“My country is the whole world”: “Three Guineas” and the culture of pacifist dissent
Virginia Woolf, like many women writers, is notorious for having purged the most subversive political content from her writings in the course of preparing her manuscripts for publication. The practice of self-censorship pervades Woolf's work of the thirties, the decade in which she was engaged in her most forceful critique of militarism, capitalism, fascism, nationalism, imperialism, and patriarchy. The holograph and typescript fragments of Three Guineas , the three scrapbooks in which she collected source material for that work, and the photographs that appear in its earliest published versions demonstrate Woolf's extensive engagement with the tradition of feminist pacifism. Rather than a set of beliefs that developed only in response to the escalating political crises of the thirties, I suggest Woolf's feminist pacifism to have been a persistent, evolving ethos that informed and propelled nearly all of her writing.
Chapter One situates the work's interlocking composition, publication, and reception histories within their historical and cultural backgrounds, revealing how thoroughly each of these aspects was saturated by the pacifist discourse of the interwar period, and how thoroughly the work itself has permeated pacifist discourse in the seventy years since its publication. Chapter Two establishes a rationale for the construction of a posteclectic edition of Three Guineas and proposes several models capable of displaying the work's varied pre-publication states and the pacifist content contained therein. In Chapter Three, I suggest that Three Guineas is best understood as part of Woolf's ongoing cultural dialogue with feminist pacifists, past and present; with Britain's patriarchal peace movement; and with those British institutions of Church and State that she regarded as implicit in the perpetuation of war. Given the importance of the Three Guineas photographs within this dialogue, Chapter Four reconstructs the historical and cultural significance of each subject in an attempt to reveal what these individuals would have signified for Woolf and her contemporary readership.
British and Irish literature;
0593: British and Irish literature