Moments of Being Background

Moments of Being Background

Published posthumously, Moments of Being is a fragmented and disjointed collection of autobiographical sketches that is curiously close to the fundamental spirit of Woolf's experiments in stream-of-consciousness fiction. One way of approaching this collection which has joined Woolf’s journal entries and letters as a key source for trying to penetrate into the stream of her unconscious is to view it as a kind of experiment in fiction in which Woolf herself takes center stage as the leading character.

Though published some time after her infamous suicide, the composition date of the contents trace back to before had even been a First World War and stretch all the way to the looming shadows of Hitler’s decision to test the seemingly weak resolve of the British people to obstruct his march to madness. Specifically, the content collected for Moments of Being consists of

"Reminiscences" (1907)

"A Sketch of the Past" (1939-40)

"22 Hyde Park Gate" (1920–1)

"Old Bloomsbury" (1921–2)

"Am I a Snob?" (1936)

The anchor for the collection is the also the work which gives Moments of Being its title. The title stems from an underlying literary philosophy developed by Woolf which she explores through example in “A Sketch of the Past.” Rather than delivering a finite expression which serves to define for others what she actually means by a “moment of being” she chooses instead to go at things as obliquely as ever, content in the confidence that her readers will be smart enough to get it. What that “it” is can essentially be boiled down to certain moments of experience that are not consciously intuited as significant experiences as they take place, but instead only take form and shape in the conscious apprehension after enjoying the rare benefit of being pushed out the way of the conscious mind’s talent for destroying understanding by reaching a decision too soon.

The essays were edited Jeanne Schulkind for publication in 1976.

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