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Virginia Woolf and Her Female Contemporaries$
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Julie Vandivere and Megan Hicks

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9781942954088

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: May 2017

DOI: 10.5949/liverpool/9781942954088.001.0001

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Considering Contemporaneity: Woolf and “the Maternal Generation”

Considering Contemporaneity: Woolf and “the Maternal Generation”

(p.2) Considering Contemporaneity: Woolf and “the Maternal Generation”
Virginia Woolf and Her Female Contemporaries

Mary Jean Corbett

Liverpool University Press

Building on Pierre Bourdieu’s suggestion that contests between generations structure the literary field, this essay looks closely at Virginia Woolf’s attitudes to her older female contemporaries during the early part of her career, when as a newcomer she adopted a primarily agonistic relation to them. Her repudiation of such writers as Alice Meynell and Vernon Lee helped her to secure her own exceptional status. Yet once Woolf had achieved that status, she was more able to recognize her own implication in the competitive and hierarchical structures that constitute the literary field. By juxtaposing her public and private comments on Meynell and Lee from earlier and later in her career, we can register her subsequent re-valuation of at least some of the work of “the maternal generation.” As Woolf herself aged into an older generation, that is, she revisited her earlier judgments in a new spirit.

Keywords:   Pierre Bourdieu, Virginia Woolf, Alice Meynell, Vernon Lee, generations, literary field

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