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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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“Writing the history of my own times”: Virginia Woolf and the Diary

“Writing the history of my own times”: Virginia Woolf and the Diary

(p.196) “Writing the history of my own times”: Virginia Woolf and the Diary
Virginia Woolf and Heritage

Ella Ophir

Liverpool University Press

Woolf’s diary served manifold purposes; this paper addresses Woolf’s intention, explicit and sustained, to create a detailed record of the past for the future. As a diarist Woolf becomes at once archivist, historiographer, and her own posterity—both actual, in her periodic rereading of her record, and projected, in the form of “Old Virginia,” the future self she imagines sitting down to write her memoirs. Once treated largely as a mass to be mined, Woolf’s diary has now been situated as a “work” among her others. I emphasize, rather, the difference of the diary as a process and practice that became an ongoing crucible for Woolf’s thinking about the past and its representations. In creating a record of her days, Woolf becomes intimately familiar with the ideological, idiosyncratic, and aleatory nature of the historical record and, further, with the unpredictable value of its contents, as their significance shifts under the continually altering lights of time. In the periodical structure of “A Sketch of the Past,” and in Woolf’s gently ironized regard for posterity, we see the diary’s lesson on the perpetual mobility of perspective on the past.

Keywords:   Virginia Woolf, diary, history, memory, memoir, autobiography

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