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Matthew Holliday

Research Student, Faculty of Arts


Research Summary

Current Status

PhD (full-time) - currently registered

Research Topic

A Face in the Glass: Virginia Woolf and the Elegiac Impression

Research Summary

My project will conduct the first comprehensive investigation into Virginia Woolf's practice of literary Impressionism. Since her death in 1941 scholarship surrounding Woolf's aesthetic development has remained remarkably consistent; indeed, it has become accepted that Roger Fry's Post-Impressionist exhibition of 1910 is singularly responsible for Woolf's aesthetic vision. The trend in recent Woolf criticism has thus been to assume that the basic question of her aesthetic development is settled. However, Woolf wrote widely and with enthusiasm about other artists whose influence continues to go under-recognised. This thesis seeks to present the first investigation of Woolf's creative discourse with Impressionist aesthetics, from her first encounter with Walter Pater to her final autobiographical sketch three weeks before her death. This study fills a vacancy in Woolf criticism that has remained neglected, despite Clive Bell's assertion that Woolf's 'vision, and superficially her style, may remind anyone [...] of the French Impressionists' (Bell, 1956). Ultimately, I propose that Woolf utilised Impressionist aesthetics as a means of reconciling grief and comprehending feelings of absence. My objective in undertaking this project is to introduce a new alternative narrative of influence that does not set out to annul previous scholarship but rather to broaden the interdisciplinary conversation.

Research Interests

  • Victorian and early twentieth-century cultural, visual, and literary history
  • Life-writing
  • Thomas Hardy
  • Katherine Mansfield

Research Supervisors

Primary Funding Source

Midlands3Cities Doctoral Training Partnership (AHRC)

School of English

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