First Advisor

Hildy Miller

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in English and University Honors




Virginia Woolf (1882-1941) -- Criticism and interpretation, Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) -- Influence, Virginia Woolf (1882-1941) -- Mental health, Psychoanalysis and literature




Virginia Woolf is an author still known today for her work in using literature as a vehicle for understanding her own life. Woolf used her novels to uncover and explore parts of her own personal relationships, and molded them into prominent characters. Modern scholarship discussing Woolf has generally accepted the timeline of her life, which includes the sexual abuse inflicted on her by her two older half-brothers, George and Gerald Duckworth, from her age 6 to 22. In dealing with this trauma in her later years, Woolf began seeking help in dealing with her pain through the study of psychoanalysis. What she was looking for was a link between the pain she felt as a child, and the severe depression she suffered from as an adult. Naturally, as he was the most widespread psychoanalyst of his time, she fell upon Freud’s work, and was enraptured. This essay moves to analyze the effect of Freud’s work on Woolf’s mental state, and to discuss to what degree it may have disturbed her, and even exacerbated her already declining mental state toward the end of her life.


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