At the time of the Woolfs' marriage, Leonard was a penniless ex-colonial administrator, a fervent anti-imperialist, a committed socialist, a budding novelist, and an assimilated Jew who vacillated between fierce pride in his ethnicity and repudiation of it. Virginia was an "intellectual aristocrat," socially privileged by her class and family background but hobbled through gender. Leonard helped Virginia elucidate her own prejudices and elitism, and his political engagements intensified her identification with outsiders in British society. Rosenfeld discovers an aesthetic of intersubjectivity constantly at work in Virginia Woolf's prose, links this aesthetic to the intermeshed literary lives of the Woolfs, and connects both these sites of dialogue to the larger sociopolitical debates--about imperialism, capitalism, women, sexuality, international relations, and, finally, fascism--of their historical place and time.
The serene and maternal Mrs. Ramsay, the tragic yet absurd Mr. Ramsay, and their children and assorted guests are on holiday on the Isle of Skye. From the seemingly trivial postponement of a visit to a nearby lighthouse, Woolf constructs a remarkable, moving examination of the complex tensions and allegiances of family life and the conflict between men and women.