This blog is a combination of information compiled as an element of a seminar course revolving around Virginia Woolf.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Late Short Stories- Lappin and Lappinova

Of Woolf’s late short stories, I found Lappin and Lappinova to be the most entertaining. Prior to reading the story, I had heard an abundance of praise about it; therefore, I feared the actual reading would be a let down. However, I was mistaken and once again, Woolf did not disappoint. I actually think I enjoyed reading this work more than other short stories we have read this semester.

Many of the elements and overarching concepts included in Lappin and Lappinova reminded me of Mrs. Dalloway. After reading both, the reader can immediately draw comparisons regarding the thoughts of a wife involved in a disappointing marriage. In Lappin and Lappinova, it seemed as if Rosalind created a fantasy world to live in to escape the constraints placed on her by marriage to Ernest. Woolf repeatedly mentions Rosalind’s mother-in-law and the dining room at Porchester Terrace as a way to show the pressure placed on Rosalind to conform to the accepted standards of the Thorburn family. In Mrs. Dalloway, we see similar constraints felt by Clarissa. Although the two women seem to escape the pressure in different ways, it is apparent that both feel somewhat inferior to their husband’s lifestyle. Clarissa chooses to contemplate a different life and become somewhat secluded from her husband, while Rosalind chooses to pull her husband into a fantasy world where they can both exist peacefully. Through the comparison of these two works, one can see the inner thoughts of a woman who does not find her marriage or husband entirely fulfilling.

In addition, Rosalind seems to become completely removed from the reality that is her marriage. The repeated imagery of Ernest’s ‘nose twitching’ is something I found particularly interesting. By the end of the story, I concluded that the nose twitching was a voluntary rather than involuntary reaction. It was almost like a little game Ernest played with Rosalind to make her happy. Once time passed, however, the game got old and he stopped playing so their marriage ended. If thinking of the nose twitching as an involuntary action, the reader can see the man as the controlling force within the relationship. Rosalind and Queen Lapinova were subject to Ernest’s moods and his ability to actually engage in the marriage. When he stopped engaging was when the marriage ended; therefore, he seemed to be in control the entire time. I think it would have been entertaining to see Rosalind walk away from the marriage on her own accord realizing that she was not happy. However, having the man in control is a reoccurring theme in Woolf’s work and is one that speaks volumes about the subordination of the female.

I also found the repeated mention of the color ‘yellow’ to be somewhat significant. The color is mostly used when Rosalind and Ernest are visiting his home. Woolf also uses the color gold to describe the lavish qualities of the home. I think these two colors are used as a tool for making Rosalind feel inferior. Yellow and gold seem to give an aura of happiness and richness, two things that Rosalind does not possess.

Overall I really enjoyed reading Lappin and Lapinova and am interested to see what the rest of the class thought of the work.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Critical Article #8- Between the Acts

Pridemore-Brown, Michele. “ Of Virginia Woolf, Gramophones, and Fascism.” PMLA 113.3 (1998 May): 408-21.

Interrelating the presence of the gramophone and the underlying commentary on fascism in Virginia Woolf’s Between the Acts, Michele Pridmore-Brown compiles a successful interpretation of the forces functioning in Woolf’s last novel through her article entitled 1939-1940: Of Virginia Woolf, Gramophones, and Fascism. From Pridmore-Brown’s point of view Woolf was an active participant in the fight against Fascism. Although her article mainly discusses the character of Miss La Trobe and the noise of the gramophone, Pridmore-Brown includes numerous references to historical events marking the imperialism of Europe. At the beginning of her article she states that Woolf “uses a gramophone to demonstrate how patriotic messages, inscribed on bodies through rhythm and rhyme, can transform individuals into a herd that can be controlled by a charismatic leader” (408). Immediately, the reader has sense of the forces that are to be discussed in the remaining paragraphs of the article.

Pridmore-Brown continues her ideas by defining the rhythms and rhymes portrayed in Between the Acts. She reiterates Woolf’s ideas of rhymes as male possessiveness or nationalism and rhythm as the marching boots of wartime (411). By doing so, Pridmore-Brown sets the reader up for the interpretation she is going to offer. She examines how the gramophone with its dispersal of rhythm and rhyme is a tool that regulates the audience within the novel. If I understood the main points of the article correctly then I would suggest that Pridmore-Brown suggests that the gramophone both highlights the collective audience and the individual conscious. She seems to imply that audiences are linked to one another through sound waves. In an essence, Pridmore-Brown takes excerpts from Woolf’s personal life, statements quoted in The Three Guineas, and historical commentary from other critics to examine the literary fight that Woolf portrays. In seeing the members of the audience in Between the Acts as members of society prior to World War II, readers can see the need for political implications in literary development. By showing Woolf’s use of the gramophone and Miss La Trobe as her artistic counterpart, Pridmore-Brown is able to show “ the emphasis put on communication and dialogue rather than on the backdrop of violence and degradation” (420).

I found this article particularly interesting and chose to read it because I too questioned the presence of the gramophone and the line, “dispersed are we.” Although my interpretation was strictly limited to the dispersion of individual character and how one should know their true self, I found Pridmore-Brown’s article to be enlightening. I had not thought of sound as a uniting and at the same time dividing force; therefore, I definitely found information to carry away from the article that enlightens tricky portion of Between the Acts. However, at times I found the writing a little dense and would like to read the article a third time just to make sure I have a grasp on the little details briefly mentioned in the article.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Between the Acts- "Dispersed Are We"

After class on Thursday I re-read the first portion of Between the Acts, mainly because I missed the gay references concerning William Dodge the first time around and wanted to take a closer look at his character. The gay commentary did seem a little more prominent during a second reading, but another portion of the text actually caught my attention a little more. On page 66, the phrase ‘dispersed are we’ pops up repeatedly and is a looming force over the characters in the novel (Woolf 66). It is continually being heard as the characters are dispersing from their seats toward the end of the play. Although the characters are physically dispersing, I think the phrase has an underlying commentary regarding the range of personalities shown through the characters in the novel.

‘Dispersed are we’ seems to imply some sort of tension or scattering off in different directions. Dispersion is not typically associated with unity; therefore, the phrase implants the idea of brokenness into the mind of the reader. As the reader, I was unsure if this brokenness referred to the break in the play, the physical dispersion of the audience, or the tension between the characters themselves. However, I would like to think that it refers to then tension and differences between characters.

During the pages when the gramophone is wailing ‘dispersed are we,’ Woolf jumps into the minds of many different characters. We see many of them struggling with the idea of following the dispersing crowd led by Mrs. Manresa or staying rooted where they are. It seems as if all of the characters just to follow the crowd, which leads Miss La Trobe to comment on the failure of the play.

From this short scene, I think the reader has a glimpse of one of the main themes within the novel concerning the ability to see yourself and be your own person. All the characters in Between the Acts are very different, but they all seem to have issues with their own identity. There is tension and jealousy throughout the entire first half that upsets the unity of the crowd; however, these issues are not voiced. They are muted and only emerge through the reader’s vision into individual character’s minds. I think Woolf may have been trying to comment on the need for expression as a means of self-cleansing, which also ties in with the mirror being reflected upon the audience at the end of the novel. I think Woolf may have been implying that people must learn to see themselves for who they truly are, (flaws, issues, imperfections and all) and adapt to situations based on what is best for their individual character. In an essence, ‘ the dispersion’ that Woolf mentions is in direct reference to the audience because there cannot be a unified ‘we’ until people collectively voice their thoughts and have a chance to create a unity and comfort of their own individual self. Unity as a crowd seems to come from a loving of yourself as an individual. The phrase ‘dispersed are we’ looms over the crowd as a reminder for the reader that dispersion and differences are a good thing.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Critical Article #7- Three Guineas

In her critical essay, Memory, Photography, and Modernism: The “Dead Bodies and Ruined Homes” of Virginia Woolf’s Three Guineas, Maggie Humm describes photographic testimony as a source of political elaboration used by Woolf to attack fascism and patriarchy. Humm begins her argument by describing two different types of photos incorporated in Three Guineas. She states that there are five published newspaper photos from the masculine patriarchal world, but there are also absent photos produced by the narrator’s visual memories and only addressed in the text through writing. The photos juxtapose one another to create a tension between the masculine and feminine and thus the public and the private.

Humm specifically addresses nine references to ‘dead bodies and ruined houses’, which are referred to as the absent photos. The constant repetition of this image helps the reader relate to the narrator and connects one’s private history to a public event. In the conclusion of the essay Humm states, “Woolf’s contiguous relation to the absent photographs and her bodily distance from the public photographs construct the main theme of Three Guineas: Woolf’s attack on the symbolic blindness of patriarchal traditions”(Humm 660). This statement seems to be the main point of the entre article. By laying out the two types of photos and discussing narrative distance and the lingering of memory, Humm is effectively able to find a meaning for the repeated line ‘dead bodies and ruined houses.’

Humm’s article also gives the reader a chance to examine Woolf’s literary genius. By including subtle references to the woman’s economic invisibility, Woolf is able to condemn the patriarchy in a successful and admirable way. Rather than seeming like a political rant concerning women’s rights, the reader can see Three Guineas as Woolf voicing her opinions in a controlled and academic way. It with the assistance of articles like Humm’s that the reader truly discovers the passion behind Woolf’s condemnation of the patriarchy.

Humm, Maggie. “Memory, Photography, and Modernism: The “Dead Bodies and Ruined Houses” of Virginia Woolf’s Three Guineas.” The University of Chicago Press 28.2 (2003): 645-663

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Thoughts on Three Guineas

Prior to reading Three Guineas, I really enjoyed most of Woolf’s non-fiction a little more than her fiction. However, I believe Three Guineas is an exception to that preference. While Woolf does make very valid arguments in each of the three sections, I found the essay to be somewhat tedious and repetitive. I felt like a tight and more compact essay would have been more appealing to readers.

With that being said, there are still many things that can be taken away from the essay. In dispersing the three guineas, Woolf displays her thoughts on how a guinea should be used. In the first chapter, she believes the guinea can be most beneficially used by building women’s colleges on the model of men’s and in the second chapter, she states that the guinea should be used to help women obtain positions in the professions. In the third chapter she gives the guinea to a person who wanted it to protect culture and intellectual liberty. In dispersing these three guineas, Woolf is sure to highlight the reasons for doing so. She constantly references the importance of compromise. In each section it is as if she is speaking directly to a person and arguing for the elevation of the woman’s status in exchange for a guinea. She also successfully ties women’s liberation to the anti-war cause and maps out a relationship between gender and war, thus raising awareness for both controversial subjects.

Woolf should be credited for the extent and depth of information included in the essay. It is clear from the salaries and statistics quoted that Woolf had done her research concerning a woman’s status in the 1930’s. Her arguments and points resonate far beyond the scope of this work though. Although not as extreme, many of her main points can be taken into a modern context to address the role of women in the professions today. I also particularly enjoyed the clear and distinct nature of the essay. With Woolf, readers are often left guessing about her thoughts, but this essay lays them out in a simple, yet powerful way.

One portion of the essay I found particularly interesting was in the third section when Woolf discusses ‘the adultery of the brain’ (Woolf 112). She describes the process as writing what one does not want to write for the sake of money, which I thought was particularly interesting. I liked the reference to writing as a form of chastity and thought it was a clever analysis on behalf of Woolf. I can definitely say that now anytime I am forced to write a paper that I don’t want to for a class I will only be thinking of ‘the adultery of the brain,’ Three Guineas, and Virginia Woolf.

Woolf, Virginia. Three Guineas. 1938. Ed. Mark Hussey. Orlando, Florida: Harcourt, Inc., 2006.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Critical Article #6- Cam The Wicked

In her article, ‘Cam the Wicked’: Woolf’s Portrait of the Artist as her Father’s Daughter, Elizabeth Abel successfully highlights the ways in which Cam, the youngest Ramsey daughter in Woolf’s To The Lighthouse, is a reflection of the daughter whose actions hinge and rely on the thoughts of the father. Abel claims that To The Lighthouse is Woolf’s most profound psychoanalytical text as it addresses the competing critical interpretations of maternal and paternal influences and highlights the twisted undertones of Freud’s Oedipal Complex in terms of the Ramsey family (Abel 172). Abel also discusses the idea of narrative imprisonment and how is arises from Cam’s inheritance of the mother’s middle position between the son and the father/husband. Through Abel’s article, one can interpret Cam’s silence as a reaction to the Oedipal Complex and women’s inability to find a voice when functioning in their adolescent thoughts of the father. Abel also declares Cam as Woolf own ‘self-portrait as her father’s daughter’ thus using a psycho biographical approach to further develop her critical argument.

Abel sets up two crucial situations during which Cam seems to relate more heavily to her father than her mother. In discussing the boat and study scenes, Abel highlights the ways in which Cam admires and fears disappointment from her father. She also discusses the way in which Cam is paralyzed by a desire to fulfill both her brother and father’s wishes. When the conflict between the two men is resolved is when Cam is finally able to recover her own memories and think truly for herself. These thoughts, however, are constantly imposed upon by the memories of her father and Abel continually states that Cam is eager for ‘access to a discourse who terms diminish her” (Abel 178). Thus Cam’s existence in society is complicated by her willingness to see herself through her father.

One interpretation specifically imposed by Abel concerns the relationship between Lily and Cam. For Abel, Lily is the epitome of the perfect daughter and more successful sister. She is the counterpart to Cam and thus juxtaposes the functions of women who see themselves through the mother vs. the father. Lily overshadows Cam in most situations and helps the reader see the costs and limits placed upon Cam because of her affiliation with the father.

Overall, I enjoyed Abel’s article and its critique of Cam. Abel goes into great depth explaining the core of her argument and maps out a distinct set of actions performed by Cam within the text. Because of her textual support, I believe Abel successfully articulates her views and breaks down the claim made by most critics concerning a women’s automatic affiliation with the mother.

Able, Elizabeth. 'Cam the Wicked': Woolf's Portrait of the Artist as her Father's Daughter. Virginia Woolf and Bloomsbury.

Political Woolf- Thoughts on Peace During An Air Raid and Fear and Politics

After beginning the readings regarding politics and Woolf, I was shocked by the extent to which I actually enjoyed the material. I assumed because of my strong disinterest in politics that I would be somewhat bored with this portion of Woolf’s work; however, the exact opposite has actually happened. I am enjoying myself! I started this unit by reading Thoughts on Peace in An Air Raid which I thought was surprising and somewhat outside the realm of Woolf’s typical writings. First of all, the sentence structure and the ability to actually follow her thoughts really threw me for a loop. The sensation of having some sort of clue what Woolf was talking about was a new and quite entertaining experience.

One portion of the text I found particularly unusual was Woolf’s commentary on Englishmen. At one point she states, “We must create more honorable activities for those who try to conquer in themselves their fighting instinct, their subconscious Hitlerism.” This statement shed a whole new light on my ideas of Woolf. Until this point in the semester I have felt that Woolf had a cynical attitude regarding the male population. In many of her novels we have seen women’s subservience to the male gender and for this reason I believed Woolf despised the male gender and used them as a tool for blame. But In Thoughts on Peace in An Air Raid Woolf lays the foundation as to why males have a macho and at times overly-masculine demeanor. She seems to be implying that males have pre-conceived notions built into their character regarding how they are to behave. She further emphasizes her point in suggesting that women must HELP them overcome these ideas. The idea of women HELPING men and being sympathetic to their needs surprised me. In this essay I think we see a more caring and determined side of Woolf. She seems to look past the restrictions males have placed on her as a woman in society and sees the broader picture by focusing on the good of all of humanity rather than just the female gender.

I also really enjoyed Leonard Woolf’s Fear and Politics. From the writing, it is easy to see how he and Virginia were married. Their writing styles remind me a lot of one another in that they both successfully use language to capture the reader’s attention in a manipulative sort of way. For some reason, I kept laughing while reading the essay, which is something I often do when reading Virginia’s work. Prior to reading Fear and Politics, I had very limited knowledge regarding the Russian Revolution, but from the reading, the main debates of the revolution became very clear. In Leonard’s writing, I can also see the spiral motion we have discussed in how his ideas begin and enter through a series of loops only to end at almost the same point. I loved his incorporation of the animals and the idea of captivity and the jungle. Even for someone disinterested in history, this essay was enlightening; therefore, I would say it is a successful piece of literature.