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Virginia Woolf, Europe, and PeaceVol. 2 Aesthetics and Theory$
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Peter Adkins and Derek Ryan

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781949979374

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.3828/liverpool/9781949979374.001.0001

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Woolf and Criticism in the Time of Post-Critique

Woolf and Criticism in the Time of Post-Critique

“How Should One Read a Book?” and The Common Reader

Chapter:
(p.35) Chapter Two Woolf and Criticism in the Time of Post-Critique
Source:
Virginia Woolf, Europe, and Peace
Author(s):

Jeff Wallace

Publisher:
Liverpool University Press
DOI:10.3828/liverpool/9781949979374.003.0003

Beginning with an apologetically periphrastic account of Virginia Woolf’s 1932 essay ‘How Should One Read a Book?’, this essay identifies paraphrase as a key tool within a guiding principle of ‘accompaniment’ through which Woolf, in The Common Reader, sought to inculcate a love of the reading of literature. Other recurrent tropes in Woolf’s essays concern the ‘fabric’ of texts, and of the concept of literature in general, and of the principle of construction of building rather than dismantling agreement and consensus, even to the extent of ‘submitting’ to author/text and to their authority. It is argued that the prefix ‘com’ grounds a theory of the democratic and peaceable commonality of reading practice in Woolf, and that this theory anticipates aspects of a post-critical turn in twenty-first century literary criticism, analogous to Latour’s ‘compositionism’ (2010) and located in the work of critics such Felski, Attridge, Love, and Best and Marcus on ‘surface reading’. Nevertheless, by way of Robbins’s (2017) commentary on this critical tendency, it is concluded that Woolf’s insistence upon the necessity of severe critical judgement, and hence of critique and critical distance, is itself not incompatible with a reading practice oriented towards peace and the love of reading.

Keywords:   Paraphrase, Accompaniment, Post-critique, Compositionism, Love, Pacifism

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