'Some restless searcher in me': Virginia Woolf and contemporary mysticism

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While critics have been reluctant to associate Virginia Woolf with any religious movement, they have been less uncomfortable about recognizing her affinities with mysticism. After all, Woolf herself used the word “mystic” to describe her experiences and she planned The Waves as “an endeavour at something mystic, spiritual.” This chapter examines the nature of Woolf’s mysticism by placing it within the context of contemporary debates and specifically alongside women writers, including her Quaker aunt Caroline Emelia Stephen and the popular religious writer Evelyn Underhill. The chapter examines how Woolf developed a mysticism that was sceptical, informed, and feminist as she repeatedly explored images and ideas across a series of works leading to The Waves, before analysing her mystical experiences most directly in “A Sketch of the Past.”
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationReligion, secularism, and the spiritual paths of Virginia Woolf
EditorsKristina K. Groover
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9783030325688
ISBN (Print)9783030325671
Publication statusPublished - 14 Dec 2019


  • Virginia Woolf
  • religion
  • Mysticism
  • Quakerism
  • Christianity
  • Evelyn Underhill
  • Caroline Emelia Stephen


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