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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

Between Aesthetic and Political Theory

Between Aesthetic and Political Theory

Virginia Woolf’s Utopian Pacifism

(p.203) Chapter Thirteen Between Aesthetic and Political Theory
Virginia Woolf, Europe, and Peace

Caroline Pollentier

Liverpool University Press

This chapter interrogates the utopian troping of Virginia Woolf's pacifism through a theoretical, historical, and rhetorical perspective. At a time when peace projects were condemned as utopian, Woolf’s choice to mobilize utopian tropes was not ideologically neutral. The chapter will first map out the utopia/reality divide that structured the interwar fields of international relations, focusing on the theoretical debate opposing Leonard Woolf to E. H. Carr. A similar unease around utopias became manifest in the interwar literary field, as the upsurge in peace utopias coincided with a growing critique of utopian fiction. This chapter argues that this aesthetic and political polemic between fact and fiction was at the core of Woolf’s writings on peace. Close readings of Three Guineas and "Thoughts on Peace in an Air Raid" will show how Virginia Woolf deconstructed the duality between "utopia and reality" that polarized pacifist discourses of the time. In a mock-utopian tone quite distinct from serious fictional peace projects, Woolf critiqued planned utopias of world peace, such as those devised by H. G. Wells, but also moved away from Leonard Woolf's political idealism. Beyond any fixed oppositions between idealism and realism, between "fact" and "dream," she renegotiated the materiality of hope by repurposing press cuttings and other "fragmentary notes" into archives of the future. 

Keywords:   Utopia, Pacifism, Virginia Woolf, Leonard Woolf, E. H. Carr, International Relations, The League of Nations

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