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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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PRINTED FROM LIVERPOOL SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.liverpool.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Liverpool University Press, 2020. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in LSO for personal use.date: 03 June 2020

“A Verbal Life on the Lips of the Living”: Virginia Woolf, Ellen Terry, and the Victorian Contemporary

“A Verbal Life on the Lips of the Living”: Virginia Woolf, Ellen Terry, and the Victorian Contemporary

Chapter:
(p.29) “A Verbal Life on the Lips of the Living”: Virginia Woolf, Ellen Terry, and the Victorian Contemporary
Source:
Virginia Woolf and Her Female Contemporaries
Author(s):

Jeffrey M. Brown

Publisher:
Liverpool University Press
DOI:10.5949/liverpool/9781942954088.003.0005

This essay discusses Virginia Woolf’s enduring fascination with the life of the acclaimed Victorian actor, Ellen Terry. Drawing principally on Woolf’s biographical writing on Terry—including both extant versions of her sole play, Freshwater, as well as a 1941 retrospective essay on Terry’s career—it argues that Woolf’s understanding of Terry pivots from a historical awareness of Terry’s position within the cultural and aesthetic divide between Victorianism and high modernism to a more challenging recognition of Terry’s persistent and ephemeral contemporaneity. In her reconceiving of Freshwater and her late essay, Woolf revises her own aesthetic ideals in order to show that Terry’s mode of acting provides an antidote to the ossification of value in the imprimaturs associated with modernist forms of celebrity.

Keywords:   Virginia Woolf, Ellen Terry, Freshwater, Celebrity, Acting, Imprimatur, Victorianism, Contemporaneity

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