Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Elizabeth A. Hirsh, Ph. D.


English literature 1900-1945, Feminism, Gender, Satire, Psychology, Standpoint theory


From the beginning of her career, Virginia Woolf moves beyond the perspective of her inherited class position to challenge a damaging class system. She increasingly recognizes the extent of her own complicity in the creation and maintenance of class structures supporting patriarchy, war, and British imperialism. Highlighting ambiguities inherent in the very category of class, she acknowledges the limiting "boxes" of language itself in attempts to rethink class. For Woolf, class is not monolithic but internally differentiated by gender and race. Examining Woolf's early work in relation to class theory shows that throughout her career Woolf interrogates the imbrication of gender and race in class politics. She finds class difference a fertile source of satire, and subjects her own class position to satirical scrutiny. At the same time, a certain psychology of class operates in Woolf: vulnerable to the dissolution of ego boundaries because of her mental illness, she at times shores up her sense of identity by reaffirming class boundaries that were otherwise repugnant to her. Thus Woolf vacillates between perceiving class as necessary to "civilization" and championing egalitarian views. Theoretical points of reference for this study include cultural materialism, feminist standpoint theory, psychoanalysis, and theories of class advanced by Michel Foucault, Pierre Bourdieu, Max Weber, Gary Day, David Cannadine, Beverly Skeggs, and Rosemary Hennessy.