Flight of the mind: Reading Virginia Woolf reading

Maria Chiancola Glade, University of Rhode Island


Virginia Woolf was always a voracious reader, and the act of reading was for her both labor and pleasure, both an act of understanding and an act of production, and it was always already entangled with the act of writing. A record of her notes taken while reading exists, though unpublished and understudied, and these notebooks offer Woolf scholars access into the mind of the author at the moment of creative inception. Arguably, the extant sixty-seven notebooks, available at the Sussex University Library and the New York City Library's Berg Collection, offer a vast collection of material and a rich context with which to further our studies of Woolf: it is log of her reading choices, a deliberate record of what struck her while she read, her movement from one text to another, her emotional and intellectual responses to the works she read, as well as her methods and strategies for reading. This project is an analysis of those notebooks within the context of her diaries, essays, and fiction, it aims at identifying Woolf as a writerly reader, whose developing and complex value of reading as free, empowered, productive, and responsible enacts a unique theory of reading, as well as new notions of the novel, her culture, and herself. Additionally, this project links that theory and practice of reading to Woolf's published work, seeking moments in those texts that reveal Woolf's readerly strategies, which provides access to the theoretical work in her essays and fiction, the foundation of which is found in her theories of reading. Her reading notebooks illustrate Woolf's theory that reading and writing are linked activities, interpretation is an act of meaning-production and creativity not the discovery of meaning from within, and that reading is the location for one's intervention into and departure from cultural and literary discourses. Woolf is guided by a courageous instinct to create and a refusal to be subjected or to subjectify, enacting a anti-hermeneutics that denies authority, transcends aesthetic boundaries, and endorses peace.

Subject Area

Modern literature|Biographies|British and Irish literature

Recommended Citation

Maria Chiancola Glade, "Flight of the mind: Reading Virginia Woolf reading" (2010). Dissertations and Master's Theses (Campus Access). Paper AAI3451831.