THE COMMON READER VOLUME 1
This is Virginia Woolf’s first collection of essays, published in 1925. In them, she attempts to see literature from the point of view of the ‘common reader’ – someone whom she, with Dr Johnson, distinguished from the critic and the scholar. She read, and wrote, as an outsider: a woman set to school in her father’s library, denied the educational privileges of her male siblings – and with no fixed view of what constitutes ‘English literature’. What she produced is an eccentric and unofficial literary and social history from the 14th to the 20th centuries, with an excursion to ancient Greece thrown in. She investigates medieval England (The Paston Letters and Chaucer), tsarist Russia (The Russian Point of View), Elizabethan Playwrights, Jane Austen, Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights, Modern Fiction and the Modern Essay. When she published this book Woolf’s fame as a novelist was already established: now she was hailed as a brilliant interpretative critic. Here, she addresses ‘the common reader’ in the remarkable prose and with all the imagination and gaiety that are the stamps of her genius.
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