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Woolf Online - About

Woolf Online: An Electronic Edition and Commentary of Virginia Woolf's 'Time Passes'.

The initial idea and overall organization of this project was the work of Julia Briggs (1943-2007), in whose memory the project has been completed. Permissions to include original documentary and copyrighted materials have been negotiated with the Woolf estate and with the assistance of the Head of Literary Estates of the Society of Authors.

Project Overview

During the last thirty years or more, Virginia Woolf's fiction has generated a massive body of criticism, but surprisingly little of it has drawn upon the extraordinary wealth of surviving source material that Woolf left behind, and the detailed information it can yield as to how her work came to be written. This project takes as its case study a highly experimental passage from one of the greatest twentieth century novels in the English language 'Time Passes', which formed the central sequence from Virginia Woolf's novel 'To the Lighthouse' (1927). Virginia Woolf composed the first draft between 30th April and 25th May 1926, with an interval of four days, between 10th and 13th May, when she was working on an article on De Quincey for the TLS. The project aims to bring together the different stages of writing that went into the making of 'Time Passes' to create a record of its development in the form of a genetic edition of the text, and to embed that edition in a network of histories and contexts that reconfigure traditional annotation techniques as a system of linked but separate strands of thought, thus producing a new form of literary archaeology.

Why Time Passes?

'Time Passes' is the ideal text for this project, not merely because it is a difficult and highly experimental piece of fiction, concerned with the relation between conscious and unconscious thought, but also, more pragmatically, because its history is exceptionally well documented. In addition to the first manuscript draft, there are two further stages of revision recorded, as well as three different published versions, none of them obviously representing a final intention. One unique feature of this project is made possible by Virginia Woolf's distinctive writing practice which enables us to identify the precise date on which each portion of her first draft was written, and so to correlate that portion with other documents, letters, diary etc, written on the same day. The first draft of 'Time Passes' was composed in 26 days between 30th April and 25th May 1926, days during which a major political crisis, the first ever General Strike, was unfolding, an event that provides further perspective on the text.

Project Goals

The first draft of the text, the Initial Holograph Draft, and the private and public histories of its composition are dynamically linked, making it possible to read each day's draft in the context of the rest of Woolf's activities. The four stages of the current project, therefore, are as follows,

Both parts of the first draft history, personal and public, can be found within the Contextual section of this site.


To view video introductions to Woolf Online and each section, please consult the Help Videos option in the top left menu. There are currently 12 videos available covering four main categories. If you have any questions regarding usage of the site after viewing these videos please use the Contact Us form.

You can also read an introductory note by project director Peter Shillingsburg.