Digital Narrative: A Literary Lens

If I could remember one whole day I should be able to describe superficially at least, what life was like as a child. Unfortunately, one only remembers what is exceptional…Why have I forgotten so many things that must have been, one would have thought, more memorable than what I do remember? Why remember the hum of the bees in the garden going down to the beach, and forget completely being thrown by father naked into the sea?” *

Woolf recorded her memories in diaries, letters, memoirs, essays, novels, and short stories. The digital narratives presented here mine this vast quarry of feelings, thoughts, and ideas. Compiled from Woolf’s words and archival photographs of family and friends, the digital narratives present Woolf’s perspective on several of her significant relationships.

Smith College Sophia and Austin Smith Professor of Psychology and Philosophy Jill de Villiers performs the role of Woolf in each of the narratives including:

Woolf discussing her mother, Julia Stephen

Woolf discussing her father, Leslie Stephen

Woolf discussing her sister, Vanessa Bell

Woolf discussing her husband, Leonard Woolf

Woolf reading the suicide note she left on the mantelpiece for Leonard


In this section, we invite you to consider the digital narratives through a literary lens. For instance:

What does Woolf say about her writing process? How does this affect her emotions and sense of self?

What are the connections between the relationship she is describing, her feelings for that person, and her writing?

“Woolf’s fiction,” writes biographer Julia Briggs, “is centrally concerned with the inner life, and finding ways of recreating that life in narrative.” ** Woolf’s non-fiction also dwells on her inner life. What thoughts, feelings, or interpersonal conflicts described in the digital narratives make their way into Woolf’s fiction?


___References for this Section____

* Woolf, V. (1985). Moments of Being. 2d ed. (J. Schulkind, Ed.) New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.

** Briggs, J. (2005). Virginia Woolf: An Inner Life. Orlando: Harcourt.


Estate of Vanessa Bell, courtesy Henrietta Garnett
Estate Gisele Freund / IMEC Images
2010 Man Ray Trust / Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY / ADAGP, Paris
Estate of Sir William Rothenstein / National Portrait Gallery, London
The Society of Authors as the Literary Representative of the Estate of Virginia Woolf.