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Chapter 5 - The Children of Others in Woolf

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  24 June 2021

Aaron Matz
Affiliation:
Scripps College, California
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Summary

Chapter 5, “The Children of Others in Woolf,” begins by acknowledging an obvious truth: no English writer is more famous for not having children than Virginia Woolf. There can be little doubt that this is because she was a woman. But critics noting Woolf’s experience of childlessness have never made much of an effort to explain why this matters for her books. It matters a lot, for Woolf returned throughout her novels to the representation of contradictory sentiments toward the question of having children. Masterpieces like To the Lighthouse and The Waves thrum with competing expressions of yearning and distaste. The late novel The Years is explicit about the ugliness of parents’ overvaluation of their own children. Woolf’s short fiction is no less complex on this theme: “A Society” imagines a birth strike by women, while “Lappin and Lapinova” dramatizes the privations of childlessness. Woolf’s novels proposed a recurring resolution of the tension between fecundity and austerity: children were to be included in the purview of fiction, but ideally at a necessary distance, as the offspring of other people.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2021

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  • The Children of Others in Woolf
  • Aaron Matz, Scripps College, California
  • Book: The Novel and the Problem of New Life
  • Online publication: 24 June 2021
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108989718.006
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  • The Children of Others in Woolf
  • Aaron Matz, Scripps College, California
  • Book: The Novel and the Problem of New Life
  • Online publication: 24 June 2021
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108989718.006
Available formats
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Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

  • The Children of Others in Woolf
  • Aaron Matz, Scripps College, California
  • Book: The Novel and the Problem of New Life
  • Online publication: 24 June 2021
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108989718.006
Available formats
×