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Virginia Woolf and Heritage$
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Jane deGay, Tom Breckin, and Anne Reus

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9781942954422

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: September 2018

DOI: 10.5949/liverpool/9781942954422.001.0001

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Virginia Woolf in Greece: “Curious contrasts!”: Hellenism and Englishness

Virginia Woolf in Greece: “Curious contrasts!”: Hellenism and Englishness

(p.90) Virginia Woolf in Greece: “Curious contrasts!”: Hellenism and Englishness
Virginia Woolf and Heritage

Jeanette McVicker

Liverpool University Press

A young Virginia Stephen describes the rustic beauty of Salisbury plain and its surroundings (including Stonehenge) in an early voicing of Englishness in the 1903 journal. Three years later, Virginia visits Greece and Turkey, where she begins to contrast that developing sense of Englishness with other nationalisms (German, Greek and Turkish), both resisting and appropriating the language of the tourist. In addition to helping her formulate a sense of national identity, as a woman and a writer, these trips share another aspect: they are suffused by personal experiences of loss (Leslie Stephen’s declining health and death, and Thoby’s sudden death from typhoid). A similar weaving of personal loss with issues of national identity can be detected in her diary during her second journey to Greece in the company of Leonard, Roger and Margery Fry in 1932, prompted by the deaths of Lytton Strachey and Dora Carrington, and her return to the English countryside. This paper explores the relation that these specific journeys, 30 years apart, have to Woolf’s developing sense of tradition, history, and western civilization, and her own place as a writer. The interweaving of the rustic – peasants, common people, villages and natural places – with the history of ideas allows Woolf to reimagine the legacy of heritage for her dramatically changing times. That heritage, intimately bound up with death – whether neutralized as an ancestral past or bearing the sting of the lived present – shapes the way Woolf engages with memory, beauty, and the contemporary role of the English writer.

Keywords:   Greece, archaeology, Hellenism, imperialism

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