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Exploring Virginia Woolf’s Between the Acts
Exploring Virginia Woolf’s Between the Acts

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Woolf veered between excitement and despair as she neared completion of Between the Acts. On 12 January 1941 she wrote in her diary ‘Oh yes, I can write: I mean I’ve a fizz of ideas’ (Nicolson, p.459). But on 20 March in a letter to John Lehmann (at the time Managing Director of the Woolfs’ Hogarth Press) she said: ‘I’ve just read my so called novel over; and I really don’t think it does. Its much too slight and sketchy’ (Nicolson, p.482). She planned to revise it for publication later in the year. But her state of mind and her health deteriorated, and on 28 March she drowned herself in the river Ouse near her home.

Between the Acts has a lightness of touch in spite of Woolf’s state of mind as she finished it, and the way it anticipates war. It is a work of intricate patterning which demands careful, close reading; but such are the repetitions, rhymes and rhythms of the prose, that even less attentive reading cannot fail to notice connections between the most disparate aspects of the text.

This OpenLearn course is an adapted extract from the Open University course A335 Literature in transition: from 1800 to the present [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] .