Anne Robinson, Karen Saxby
Virginia Woolf rejected traditional plots in favour of explorations of the inner lives of her characters. Her stream of consciousness narratives highlighted gender relations and the poetic perspective. Her experimental 1931 novel The Waves was originally drafted in a series of notebooks, including the one reproduced here.
A modernist and feminist pioneer, Virginia Woolf (1882–1941) carved out new territory for artists, particularly women writers. She wrote with sensitivity and insight about the confusion, mystery and uncertainty of everyday life. Part of her innovation was to reject traditional plots in favour of explorations of the inner lives of her characters. Her stream-of-consciousness narratives brought sharp and fleeting glimpses into truths of gender relations, psychology and the power of the poetic perspective.
Woolf’s 1931 novel The Waves, originally drafted in a series of seven notebooks, is among her best and most experimental works. In fact, according to a 2015 poll conducted by the BBC, The Waves was voted as the 16th greatest British novel of all time. Made up primarily of soliloquies spoken by the book’s six main characters, The Waves is interspersed with third-person interludes detailing a day at the coast. Blurring the lines between poetry and prose, The Waves was described as a “playpoem” by Woolf herself, who said the characters were not people at all, but meant to represent different facets of consciousness.
Today, the seven notebooks containing Woolf’s drafts of The Waves are a part of The New York Public Library’s Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection of English and American Literature and are featured in the new Polonsky Exhibition of The New York Public Library Treasures. Having previously offered a Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own Embellished Manuscript journal, we are honoured to now partner with the Library to bring the fourth volume of Virginia Woolf’s The Waves notebooks to our collection.