Although she is still best known for her work as a novelist and short story writer, Virginia Woolf ranks among the most inventive and thought-provoking essayists of the Modernist canon. Throughout her productive and far-ranging career as an essayist, she worked towards a redefinition of the compass of literature and of the complex economy of reading. As this collection of essays tends to show, reading, essay-writing and fiction all contributed equally in her eyes to the reinvention of literature in the present. Reading and writing as a visionary, Woolf wrote in the name of a common reader who would also, in the present, herald a renewed literary contract between writer, text and reader. As shown in the present collection, her definition of literature was both utopian and profoundly anchored in the present, both inspired by the long history of literature and looking forward to a future in the making.
Encompassing a vast tract of her career as an essayist and especially lesser-known essays, this collection highlights Woolf’s unique capacity to blur the limits of fiction and essay-writing, and to transform the art of reading into a utopian practice. Writing in the present, she knew she was also accountable to the common reader to come and to the very genius of literature.