Beginning with a discussion of Virginia Woolf’s response to the 1918 armistice and her fictional reimagining of it in her novel The Years, this introduction sets out the importance of questions of peace and Europe to Woolf’s practices as a writer. Situating Woolf within broader literary responses to questions of war and peace, including those who supported war, such as H.G. Wells, and her involvement with the pacifism of the Bloomsbury Group, we explore Woolf’s legacy as a writer whose aesthetical innovations and theoretical interventions aimed to bring new ideas of peaceful co-existence into being. Surveying the critical legacy of Woolf as a theorist of war and of violence, we suggest that the recent turn to “weak theory” within modernist studies can benefit from Woolf’s literary pacifism and her willingness to embrace “the subjunctive, the speculative, and the counterfactual”.
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