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Dr. Jane De Gay


Open University




Virginia Woolf - Intertextuality - Influence - Allusion - Women writers - Romanticism - Shakespeare

Thesis Title

Haunted Houses": Influence and the Creative Process in Virginia Woolf's Novels


This thesis argues that rather than being an innovative, modernist writer, Virginia Woolfs methods, themes, and aspirations were conservative in certain central ways, for her novels were influenced profoundly by the work of writers from earlier eras. This argument is developed both by demonstrating that Woolf was influenced by other writers, and also by exploring the dynamics of how this process of influence took place. The thesis contends that this process included identification with past writers and a longing for the literary past, which complicated Woolfs attempts to negotiate the past and its values.

After a chapter examining theoretical approaches to the concept of literary influence, the thesis makes a detailed study of Woolf's engagement with her influences in eight of her novels. Woolf s responses to influence are divided into three phases. In the first phase, up to the mid- 1920s, she wrestled with existing perceptions of the woman writer as she looked to female precursors as role models and struggled with their legacies. At the same time, she sought refuge from such a problematic inheritance by turning to her male precursors to try and gain covert access to the literary traditions which were thought to be the birthright of the men of her generation. In the second phase of her career, in the late 1920s, Woolf continued to deal with the absence of a ready-made tradition by elegizing writers she had known and the literary traditions they represented. In the process of mourning other writers, it is suggested, Woolf remade them in her imagination to be like herself. This process of identification continued in the third phase, in The Naves and Between the Acts, when Woolf drew on the work of Wordsworth and Coleridge, respectively, to explore and develop her mature identity as a writer.



Jane de Gay is Professor of English Literature at Leeds Trinity University and an Anglican Priest. Her latest monograph, Virginia Woolf and Christian Culture (Edinburgh University Press in June 2018), is a wide-ranging, comprehensive study which reveals that Virginia Woolf was profoundly interested in, and knowledgeable about, Christianity as a faith and as a socio-political movement. Her first monograph, Virginia Woolf’s Novels and the Literary Past (Edinburgh University Press, 2006), was the first book to explore Woolf’s preoccupation with the literary past and its profound impact on the content and structure of her novels.

Jane has published widely on Woolf and regularly gives academic papers and public talks. She was organizer of the 26th International Virginia Woolf Conference: Virginia Woolf and Heritage (16-19 June 2016), which brought over 220 international scholars to campus.

At Leeds Trinity, she is Deputy Director of Postgraduate Research and Co-Director of the Leeds Centre for Victorian Studies with Professor Karen Sayer

Before coming to Leeds Trinity in 1999, Jane was a researcher at the Open University, working on the Gender, Politics and Performance Project. As part of the project, she co-edited four books with Professor Lizbeth Goodman, including Feminist Stages (Harwood, 1996), a collection of interviews with feminist theatre-makers, at a critical moment when they were moving from grassroots theatre into the mainstream.

Jane was ordained as an Anglican Priest in 2009. She serves as Associate Priest at St Martin’s Potternewton in Leeds and contributes to the wider church as a Senior Reviewer of Theological Courses and Colleges and a Diocesan Advisor for candidates for ordination.

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