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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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PRINTED FROM LIVERPOOL SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.liverpool.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Liverpool University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in LSO for personal use.date: 22 September 2021

Reason, Ridicule, and Indifference

Reason, Ridicule, and Indifference

The Rhetoric of Nonviolence and Collective Security in the Essays of Virginia and Leonard Woolf

(p.51) Chapter Three Reason, Ridicule, and Indifference
Virginia Woolf, Europe, and Peace

Charles Andrews

Liverpool University Press

This essay provides suggestions for integrating the interdisciplinary field of peace studies and literary analysis by attending to rhetorical strategies in Leonard and Virginia Woolf’s nonfiction. The field of peace studies often relies on the social sciences and data-driven analytics, borrowing from the humanities only for vague ideas like “inspiration” and “creativity.” Andrews argues that the Woolfs’ rhetorical form offers additional resources to peace-activist writers. With a nod to the “political formalist” turn of scholars such as Caroline Levine and Joseph North, Andrews examines the ways that the formal features of the Woolfs’ writing enact their antiwar politics. Leonard Woolf insisted that his strategies for antiwar internationalism were based in reason rather than utopianism, and his prose style displays that “reasonableness” by using the tropes of western, academic argumentation. By contrast, Virginia Woolf’s circular, elliptical, and repetitive style in Three Guineas resists the combative, western academic models in which opposing views are demolished through rhetorical assaults and stockpiles of evidence. The Woolfs were united in their use of ridicule, a device that sometimes seems antithetical to nonviolent speech. Ridicule, however, holds the potential to be the art of “making ridiculous,” of pointing out the absurdity and foolishness of over-inflated, self-serious political views or actors. In this capacity it is a rhetorical form that deflates and redirects political extremity without rising to the level of its violence. As Andrews shows, the Woolfs’ writing suggests a range of options for peace-activist writing today and their rhetorical sophistication extends our capacities for a pacifist imagination.

Keywords:   Rhetoric, Nonviolence, Antiwar, Internationalism, Pacifism, Ridicule

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