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Becoming Virginia WoolfHer Early Diaries and the Diaries She Read$
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Barbara Lounsberry

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780813049915

Published to Florida Scholarship Online: January 2015

DOI: 10.5744/florida/9780813049915.001.0001

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The Problem of Description

The Problem of Description

(p.121) 6 The Problem of Description
Becoming Virginia Woolf

Barbara Lounsberry

University Press of Florida

The many paths to apt description occupy Virginia Woolf’s mind across her 7th and 8th diary books. These diaries mark her determined march to a view, voice, and form of her own. She seeks to avoid “guide book prose” in her Continental Travel Diary from 1906 to 1909 and to rid herself of Western notions of the East. She starts to “distrust description” in her 1908 Italian diary and seeks to write “not only with the eye, but with the mind; & discover real things beneath the show.” She defines herself against the still, silent beauty of a Perugino fresco, declaring that she seeks the beauty of life in motion; a world composed of “infinite discords” and “shivering fragments”; she likewise rejects the “simple truths” of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s early journals, preferring complexity and multiplicity instead. She begins to seek more subtlety in her descriptions and less “definiteness” in her 1909 Florence diary—and throughout this time the diaries of Lady Elizabeth Holland, Lady Hester Stanhope’s physician (Dr. Charles Meryon), and Mary Coleridge aid her.

Keywords:   description, fragments, discords, Continental Travel Diary, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Lady Elizabeth Holland, Dr. Charles Meryon, Lady Hester Stanhope, Mary Coleridge

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