Associate professor delves into study of Virginia Woolf

Sep 10, 2010 | Liberal Arts

An associate professor of English at Louisiana Tech has had an essay on Virginia Woolf’s classic feminist treatise, “A Room of One’s Own,” published in this month’s issue of “Names, A Journal of Onomastics.” In her essay “Naming Shakespeare’s Sister: Why Woolf Chose Judith,” Dr. Dorothy Robbins, an assistant professor of English, examined historical, biblical and literary sources to establish the aptness of Woolf’s onomastic decision. “Virginia Woolf’s ‘A Room of One’s Own’ is a collection of interrelated essays about women and fiction, and it is a work that I teach in British Literature: 1660 to the Present,” Robbins said. “Chapter 3 contains the story of Shakespeare’s equally talented though purely invented sister, Judith.” Robbins said in conducting research for a previous article, she noticed numerous scholars responded to Woolf’s story about Judith Shakespeare and its depiction of social constraints that impede women artists, but none critiqued Woolf’s onomastic decision “Basically, why did Woolf name Shakespeare’s imaginary sister ‘Judith,’ and not, say, Elizabeth or Ann, also popular names for women during Shakespeare’s day?” Robbins said. “In order to discern why Judith was the right choice artistically for the Bard’s imaginary sister, I examined a number of sources, including the genealogical records of Woolf and Shakespeare, the Old Testament ‘Book of Judith,’ the Early English poem fragment ‘Judith,’ Woolf’s diary entries and letters from the period during which she wrote the book, and a number of etymological sources.” Robbins said she felt that choosing the name “Judith” was a union of many reasons chosen by the author. “Rather than reaching one definitive answer, I conclude that Judith is an amalgamation, a name selected by the author for various and valid reasons,” she said. “Furthermore, I suggest that Woolf became her own prediction, the women writer of whom readers could finally assert: here is our female Shakespeare.”