Religion Around Virginia Woolf

By (author) Stephanie Paulsell

Paperback - £19.95

Publication date:

17 September 2019

Length of book:

248 pages


Penn State University Press

ISBN-13: 9780271084886

Virginia Woolf was not a religious person in any traditional sense, yet she lived and worked in an environment rich with religious thought, imagination, and debate. From her agnostic parents to her evangelical grandparents, an aunt who was a Quaker theologian, and her friendship with T. S. Eliot, Woolf’s personal circle was filled with atheists, agnostics, religious scholars, and Christian converts. In this book, Stephanie Paulsell considers how the religious milieu that Woolf inhabited shaped her writing in unexpected and innovative ways.

Beginning with the religious forms and ideas that Woolf encountered in her family, friendships, travels, and reading, Paulsell explores the religious contexts of Woolf’s life. She shows that Woolf engaged with religion in many ways, by studying, reading, talking and debating, following controversies, and thinking about the relationship between religion and her own work. Paulsell examines the ideas about God that hover around Woolf’s writings and in the minds of her characters. She also considers how Woolf, drawing from religious language and themes in her novels and in her reflections on the practices of reading and writing, created a literature that did, and continues to do, a particular kind of religious work.

A thought-provoking contribution to the literature on Woolf and religion, this book highlights Woolf’s relevance to our post-secular age. In addition to fans of Woolf, scholars and general readers interested in religious and literary studies will especially enjoy Paulsell’s well-researched narrative.

“[Paulsell’s] is a meditative, ‘slow-reading’ approach that enables readers to investigate Woolf’s works with restored appreciation for religious language and resonances. It builds into a dazzling survey of religion around Woolf which makes the history of ideas exciting—and revelatory.”

—Matthew Macer-Wright, Virginia Woolf Bulletin