On Being Ill

Front Cover
Paris Press, 2002 - Literary Collections - 28 pages

In this poignant and humorous work, Virginia Woolf observes that though illness is part of every human being’s experience, it has never been the subject of literature--like the more acceptable subjects of war and love. We cannot quote Shakespeare to describe a headache. We must, Woolf says, invent language to describe pain. And though illness enhances our perceptions, she observes that it reduces self-consciousness; it is "the great confessional." Woolf discusses the cultural taboos associated with illness and explores how illness changes the way we read. Poems clarify and astonish, Shakespeare exudes new brilliance, and so does melodramatic fiction!

On Being Ill was published as an individual volume by Hogarth Press in 1930. While other Woolf essays, such as A Room of One’s Own and Three Guineas, were first published by Hogarth as individual volumes and have since been widely available, On Being Ill has been overlooked. The Paris Press edition features original cover art by Woolf’s sister, the painter Vanessa Bell. Hermione Lee’s Introduction discusses this extraordinary work, and explores Woolf’s revelations about poetry, language, and illness.

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User Review  - Sara Cat - Goodreads

Meh. I never was a huge fan of Woolf and this reminds me why. Read full review

About the author (2002)

Virginia Woolf (1882-1941) is one of the great literary geniuses of the 20th century. Her innovative fiction and essays are revered by readers around the globe. She was a central member of the Bloomsbury group and a groundbreaking feminist, publishing book-length essays that continue to change the lives of women today. Her most popular novels include To the Lighthouse, Mrs. Dalloway, and Orlando. When she was not writing, Virginia Woolf operated Hogarth Press with her husband Leonard Woolf.

Hermione Lee (1948- ) is the acclaimed Virginia Woolf scholar and the author of Virginia Woolf (Knopf, 1997). She is a biographer, critic, broadcaster, and Goldsmith’s Professor of English Literature and Fellow of New College, Oxford, England. She is also the author of Willa Cather: A Life Saved Up; Philip Roth; Elizabeth Bowen: An Estimation; The Novels of Virginia Woolf; and Edith Wharton. She is one of the co-editors of the Oxford Poets Anthologies.

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