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Werman, D.S. (1989). Virginia Woolf and the "Lust of Creation." a Psychoanalytic Exploration: By Shirley Panken. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1987. 336 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 58:131-134.

(1989). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 58:131-134

Virginia Woolf and the "Lust of Creation." a Psychoanalytic Exploration: By Shirley Panken. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1987. 336 pp.

Review by:
David S. Werman

Can there have been many subjects who have so richly provided their biographers with the plentitude of documentary material as did Virginia Woolf? Not only did she leave a massive legacy of letters, diaries, novels, stories, and essays, but a similar mine of documents has come to us from her husband, sister, friends, and mere acquaintances. Many of these people were gifted, articulate, and given to letter writing, reminiscing, and plain gossip; several of them have, in turn, been the subjects of biography. For the psychobiographer—ultimately, are not all biographies psychological?—Woolf provides a virtual plethora of psychogenetic and dynamic motifs: parents who had both lost previous spouses; older half siblings—the males who sexually molested her; intensely and unremittingly ambivalent feelings toward both parents; a mother whose maternal behavior was, to say the least, erratic; the death of this mother when Woolf was thirteen years old; the death of her older half sister two years later; the death of an adored older brother; a complex competitive and seemingly eroticized relationship with her sister Vanessa; and, of critical importance, Woolf's life-long susceptibility to profound depressions, which reached psychotic proportions, and suicidal preoccupations and attempts, of which the last was—to use the usual word, uttered with unconscious irony—successful.


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