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Reviewed by:
  • Major Authors on CD-ROM: Virginia Woolf
  • Andrew J. Kunka
Mark Hussey, ed. Major Authors on CD-ROM: Virginia Woolf. Woodbridge, CT: Primary Source Media, 1996.

The wealth of information available on this CD-ROM is truly amazing and immensely valuable—not only does it contain the complete fiction of Virginia Woolf, but it also “includes nearly all of [her] published work,” as Mark Hussey’s introduction claims (though I am not clear on exactly what is missing from “nearly all” of Woolf’s published writings). What makes this resource valuable is the tremendous amount of information and documents unavailable to the average scholar, including facsimiles of many manuscripts and letters from Sussex University’s Monk’s House Papers and New York Public Library’s Berg Collection and facsimiles of both the English and American editions of several of the novels, including Mrs. Dalloway, Night and Day, Orlando, To the Lighthouse, and The Voyage Out. In addition to the Woolf texts, the CD-ROM also contains Mark Hussey’s thorough and useful resource, Virginia Woolf from A to Z. One other feature is interesting primarily for its novelty value: the only surviving sound recording of Woolf’s voice, a fragment of a 1937 BBC radio broadcast which became the essay “Craftsmanship.”

The CD-ROM provides a variety of different options for searching. The contents of the disc itself can be organized by type of work (fiction, holograph, letters, photographs, typescripts, etc.), author, date, and title. It also contains an index that will link directly to relevant pages within each text. Each of Woolf’s texts also contains specific links to Virginia Woolf from A to Z through character names, literary and historical allusions, and so on. Perhaps the most useful tool that this [End Page 449] resource provides is its search function, which allows for a variety of options. A standard search allows the user to perform a simple word search of all the texts on the disc. The advanced search function allows users to customize and focus their searches within specific texts, authors, dates of publication, and types of work. The disc also provides print, save, and bookmark functions.

As Hussey states, “For the student and scholar, this CD-ROM offers unprecedented access to Woolf’s writing and her creative process.” This claim cannot be denied—I cannot imagine the expense in both time and finances necessary to access all of the various drafts, manuscripts, letters, and editions that are collected in this resource. But Hussey’s statement also addresses one of the challenges such a resource presents: it must appeal to both students and scholars, to readers with a wide and varied range of interests in Woolf.

The success of this resource in accomplishing this goal is based not only on the breadth of primary material contained on the CD-ROM, but also on the usefulness of the secondary material. Often CD-ROM resources such as this present themselves (either purposely or inadvertently) as the final word on their subjects, which can, especially for students, cut off further investigation. Primary Source Media avoids this potential problem by including Hussey’s reference guide, which does an excellent job of referring readers to a variety of relevant sources on Woolf scholarship in particular and modernist scholarship in general without endorsing any individual position.

For example, each of Woolf’s novels receives extensive coverage in A to Z. Each novel’s entry is divided into several sections: outline, genesis, background, critical responses, works cited, and, where necessary, revisions, publishing history, allusions, and adaptations. The thoroughness of each of these entries is impressive—Hussey has gone a long way to summarize not only individual studies of Woolf, but also how those studies fit into larger critical debates.

Hussey is not without ironic self-awareness, either. The first entry in Virginia Woolf from A to Z is “A to Z,” Mr. Ramsey’s system for intellectual achievement in To the Lighthouse. Hussey describes this system as, “one of several examples of Woolf’s mocking of rational, linear thought and of any attempt to systematize knowledge,” leaving one to wonder what Woolf would have made of Hussey’s resource, or of the...

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pp. 449-451
Launched on MUSE
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