‘Mrs Dalloway, if she is anything at all, is merely herself, walking in her own dream of a private world’ (Pamela Hansford Johnson). Are Woolf’s novels so incorrigibly individualistic?
‘ … in or about December, 1910, human character changed’ (Virginia Woolf). What seems to you peculiarly ‘modern’ about Woolf’s representation of ‘human character’?
The best reading to accompany the novels is Woolf’s own criticism. The collected essays (there are hundreds of them) are edited in several volumes by Andrew McNeillie; but at this stage you might find more useful the pieces gathered in the older collections entitled The Common Reader. You might begin by looking at ‘Mr Bennett and Mrs Brown’, ‘The Russian Point of View’, ‘Modern Fiction’, ‘The Narrow Bridge of Art’; and A Room of One’s Own.
The following reading is scarcely up-to-date, and concentrates on matters of novelistic technique rather than (say) feminism or politics; but it should give you a start.
Muriel Bradbrook, ‘Notes on the Style of Mrs Woolf’, Scrutiny 1 (1932).
F.R. Leavis, ‘After To The Lighthouse’, Scrutiny 10 (1942).
Erich Auerbach, Mimesis: The Representation of Reality in Western Literature (1946). Famous chapter on Woolf’s technique in To The Lighthouse.
A.H. Moody, Virginia Woolf (1963).
* Hermione Lee, The Novels of Virginia Woolf (1977). By far the best critical introduction.
— Virginia Woolf (1996). A fine biography.
John Bayley, ‘Dimishment of Consciousness: A Paradox in the Art of Virginia Woolf’; in Eric Warner, ed., Virginia Woolf: A Centenary Perspective (1984). A sceptical but characteristically brilliant essay.
Gillian Beer, Virginia Woolf: The Common Ground (1996).