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Why should you read Virginia Woolf? - Iseult Gillespie


7,535 Questions Answered

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How best can we understand the internal experience of alienation? In both her essays and her fiction, Virginia Woolf shapes the slippery nature of subjective experience into words, while her characters frequently lead inner lives that are deeply at odds with their external existence. Iseult Gillespie helps make sense of these disparities to prepare you for the next time you read Virgina Woolf.

Additional Resources for you to Explore

Virginia Woolf was a writer who pursued the difficult question of how to put our innermost thoughts into words. The difficulty of putting patterns of thought into words was a key concern amongst the Bloomsbury Group and Modernist writers in general. Click here for a useful genealogy of the Bloomsbury group, and visit this page for an overview of Modernism.

Woolf’s fluctuating mental states greatly informed her creative endeavors, and she wrote extensively of the ways in which states from loneliness to mischief shaped her work. Her letters and diaries form an important part of her legacy, and give us an insight into the great mind behind some of the most important Modernist literature and the life Woolf lived. Find extracts of her diary here. The one surviving recording of her voice and rare photographs can be found here.

In the above recording, Woolf states that “words belong to each other” - words only make meaning by being combined in new ways. She combined words in new and surprising ways in order to write of topics that had not been the focus of mainstream literature previously - gender and sexuality, depression, privacy, boredom. Compared to most women in her day, Woolf was in a unique position to consider these questions that became central to Modernism. Read about her extraordinary upbringing and education here. Woolf drew inspiration for Orlando from her friend and lover Vita Sackville-West. Read more about their relationship here.

In addition to writing fiction and nonfiction, Woolf supported many careers and advanced the circulation of experimental writing through her work with the Hogarth Press, founded with her husband Leonard. She also published her own work under Hogarth, and these editions include beautiful cover illustrations by her sister Vanessa.

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TED-Ed Animations feature the words and ideas of educators brought to life by professional animators. Are you an educator or animator interested in creating a TED-Ed Animation? Nominate yourself here »

Meet The Creators

  • Educator Iseult Gillespie
  • Director Sarah Saidan
  • Animator Mai Nguyen, Eve Deroeck
  • Compositor Marie Vieillevie
  • Composer Stephen LaRosa
  • Sound Designer Stephen LaRosa
  • Associate Producer Jessica Ruby
  • Content Producer Gerta Xhelo
  • Editorial Producer Alex Rosenthal
  • Narrator Susan Zimmerman

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