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Virginia Woolf: Writing the World$
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Pamela L. Caughie and Diana L. Swanson

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780990895800

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: January 2016

DOI: 10.5949/liverpool/9780990895800.001.0001

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Death in the Air: Virginia Woolf and Sylvia Townsend Warner in World War II

Death in the Air: Virginia Woolf and Sylvia Townsend Warner in World War II

(p.76) Death in the Air: Virginia Woolf and Sylvia Townsend Warner in World War II
Virginia Woolf: Writing the World

Maud Ellmann

Liverpool University Press

This essay begins with a brief sketch of Sylvia Townsend Warner’s career, highlighting some of her affinities to Woolf. The following section examines how Woolf’s The Years responds to the “dead bodies and ruined houses” of war by disrupting the protocols of historical narrative. One such disruption consists of the preludes to each section inserted in the late stages of the novel’s agonizing composition. This essay considers what these preludes reveal about war and air. In WWII, war consists of battles in the air and for the air, in which the very medium we breathe becomes the instrument of our destruction. Placing Warner’s diaries and short stories in dialogue with Woolf, this essay examines how Woolf and Warner remind us of the atmosphere of war—an atmosphere in which the bombing raids can scarcely be distinguished from the weather.

Keywords:   Sylvia Townsend Warner, Virginia Woolf, The Years, New Yorker short stories, WWII, Historical narrative, Weather, Radio, Aerial bombardment

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