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Virginia Woolf and the Common(wealth) Reader$
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Helen Wussow and Mary Ann Gillies

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780989082679

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: January 2016

DOI: 10.5949/liverpool/9780989082679.001.0001

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Woolf’s Troubled and Troubling Relationship to Race

Woolf’s Troubled and Troubling Relationship to Race

The Long Reach of the White Arm of Imperialism1

(p.165) Woolf’s Troubled and Troubling Relationship to Race
Virginia Woolf and the Common(wealth) Reader

Lisa Coleman

Liverpool University Press

In the penultimate section of Sonita Sarker's chapter, “Woolf and Theories of Postcolonialism,” published in Randall and Goldman's Virginia Woolf in Context (2012), Sarker speaks of her fantasies for future Woolf and postcolonial scholarship that could “ferry ... a figure like Woolf between the shores of the already existing to the always becoming.” One such fantasy allows that “Counterposing ‘Woolf and theories of postcolonialism’ to their various others may bring us to realize Woolf not as a fixed subject but rather as subject-effect.” Sarker takes the notion of “subject-effect” from postcolonial feminist Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak. This chapter responds to Sarker's fantasy and in accord with the knotting and weaving imagery that inhabits Spivak's metaphor for “subject-effect,” a trope that is repeated throughout Sarker's chapter as she places Woolf alongside the constellation of issues that informs postcolonial theory in search of viable points of attachment. In terms of race, the fraught category central to postcolonial theory, Woolf's relationship is both troubled and troubling, a fact noted by a number of recent commentators. Following these commentators, and in line with Sarker, the chapter explores how a topic like Woolf and race can contribute to conversations on: imperialism; Englishness; and the ongoing work of postcolonial theory—three threads that lead into (rather than out of) the labyrinth that is Woolf's relation to race.

Keywords:   Virginia Woolf, Sonita Sarker, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, subject-effect, postcolonial theory, race, imperialism, Englishness

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