Virginia Woolf and the Materiality of Theory: Sex, Animal, Life

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9780748676446: Virginia Woolf and the Materiality of Theory: Sex, Animal, Life

Explores Woolf's writing alongside Deleuzian philosophy and new materialist theories of 'sex', 'animal', and 'life''

How does Virginia Woolf conceptualise the material world? In what ways has Woolf's modernism affected understandings of materiality, and what new perspectives does she offer contemporary theoretical debates? Derek Ryan demonstrates how materiality is theorised in Woolf's writings by focusing on the connections she makes between culture and nature, embodiment and environment, human and nonhuman, life and matter. Through close readings of texts including To the Lighthouse, Orlando, A Room of One's Own, The Waves, Flush, he details the insights Woolf provides into issues concerning the natural world, sexual difference, sexuality, animality, and life itself.

Ryan opens up Woolf studies to new theoretical paradigms by placing Woolf in dialogue with Gilles Deleuze - who cites her modernist aesthetics as exemplary of some of his most important philosophical concepts - as well as eminent contemporary theorists including Rosi Braidotti, Donna Haraway, Karen Barad, and Jane Bennett, all of whom have influenced the recent critical turn towards new materialisms. Locating theory within Woolf's writing as well as locating Woolf within theory, Virginia Woolf and the Materiality of Theory: Sex, Animal, Life brings her modernism firmly into to the foreground of current debates in literary studies, feminist philosophy, queer theory, animal studies and posthumanities.

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About the Author:

Derek Ryan is Lecturer in Modernist Literature at the University of Kent.


Ryan offers a series of nuanced, sensitive readings (attentive even down to the level of punctuation) of materialities and animalities in Woolf's writing [and] provides a fresh, vigorous reading-together of Woolf and theory that is deeply rewarding for the Woolf scholar, and to the wider community of scholars in literary studies and beyond. -- Lauren Elkin, Modernism/modernity 21.3, Sep 2014

Virginia Woolf and the Materiality of Theory is a brilliant romp through the venues of contemporary philosophical approaches to literature. It is clear that Derek Ryan is a harbinger of a new wave in Woolf studies, attentive to past scholarship but dedicated to the proposition that the union of Woolf's own theorizing with a whole new range of philosophical approaches will produce a more nuanced and refined appreciation of life as we know it. -- Elisa K. Sparks, Clemson University, South Carolina Review 47.1, 2014

Derek Ryan revitalizes theoretical approaches to reading modernist literature [and] contributes rich and timely readings Virginia Woolf and the Materiality of Theory demonstrates an impressive command of contemporary theories of materiality as well as an intimate knowledge of Woolf's novels and essays a welcome interruption of critical trends that would dispense with theory. -- Annie Dwyer, University of Washington, Woolf Studies Annual 20, 2014

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