Virginia Woolf: Words Fail Me

Jilliane Hoffman nails it. “I have had my vision.”

Jilanne Hoffmann

Leave it to the BBC to store bits of Virginia Woolf’s psyche for us mere mortals to sift through on a whim. The broadcast of Woolf’s essay, “Craftsmanship,” was first heard on April 20, 1937. Five years later, it was published in a book called “The Death of the Moth, and other essays,” the year after she walked into the Ouse River with rocks in her pockets.

In “Craftsmanship,” Woolf insists that “words never make anything useful” and “tell nothing but the truth,” contradicting both meanings of “craft” in the dictionary. She says that words “hate being useful, that it is their nature not to express one simple statement but a thousand possibilities…”

Further into the essay, she says that “a useful statement is a statement that can mean only one thing. And it is the nature of words to mean many things.” Hence, words combined into statements cannot be…

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