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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: 17 September 2021

Breaking the Peace

Breaking the Peace

The Darwinian Politics of Virginia Woolf’s “creature, Dictator”

(p.129) Chapter Eight Breaking the Peace
Virginia Woolf, Europe, and Peace

Saskia McCracken

Liverpool University Press

This chapter examines Woolf’s feminist, pacifist, and anti-fascist engagement with Darwin’s work on dictators through the trope of the worm, suggesting how we might we read both Woolf and Darwin through the lens of animal studies. McCracken reads Woolf’s ‘creature Dictator’ and related worm imagery back through Charles Darwin’s writings both on worms and on nineteenth-century Argentinian Dictator General Juan Manuel de Rosas, whom he met during his voyage on the HMS Beagle. According to Darwin, Rosas led a ‘war of extermination’ against indigenous peoples, yet ‘disapproved of peace having been broken’. This chapter argues that Woolf re-appropriates the Social Darwinist rhetoric of the 1930s, and twists animal imagery to feminist advantage.  The chapter also analyses Woolf’s silkworm and related mulberry tree imagery in Three Guineas through Darwin’s interest in breeding silkworms. Placing this imagery in the context of 1930s social Darwinist silk production discourse under the Third Reich, McCracken, argues that, contrary to critics who read her silkworm as symbolic of female creativity, Woolf’s writing intimately connects Darwinian silkworm breeding imagery and fascist politics.

Keywords:   Charles Darwin, Sericulture, Worm, Fascism, Pacifism

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