Vita and Virginia: The Work and Friendship of V. Sackville-West and Virginia Woolf
This book examines the creative intimacy between Vita Sackville-West and Virginia Woolf, interpreting both their relationship and their work in the light of their experience as married lesbians. The contradictions and conflicts of their situation are worked out through the construction of different narratives of femininity, in letters, novels, diaries, and other texts. Vita and Virginia looks at the two women's continual renegotiation of what it means to be female, and suggests that the mutual exchange of different versions of "womanhood" is crucial to the development of their friendship. Orlando, for example, was Virginia Woolf's way of threatening Sackville-West with the extent of her own knowledge about her, as well as the celebratory love-letter it is usually assumed to be. The book also offers readings of both women's autobiographical texts, and a long-overdue study of Vita Sackville-West's work as a biographer and a novelist. Emphasizing also wider contexts, this study examines the links between homosexual desire and literary innovation, public politics and private lives. It provides an invaluable perspective on the relations between sexuality and feminism in modernism.