Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Avant-garde: War, Civilization, Modernity
Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Avant-Garde traces the dynamic emergence of Woolf's art and thought against Bloomsbury's public thinking about Europe's future in a period marked by two world wars and rising threats of totalitarianism. Educated informally in her father's library and in Bloomsbury's London extension of Cambridge, Virginia Woolf came of age in the prewar decades, when progressive political and social movements gave hope that Europe "might really be on the brink of becoming civilized," as Leonard Woolf put it. For pacifist Bloomsbury, heir to Europe's unfinished Enlightenment project of human rights, democratic self-governance, and world peace—and, in E. M. Forster's words, "the only genuine movement in English civilization"— the 1914 "civil war" exposed barbarities within Europe: belligerent nationalisms, rapacious racialized economic imperialism, oppressive class and sex/gender systems, a tragic and unnecessary war that mobilized sixty-five million and left thirty-seven million casualties. An avant-garde in the twentieth-century struggle against the violence within European civilization, Bloomsbury and Woolf contributed richly to interwar debates on Europe's future at a moment when democracy's triumph over fascism and communism was by no means assured.
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