Digital Narrative: A Sociocultural Lens

Society exerted its full pressure about eleven oclock on a June night in 1900. I remember the dazed, elated, frozen feeling as the lights beat on me, going upstairs with George following behind. He held his opera hat always under his arm. He would introduce me with his little bow: “And this is my sister, Virginia.” *

Woolf’s coming of age included participating in the upper class, late Victorian social scene. Balls, concerts, dinners, theatre, gowns, and jewels all fascinated and terrified her. Ultimately, Woolf consciously rejected this “social machine” paving the way to experiment with conventional Victorian relationship boundaries in the early Bloomsbury group. No more white satin or seed pearls; they were replaced by smoke, coffee, whisky, and talk of sex. As this example highlights, Woolf’s identity was influenced by social mores and cultural norms, forces interacting with temperament and biological predisposition from birth.

In this section we suggest you view the digital narratives through a sociocultural lens. The narratives, compiled from Woolf’s words and archival photographs, offer her perspective on several 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:

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


___References for this Section____

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


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.