Expanding Woolf’s Gift Economy: Consumer Activity Meets Artistic Production in The Dial

Amanda Sigler, Erskine College
Vol. 30, No. 2 (Fall 2011), 317-342

This essay engages gift theory and periodical studies to illuminate modernism’s delicate dance between marketing and gifting, particularly as it is carried out in Virginia Woolf’s “Mrs Dalloway in Bond Street” (1923). As Kathryn Simpson has discussed, Mrs. Dalloway contemplates purchasing the novel Cranford (1851) as a gift, thus contributing to the articulation of a feminine gift economy. The scene’s relevance, however, can only be understood fully when Woolf’s story is read in its original periodical context. In the pages of The Dial, a magazine that advertised itself as “a gift of distinction for people of discrimination,” the story itself becomes part of a gift economy—one that extends beyond the fiction to the world of magazine readers. Examining both the material practice and the rhetoric of gift-giving, this essay shows how the intermingling of advertisement and literature in periodicals adjusts received understandings of consumer activity and artistic production.

Mary Wollstonecraft Sojourner Truth Margaret Atwood Abigail Adams Amy Tan H.D. Simone de Beauvoir Zora Neale Hurston Frances Burney Virginia Woolf

"The white saxifrage with the indented leafe is moste commended for the breakinge of the Stone."

— Turner, Herbal, III, 68 [1568]