Virginia Woolf's "Time Passes" from To the Lighthouse

The initial idea and overall organization of this project was the work of Julia Briggs (1943-2007), in whose memory the project was completed. When the project was undertaken in the late 2000s Virginia Woolf's writing was still in copyright, but under United Kingdom law this expired on 1 January 2012, being the first day of the 70th year following her death in 1941. The original project materials, and an innovative interface to them, were all loaded onto an independent project website called Woolf Online that is reached from the link on the left, and protected in its various parts--Woolf's writing, contextualizing pictures, and interface design--by assertions of the various creators' rights. The interface, for example, has the most liberal assertion of rights via a Creative Commons Attribution, Non-Commerical, No-Derivatives (known as CC BY-NC-ND) licence. In the light of Woolf's work entering the public domain at the start of 2012, moves are afoot to recreate on a CTS website as much of the project's materials, with as few restrictions, as possible. What follows is a description of the project from the Woolf Online website.

This project takes as its case study the experimental passage, "Time Passes", from Virginia Woolf's novel To the Lighthouse (1927). Virginia Woolf composed the first draft between 30th April and 25th May 1926, with an interval of four days, between 10th and 13th May, when she was working on an article on De Quincey for the Times Literary Supplement. The project brings together the different stages of writing that went into the making of "Time Passes" to create a record of its development in the form of a genetic edition of the text, and to embed that edition in a network of histories and contexts that reconfigure traditional annotation techniques as a system of linked but separate strands of thought, thus producing a new form of literary archaeology.

"Time Passes" is the ideal text for this project, not merely because it is a difficult and highly experimental piece of fiction, concerned with the relation between conscious and unconscious thought, but also, more pragmatically, because its history is exceptionally well documented. In addition to the first manuscript draft, there are two further stages of revision recorded, as well as three different published versions, none of them obviously representing a final intention. One unique feature of this project is made possible by Woolf's distinctive writing practice which enabled the project to identify the precise date on which each portion of her first draft was written, and so to correlate that portion with other documents, letters, diary etc, written on the same day. The first draft of "Time Passes" was composed in 26 days between 30th April and 25th May 1926, days during which a major political crisis, the first ever General Strike, was unfolding, an event that provides further perspective on the text.

The first draft of the text, the Initial Holograph Draft, and the private and public histories of its composition are dynamically linked, making it possible to read each day's draft in the context of the rest of Woolf's activities. The four stages of the current project, therefore, are as follows

  1. the genetic edition of the text
  2. first draft history, (a) personal
  3. first draft history, (b) public
  4. Stephen family history

Both parts of the first draft history, personal and public, can be found within the Contextual section of the site.