It is for her beauty, her psychic pain, and the odd and tragic circumstances of her life as much as for the quality of her work that Virginia Woolf has attracted a certain type of critical attention; as one sharp commentator noted, she is the Marilyn Monroe of the intellectual world, “genius transformed into icon and industry.” While Woolf’s diaries and letters demonstrate that she could be cruel and vulnerable in equal parts, her popular image has come to elevate the vulnerabilities to the point of obscuring the tough, self-protective streak that sustained her and kept her alive and productive for a lifetime of nearly sixty years. An idealized and essentially misleading picture of Woolf as female victim of patriarchal oppression has become the dominant one, and countless stupid and condescending books and articles have supported it, the newest and stupidest being Who’s Afraid of Leonard Woolf by the Australian author Irene...

 

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