Ideology, Production, and Reproduction: Virginia Woolf, Marie Stopes, and H.D.

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Moffitt, Andrew
Modernism , English Literature , World War 1 , Motherhood
The literary works of Virginia Woolf, Marie Stopes, and H.D. share an interest in the crossovers between human, ideological, and cultural reproduction during the interwar years. However, an extended study on their contrasting views about life and art in the aftermath of World War One is yet to emerge. My project examines how the bid to reproduce Britain’s militaristic state ideologies or produce feminist-pacifist alternatives appear in the work of each writer. While Stopes’s fiction and sex manuals voice the need for British people to breed a nation of renewed, patriotic and colonial subjects, Woolf and H.D. encourage resistance by demanding that their public rethink the exclusionary norms of race and sexuality that Stopes endorsed as a means of returning Britain to a state of post-War normalcy. Addressing critics such as Georg Lukács and Theodor Adorno, I argue that Woolf and H.D.’s goal of breaking the homogenous values of mass-produced art not only speaks to debates surrounding the political utility of modernism but also both writers’ belief that experimental aesthetics can inspire pacifist action. By defining Stopes’s work as ideologically reproductive in its use of sexuality to reiterate hegemonic concepts of nationality and gender, I present opposition in Woolf and H.D when they expose and then challenge how disseminating gender-normative ideals through literature often prepares the human body for exploitation during war.
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