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Empire and Commerce in Latin America: Historicising Woolf's The Voyage Out

Novillo-Corvalan, Patricia (2017) Empire and Commerce in Latin America: Historicising Woolf's The Voyage Out. Woolf Studies Annual, 23 . pp. 33-60. ISSN 1080-9317. (KAR id:57468)

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In this article, I seek to recuperate the overlooked Latin American contexts that inform Virginia Woolf’s first novel, The Voyage Out (1915). Integrating archival research and a historicising approach, I utilise documentary evidence drawn from the research notes that Virginia Woolf conducted for Leonard Woolf’s study Empire and Commerce in Africa (1920), namely, empirical data relating to political-economic issues in Latin America and, more specifically, to countries such as Argentina and Brazil. In so doing, I demonstrate that Virginia Woolf puts the complex issue of Great Britain’s neocolonial domination in Latin America squarely on the cultural agenda of The Voyage Out. I suggest that the archival documents (housed at the Leonard Woolf archive, University of Sussex) acutely illustrate the extent of Britain’s disproportionate economic control of Argentina through the development of the meat industry that turned the Argentine Republic into the abattoir of the British Empire. I argue that this documentary evidence complements and complicates the political message of The Voyage Out, whereby Woolf mercilessly denounces Britain’s attempt to gain economic control of the continent through the predatory figure of Willoughby Vinrace and his high stakes in the meat trade. In the second part of the article, I shift my attention to issues of trade pertaining to the rubber boom in Amazonia in the early twentieth century. Specific references in The Voyage Out adumbrate Woolf’s awareness of human rights abuses perpetrated in the upper Amazon basin, testifying to her engagement with the geopolitical issues of her time, especially the vexed relationship between empire, capitalism, and modernity.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PQ Romance Literature > PQ6001 Spanish Literature
P Language and Literature > PR English literature
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of European Culture and Languages
Depositing User: Patricia Novillo-Corvalan
Date Deposited: 23 Sep 2016 15:43 UTC
Last Modified: 16 Feb 2021 13:37 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
Novillo-Corvalan, Patricia:
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