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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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Life as Legacy: Truth, Fiction, and Fidelity of Representation in Biographical Novels Featuring Virginia Woolf

Life as Legacy: Truth, Fiction, and Fidelity of Representation in Biographical Novels Featuring Virginia Woolf

Chapter:
(p.208) Life as Legacy: Truth, Fiction, and Fidelity of Representation in Biographical Novels Featuring Virginia Woolf
Source:
Virginia Woolf and Heritage
Author(s):

Laura Cernat

Publisher:
Liverpool University Press
DOI:10.5949/liverpool/9781942954422.003.0030

This article builds on a reading of four novels which fictionalise various aspects of Virginia Woolf’s life: Michael Cunningham’s The Hours (1999), Susan Sellers’s Vanessa and Virginia (2008), and Priya Parmar’s Vanessa and Her Sister (2014), and Norah Vincent’s Adeline (2015). Using scenes or techniques from these novels as examples, I develop the binary opposition between authenticity (fidelity to facts) and what Ina Schabert called ‘poetic essentiality’ (fidelity to character) into a four-fold system of oppositions, trying to prove that the accurate use of facts and the loyal representation of personality are neither always in conjunction nor always opposed. Thus, I propose four categories instead of two: creative inaccuracy (slightly straying from the facts in order to better convey character), delusive inaccuracy (straying from the facts in such a way that what we know of Woolf’s character is altered in the fictional representation), delusive accuracy (invoking the facts without error, but assembling them in such a way as to convey the character misleadingly), and creative accuracy (inventing, but within the limits of the facts, especially applied to fantasizing dialogues, fleshing out scenes that were only schematic in the documents). Although examples from one of the four novels are used for each of the four categories, I argue that none of the strategies is employed exclusively by any novelist, which is why I conclude with a second table, depicting the connection between the four features as a continuum rather than a set of oppositions.

Keywords:   biofiction, poetic essentiality, creativity, fidelity, Michael Cunningham, Susan Sellers, Priya Parmar, Norah Vincent

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