The (Self)portrait of a Writer: A Hermeneutic Reading of Virginia Woolf’s (Auto)biographical Writings
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Woolf’s maturing as a writer was deeply influenced by her traumatic experiences in childhood, the (in)capacitating states of mental instability, as well as her proto-feminist convictions. Long before Barthes, she toppled the traditional position of the author, and her literary enshrinement of “the other reality” reached unity with the world rather than individuality. This article ponders Woolf’s creative impulse and investigates her autobiographical writings to show the import of their impact on her fiction, which, as Woolfian scholarship suggests, can be viewed as autobiographical, too. I argue that philosophical hermeneutics sheds light on the self-portrait that emerges from Woolf’s autobiographical writings and offers a rewarding insight into her path of becoming an author. I assert that Paul Ricoeur’s philosophy of subjectivity, and, in particular, his notion of narrative identity provide a route to examine how Woolf discovers her writing voice. In light of his hermeneutics of the self, the dispersed elements of the narrative of life can be seen as a possibility of self-encounter. Woolf’s writings bespeak her gradually evolving self-knowledge and self-understanding, which come from the configuration of those separate “stories” into a meaningful whole. The article also interprets Woolf’s autobiographical writings through the prism of Michel Foucault’s reflection on discourse and subjectivity, indicating that her texts instantiate his assertion of the subject’s constant disappearance.