred and barring shadow cast over its pages by the recurrent pronoun “I.” The ego of the writer looms so large that all interest and all variety are obscured. There is no perspective apart from those of the author and his male protagonist—which are one and the same. The book is finally dull and unreadable.

    In the 1930s, a similar shadow loomed over all Europe. It was the shadow of the authoritarian proclaiming his will, his desire, his intention. He...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 183-200)
  12. Works Consulted
    (pp. 201-208)
  13. Index
    (pp. 209-215)