"Modern Fiction" is an essay by Virginia Woolf. The essay ended up being written in 1919 but published in 1921 with a series of brief tales called Monday or Tuesday. The essay is a criticism of authors and literary works through the past generation. In addition will act as helpful tips for writers of contemporary fiction to write what they feel, maybe not what culture or publishers want them to write.


In «Modern Fiction», Woolf elucidates upon exactly what she understands modern fiction become. Woolf states that a writer should write what inspires them and never follow any unique technique. She believed writers are constrained by the publishing business, with what society believes literature should seem like and what society has dictated just how literature ought to be written. Woolf thinks it really is a writer's task to write the complexities in life, the unknowns, maybe not the unimportant things.[1][2]

She criticizes H.G. Wells, Arnold Bennett, John Galsworthy of currently talking about unimportant things and called them materialists. She shows that it might be better for literature to show their backs on it therefore it can progress, for better or worse. While Woolf criticizes the aforementioned three writers, she praises various other writers for their innovation. This group of article writers she names spiritualists, and includes James Joyce whom Woolf states writes what interests and moves him.[1]

Woolf wanted article writers to focus on the awkwardness of life and craved originality inside their work. Woolf's overall hope would be to inspire contemporary fiction article writers to create what interested them, anywhere it might lead.[1]


Virginia Woolf as critic

Virginia Woolf was called a critic by the woman contemporaries and many scholars have attempted to analyse Woolf as a critic. Inside her essay, «Modern Fiction», she criticizes H.G. Wells, Arnold Bennett and John Galsworthy and mentions and praises Thomas Hardy, Joseph Conrad, William Henry Hudson, James Joyce and Anton Chekhov.[1]

As a critic, she doesn't take an analytical perspective and it is considered to be as a result of the impacts of impressionism at that time that she was able to do this.[3][4] Her writing and criticism had been often carried out by instinct and feelings versus by a scientific, analytical or systematic method.[3][5] Virginia Woolf states of criticism:

Life escapes; and perhaps without life absolutely nothing else is worth while. Its a confession of vagueness to possess to utilize such a figure as this, but we scarcely better the matter by speaking, as critics are susceptible to do, of truth. Admitting the vagueness which afflicts all critique of novels, why don't we risk the opinion that for people now the form of fiction most in fashion more frequently misses than secures the one thing we seek. Whether we call it life or nature, truth or reality, this, the primary thing, has relocated off, or on, and will not be contained anymore in such ill-fitting vestments once we provide. – Modern Fiction

Woolf talks of criticism as being vague as opposed to tangible. In her critique within «Modern Fiction» of H.G. Wells as an example, she is vague in what is incorrect with writings but focuses more regarding abstract ideals for their fiction instead their work. Woolf's human body of essays offer critique on an assortment and diverse assortment of literary works inside her unsystematic technique.[5]

Woolf's analysis of Russian versus British literature

In «Modern Fiction», Woolf takes the full time to analyse Anton Chekhov's «Gusev» plus in basic, exactly how Russians write. Woolf spent time polishing translated Russian texts for a British audience with S.S.Kotelianskii[6] which offered the girl views she accustomed analyse the distinctions between British literature and Russian literary works. Woolf states of Russian writers:

«in almost every great Russian journalist we appear to discern the options that come with a saint, if sympathy for the sufferings for other people, love towards them, seek to reach some goal worth the more exacting demands of the nature constitute saintliness…The conclusions regarding the Russian head, hence comprehensive and compassionate, are inevitably, maybe, of this utmost sadness. More accurately certainly we might discuss about it the inconclusive-ness of this Russian head. It is the feeling that there surely is no answer, when seriously examined life gifts question after question which needs to be kept to appear on as well as on after the tale is finished in hopeless interrogation that fills us with a deep, and lastly it may possibly be with a resentful, despair.»[1]

To Woolf, Russian writers see something entirely different in life versus British. Compared to Russian writers and authors, Woolf states of British literary works:

It is the saint included [Russian authors] which confounds us with a feeling of our very own irreligious triviality, and turns countless of our famous novels to tinsel and trickery...They are right possibly; unquestionably they see further than we do and without our gross impediments of vision…The sound of protest may be the vocals of another and an old civilization which appears to have bred in us the instinct to savor and fight rather to suffer and understand. English fiction from Sterne to Meredith bears witness to the normal enjoy humor and comedy, into the beauty of earth, within the tasks of this intellect, and in the splendor associated with body.

— Modern Fiction, Modern Fiction (essay)

Due to Woolf's work in polishing translations, she could see the differences when considering Russian and British writers. Yet she additionally knew that «from the comparison of two fictions so immeasurably far aside are futile save certainly because they flood united states with a view of endless probabilities of the art».[1] Woolf's main function in comparing the 2 culturally different article writers would be to show the options that modern fiction would be able to ingest the long run.

Woolf, writers and fiction

Woolf's «Modern Fiction» essay centers on exactly how article writers should write or exactly what she hopes in order for them to compose. Woolf will not recommend a certain option to compose as an alternative she desires writers to simply compose exactly what interests them by any means which they elect to compose. Woolf recommends, “Any technique is right, every technique is right, that expresses that which we desire to express, if we are article writers; that brings us closer to the novelist's intention if we are readers".[1] Woolf desired authors expressing themselves so that it showed life since it should really be seen never as «a number of gig lamps symmetrically arranged».[1] She attempted to encourage writers of contemporary fiction by calling for originality, criticizing those that focused on the unimportant things, and comparing the distinctions of cultural authors, all with regard to fiction and literature.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Gutenburg venture Essays
  2. ^ Woolf, Virginia. «Modern Fiction». The Broadview Anthology of British Literature: The Twentieth Century and Beyond. Ed. Joseph Black. 2006. 227. Print.
  3. ^ a b Fishman, Solomon. «Virginia Woolf on Novel». The Sewanee Review 51.2 (1943): 321–340. Jstor. Web. 21 February 2012.
  4. ^ Goldman, Mark. «Virginia Woolf additionally the Critic as Reader». PMLA 80.3 (1965): 275–284. Jstor. Web. 21 February 2012.
  5. ^ a b Madison, Elizabeth C. «The Common Reader and Critical Method in Virginia Woolf». Journal of Aesthetic Education 15.4 (1981): 61–73. Jstor. Online. 21 February 2012.
  6. ^ Beasley, Rebecca. «On Not Knowing Russian: The Translation of Virginia Woolf and S.S. Kotelianskii». Modern Humanities analysis Association 108.1 (2013): 1 -29. Jstor. Internet. 21 February 2012.
  • v
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Virginia Woolf
  • Bibliography
  • The Voyage Out
  • Night and Day
  • Jacob's Room
  • Mrs Dalloway
  • To the Lighthouse
  • Orlando: A Biography
  • The Waves
  • The Years
  • Between the Acts
Short stories
  • "The Mark regarding the Wall"
  • "Kew Gardens"
  • Monday or Tuesday
    • "The String Quartet"
  • "The brand new Dress"
  • "The Duchess therefore the Jeweller"
  • A Haunted home alongside Quick Stories
  • Freshwater
  • Flush: A Biography
  • Roger Fry: A Biography
  • "Modern Fiction"
  • Mr. Bennett and Mrs. Brown
  • On Being Ill
  • A place of your respective Own
  • The London Scene
  • Three Guineas
  • "A Letter to a Young Poet"
  • Moments of Being
    • "A Sketch associated with Past"
  • Bloomsbury Group
  • Hogarth Press
  • Monk's House
  • Dreadnought hoax
  • Leonard Woolf (husband)
  • Julia Stephen (mother)
  • Leslie Stephen (father)
  • Vanessa Bell (sister)
  • Thoby Stephen (brother)
  • Adrian Stephen (brother)
  • The Hours (novel)
  • The Hours (film)
  • From the Diary of Virginia Woolf (track cycle)
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