Critical Insights: Virginia Woolf & 20th Century Women Writers Review

“Through her modern novels and nonfiction, Virginia Woolf has had a great impact on women writers of the last
century. In Virginia Woolf & 20th Century Women Writers, this influence is probed by scholars in essays about the
work of more than a dozen women writers of fiction, autobiography, or poetry. The first third of the book, “Critical
Contexts,” discusses Woolf’s oeuvre against the backdrop of social, historical, and political events of her time, and her
critical reception. “Critical Insights” then explores the works of later authors who, to paraphrase Woolf’s feminist
masterpiece, defied the patriarchy and made “a room of their own” in which to write about what mattered to them.
These are authors who challenged war, colonialism, traditional gender roles, ethnic and racial stereotypes, not to
mention literary conventions of narrative, style, theme, place, and temporality. The writing throughout is clear without
lapsing deeply into theory or pedantry.
Woolf’s major works appear throughout the volume. For example, in “Narrative Forms and Feminist (Dis)Contents:
An Intertextual Reading of the Prose of Toni Morrison and Virginia Woolf,” Sandra Cox compares the careers of both
authors, looking in particular at Mercy vs. To the Lighthouse and Playing in the Dark vs. Three Guineas. In “The
Woolf Sting: Sylvia Plath Annotating Virginia Woolf,” Amanda Golden discusses the poet’s marginal notations in her
personal copies of Woolf’s books and mentions of Woolf’s writings in her journals and class notebooks, all of which
inform Plath’s writing process. And in “Raced Bodies, Corporeal Texts: Narratives of Home and Self in Sandra
Cisneros’ The House on Mango Street,” Shanna M. Salinas describes how both the author and the novel’s protagonist
find their identity in their home space.
The volume’s back matter consists of a recommended reading list of twentieth-century women authors, a
bibliography, brief descriptions of the contributors, and an index.”