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Vanessa and Virginia

Award Information

AHRC ref: AH/I500618/1
Discipline: Languages and Literatures (excluding Modern Languages)
Funding opportunity: Research Grant
Areas of Impact: Creative Industries; Culture and heritage
Lead RO: University of St Andrews
Region: Scotland

Susan Sellers

Editorial and biographical research on the work of Virginia Woolf, carried out primarily by Professor Susan Sellers, fed directly into the composition of Vanessa and Virginia, an acclaimed novel about Woolf’s relationship with her sister, Vanessa.

In 2008 Vanessa and Virginia was published by a small independent publisher in the Highlands of Scotland. It became the publisher’s most commercially successful publication to date and ensured its early economic viability. The novel was subsequently published in North America and translated into more than a dozen languages.  It was also turned into a successful, internationally-staged play.

Professor Susan Sellers, University of St Andrews, has carried out extensive research on the fictional and non fictional prose of Virginia Woolf.  AHRB/AHRC funding supported continuing research into Woolf’s novels, diaries and letters, contributing to a Cambridge University Press multi volume edition on Woolf, and feeding directly into the Vanessa and Virginia novel.

Susan Sellers
Professor Susan Sellers, University of St Andrews. Copyright: Brian Golden Photography

The novel was published in 2008 by Two Ravens Press, a small Scottish Independent literary publishing company.  The novel became one of the company’s bestselling books, leading to financial success and an increase in reputation for the Press, which the Director of Two Ravens at that time saw as a key factor in the company leveraging further funding from the Scottish Arts Council. The novel was picked up and marketed intensively by international publishers, first in the US and then in further global markets.  It was translated into more than a dozen languages, achieving an impressive international reach.

Further AHRC funding through the Knowledge Catalyst scheme then helped a freelance director and researchers at Bath Spa University adapt the novel into a play. This proved enormously successful, with the play touring across the UK and internationally, and receiving award nominations. A new company was set up specifically to tour the play, leading to employment for producers, designers, lighting engineers, three actors, an image company and a musical director.  The tour also presented the academic origins behind the play, ensuring that a new public and international audience were aware of the excellent UK research that led to the novel and theatre production.

For more information on the project visit:

Gateway to Research Project Links: (N/A for Vanessa and Virginia): Vanessa and Virginia - A Play, Aug 10 - Aug 11

Moving Stories Theatre pic
Moving Stories Theatre pic
Moving Stories Theatre pic
Four images from the play. Copyright: Moving Stories Theatre Company
Moving Stories Theatre pic