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Durham University

Department of English Studies


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Publication details for Dr John Nash

Nash, John. (2013). "Talk, talk, talk": Virginia Woolf's Responses to Ireland. Irish Studies Review 21(3): 255-273.

Author(s) from Durham


The complexity of Virginia Woolf's relationships with Empire can be illustrated by considering her responses to Ireland. Woolf's relationship with Ireland and Irish writers has received only cursory attention. Those critics who have addressed the topic have assumed that she responded positively to her experience of Irish “talk” on her holiday in Ireland in 1934. However, her response on that holiday reveals some underlying imperial presumptions and a sense of Ireland as stereotypically a land of “talk, talk, talk”. Indeed, this is in keeping with her responses to a wide range of Irish writers over many years (most notably, it chimes with her reading of Ulysses). This essay brings together for the first time Woolf's comments on Ireland and Irish writers, from her diaries, letters, essays and reviews, in order to show that she consistently characterised them as loquacious. Ireland was thus merely a subject of talk, a “question” that could only by discussed, and then only in stereotypical and liberalist terms. Further, Woolf associated talk with looseness and bad writing, and sought to maintain a mode of semi-privacy, apart from the “talk” that went on around her.

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