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.

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Waves and Neville

The Waves is a tricky novel that leaves the reader slightly confused, but also slightly enlightened. While these two concepts are normally in opposition, Woolf has a sneaky way of enticing both emotions within the reader. When thinking about an overall theme of the novel, I realized that Woolf highlights the importance of both the individual and collective ideas of consciousness by leaving traces of her ideas for the reader, but no idea is clearly mapped out or outwardly displayed. However, I was left with the sense that is the way that Woolf intended the novel to be received. As a reader, our own consciousness is not enough to decipher the unique diction and structure of the text; we must collectively analyze the work using the combined brainpower of multiple forces. Maybe Woolf wanted her readers to have a sense of individualism and a sense of unity much like the characters in her novel. Each of the characters seems incomplete in the reader’s eyes; therefore, Woolf seems to be subtly hinting at the inaccuracy of a single human’s abilities. I think the novel comments on the need for unity of humanity.

Aside from this idea concerning the overall meaning of the text, I had several more specific thoughts concerning Neville. When first reading Neville’s lines, all I could envision was the character of Neville from the Harry Potter series. However, I quickly realized that The Waves Neville and Harry Potter Neville are two very different characters. Woolf’s Neville is very refined and somewhat tightly wound. He was the character I was assigned to follow; therefore, I kept a close eye on his movements and behaviors and by the end of the novel felt as if I could almost predict the content of his soliloquies. One portion of Neville’s character I found particularly interesting was his devotion to art. His whole life seemed to be centered on it. He was the only character to actually become a successful poet and I think that is partially because of his devotion to the art. He seemed to go through a whirlwind of ups and downs concerning Percival’s death and his string of lovers, but art and poetry seemed to remain the only constant force. This reminded me a lot of the portrayal of art in To The Lighthouse. The painting was one of the only forces that stayed constant from beginning to end much like Neville’s devotion to becoming a poet stayed constant from beginning to end. In this way then, we as readers can see the pedestal upon which Woolf holds the writings of poetry and creation of art.

Also through Neville’s character I think we may see some of Woolf’s personal commentary on religion. (I would really like to research and find out more about her beliefs or lack thereof). Neville seems to hate the ideals and beliefs of traditional religions especially Christianity. He seems to think that Christians are depressing and only see the negative functions of the world whereas the Greeks and Romans see the positive portions. This love for the Greeks and Romans may relate back to his obsession with poetry/art because Greeks laid the foundation for these activities. Art and poetry flourished in part because of the Greeks so we may see a connection between Neville’s condemnation for religion and praising of art.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Critical Article #5- A Room of One's Own

In her article, “ Sapphistry: Narration as Lesbian Seduction in A Room of One’s Own,” Jane Marcus discusses the rhetorical seduction of the woman reader. Using the term sapphistry to refer to the woman writer’s seduction of the women reader, Marcus introduces a variety of points of support this central claim. She begins her essay by introducing the trail of Radclyffe Hall’s novel, The Well of Loneliness and by making historical connections to figures such as Oscar Browning. She states that echoes of these historical and literary happenings are present within A Room of One’s Own (Marcus 164-165).

Next, Marcus discusses the idea of women as a “league together against authority” (Marcus 166). She talks of how readers of A Room of One’s Own are part of a conspiracy in which women align with one another to create a coalition. She believes that Woolf’s narration is a plot to help foster spirit for this conspiracy. Marcus continues with her narration by mentioning the ellipses as a central element of Woolf’s work. From the trial of Radclyffe Hall, Woolf learned that she could not outwardly mention the idea of lesbianism so Marcus proposes that the ellipsis is the ‘female code for lesbian love” (Marcus 169). She continues with her narration by condemning the patriarchal structure in highlighting that it does not condemn homosexual men, only women. Homosexual men only “reaffirm the power relations between the strong and the weak” (page 177).

Marcus also discusses Woolf’s family and how they fit into the unfair structure.Other points Marcus chooses to discuss concern the ambiguity of Mary’s name and the use of initials to reduce a person to an unimportant status. By incorporating all of these elements and bringing forth their meanings in A Room of One’s Own, Marcus is able to condemn the patriarchal structure and give women a place within society. She uses sapphistry and the idea of lesbian seduction to show that women can have a voice if they ban together and have the desire to do so. Marcus seems to say that lesbianism is the outlet for power.

Marcus’s article was very in-depth. She used supporting evidence and 100% backed her arguments so I would consider this credible and enlightening source pertaining to the main ideals in A Room of One’s Own.

Marcus, Jane. "Sapphistry: Narration as Lesbian Seduction in A Room of One’s Own. Virginia Woolf and the Language of Patriarchy. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1987. 163-87.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Middle Essays: Professions for Women and The Cinema

Of all the middle essays, Professions for Women was by far the most entertaining from my perspective. Because the essay dealt with the idea of the woman as an author, I believe Woolf’s true personality was revealed through the course of the text for this is a subject she feels strongly about. From her descriptive sentences and sarcastic undertones, Woolf definitely keeps the reader entertained through the course of the text. Now, after reading the first portion of A Room’s of One’s Own, I can see how this essay is a precursor to a fuller and more elaborate text.

One portion of Professions for Women I found most interesting was when Woolf quoted what she envisioned The Angel of the House to say. The Angel of the House urges the author, “never let anyone know you have a mind of your own” (2). This idea struck me as very degrading towards women, but it also reminded me of one portion of Orlando. In the chapter concerning the 19th century, Orlando talks of an outside force controlling her pen and states, “Nothing more repulsive could be imaged than to feel the ink flowing thus in cascades of involuntary inspiration” (175). With these statements, one can see how Woolf envisions outside forces in a negative light. Because The Angel of the House comes between Woolf and her writing, and the strict constraints of the Victorian Era limited women’s writings, one can see the similarities between Professions for Women and Orlando. The Angel of the House and the Victorian Era are forces of society that degrade women to the point in which they have no creative outlet, which is a central focus in both works.

Another portion of the text I found entertaining was the concluding paragraph where Woolf discusses the decorating of the room of one’s own. In a way, I think she is marking the path to justice for women. Although she states that women have won a small freedom in having a room of their own, she also states that it is only the beginning. Women must still decorate and furnish the room; therefore, I believe she is commenting on the idea that women will always have obstacles to overcome. Even if the road eventually becomes smooth for women, they will always have a more difficult journey than men.

Additionally, I was struck by how Woolf incorporates a small dose of Freudian psychology into the work. She states, “the novelist’s chief desire is to be as unconscious as possible” (3). Although in Freudian psychology, the author may not know he is tapping into his own unconsciousness, it is still the source of creative energies. For Freud, art serves as an outlet for suppressed feelings and this essay shows that Woolf may share similar thoughts.

Aside from Professions for Women, I also thought The Cinema was an interesting essay. Since Woolf deals with visual imagery a great extent in her novels, I found her somewhat negative view of the cinema interesting. But as we discussed in class, Woolf may have had different views if presented with the more modern form of the cinemas that we now have, but I still will never be able to watch a movie without thinking of what the text version would be like.

Chapters 1 and 2 of A Room of One's Own

The Interruptions:

Since we were asked to read and reflect on a critical article concerning Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own, I decided I should post on this essay for my blog of the week. Although I have only read the first two chapters, this essay seems to be in touch with Virginia Woolf’s thoughts as an actual writer (although she avidly claims that she is not the narrator within the text). In many Woolf novels, one can see feminist ideals and thoughts emerging but this essay lays them out in a unified order for the reader and to be honest, I am not sure if I enjoy that or not. I enjoy the excitement of deciphering the symbols and imagery Woolf incorporates into her fictional novels; therefore, this was a little straightforward for my taste; however, I feel as if there were moments in the text that I found particularly entertaining.

The first element that stood out to me was the repeated occurrence of interruption especially within the first chapter. It seemed as if every time the narrator was on the verge of a insightful thought a man or obstacle were there to hinder that thought from developing. The first instance occurred while she was walking on the grass along the river at Oxbridge and the second occurred when the narrator was trying to enter the library to find the works of Charles Lamb. In both instances the narrator’s sentences are cut short by the intrusion of someone condemning her status as a woman. After the first incident, the narrator states, “ What idea it had been that had sent me so audaciously trespassing I could not now remember” (6). In the second instance, the narrator is pondering the definition of meaning and style when she is interrupted by a gentleman who resembles “a guardian angel barring the way with a flutter of black gown”(7). Both of these quotes show the extent to which her female gender is a hindrance to her creative process. The creative process is halted because men are continually scolding her invading their personal space. Thus, the idea that women need a room of their own is developed very early within the essay.

Similarly, in the second chapter, the narrator’s creative process is interrupted by the need to pay the bills, which caught my attention. For me personally (and I believe traditionally) paying the bills is a man’s role. Although I do not want to buy into traditional gender roles, I believe there is an important distinction with this specific interruption. With this interruption, Woolf incorporates her idea that a woman must be financially stable to complete the creative process. Because the narrator has inherited five hundred pounds a year, she has no real concern over the bills but they are still a demanding obligation. If looking at paying the bills as a masculine duty then one can see that all three interruptions are caused as a result of the male gender. Yet, the narrator chooses not to blame the male gender, but rather blame the system as a whole. She seems to think that males have patriarchal ideals instilled in them at an early age and therefore cannot be credited for purposely harming the female gender. In this sense then, the narrator raises the female to an even higher pedestal by giving them the compassion of understanding.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Critical Article #4- Orlando

“ Giving Up the Ghost: National and Literary Haunting in Orlando” by Erica Johnson discusses both the unconscious and conscious forces functioning in Woolf’s Orlando. The article discusses the relationship between national and literary identity through the two contrasting gender identities that Orlando embodies. Using psychoanalytic ideals and merging them with a somewhat new critical approach, Johnson successfully identifies the ‘ghosts’ in Woolf’s work and uses these ‘ghosts’ to highlight her main points of focus.

Johnson begins her argument by slowly introducing her reader to the idea of ghosts and haunting. She does not automatically assume the reader to be familiar with these terms in regards to a literary context. She uses Avery Gordon’s definition of ‘ ghost stories’ to state, “ Orlando can be read as a ghost story according to Gordon’s definition: to write stories concerning exclusions and invisibilities is to write ghost stories” (Johnson 113). Additionally, she explains how national identity and its relation to Orlando as a person emerges thru the half-hidden characters of different social backgrounds lurking in the shadows of the novel. By establishing these building blocks in the introductory portions of the text, Johnson establishes her claim with supporting evidence from many other authors, giving the reader very little room for rebuttal.

Diving into the body of her argument, Johnson argues that the terrain of England is a symbol of national identity. She uses examples of the terrain to show, “Woolf’s underlying critique of national identity as an ideological means of including subjects according specified categories such as class, gender, and sexuality” (Woolf 117). According to Johnson, Woolf sees national identity as suppressive, but as a society in which Orlando can easily function as a male.

Johnson continues with her narration in describing the invisible nature of the Turkish landscape and how it relates to Orlando’s transformation into a woman and thus a ‘nonentity’ (121). As a nonentity, Johnson seems to recognize that Woolf believes women are suppressed by a national identity, but at the same time must learn to function within that same national identity. Essentially, whether as a man and a center subject or as a women and haunting subject, Orlando has to struggle with the idea of Englishness, which is where literary haunting takes place. Through Orlando and Johnson’s interpretation, one can see that literary haunting is important because it gives the absent a literary voice. Johnson states, “Orlando enables Woolf to accomplish the contradictory task of showing literary production to be a national project and inserting an absent voice into this otherwise exclusive model of English literature” (123).

For me, I think this statement summarizes most of the article. I interpreted the article as saying that Woolf includes haunting within Orlando to highlight the ‘absent’ figure and show that the ‘absent’ figure can have a voice through literature, but through that literature, one must include all races, classes, and social statuses functioning within the national identity. Overall, Johnson’s argument was articulately refined and laid out in a systematic way and I am convinced of her broader ideals.

MFS Modern Fiction Studies. Volume 50, number 1, Spring 2004.

Monday, October 11, 2010


For this blog, I wanted to concentrate on the submissive nature of Orlando’s character, especially in Chapter 5. At the beginning of the novel, we see a young boy who serves the Queen at court, but by the end we see a women filling her own internal desires, which are two very different ideas. Therefore, my question regarding this novel concerns how and why this shift occurs. We literally are taken to two polar ends of a spectrum and there must be a reason for this. While many people would argue that Woolf’s main inspiration for creating many diverse characters would be to highlight the differences in gender roles, I would argue differently. I think Woolf wanted the reader to look past Orlando’s specific personality at the moment and focus on society’s impact upon the his/her character and judge his/her response. In my eyes, Orlando’s different personalities are literary puppets used to show repressive qualities of society. I also believe the existence of ‘The Oak Tree” throughout the entire novel is one of the only non-conforming elements within the work as it helps Orlando find her true identity.

In Chapter 5 the reader sees the emergence of the 19th century. When thinking of the 19th century, I automatically think of the Victorian Era and a plethora of snobby people with their noses stuck a little to high in the air. With Orlando, we see that Virginia Woolf seems to share my assumption. The 19th century is introduced to the reader as a cloud hanging over London. The cloud seems to add a sense of doom and desperation to the remainder of the novel. It seems to suffocate Orlando and we see this suffocation through the constant annoyance of her outfit and the demand to be married. Nature is even in accord with the change of pace as the gardens become overgrown and out of control in this chapter.

And maybe this is reading a little too much into Virginia Woolf novels as a whole, but I think Woolf may have included this despair to show that women had no outlet and nowhere to turn in the 19th century. It reminded me of To The Lighthouse when Lilly finally finds satisfaction from a finished painting. The only source of satisfaction and steadiness in this novel is the poem, ‘The Oak Tree” which Orlando carries around all the time. It is the only element that is a constant presence whether Orlando is functioning in her/his male or female persona; therefore, I think it is symbolic of the function of art as an outlet of emotion. In the Victorian Era, creativity seemed to be suppressed as strict morality standards made creativity hard to come by and Woolf juxtaposes this idea by constantly incorporating the influence of poetry. In the middle of the chapter, Orlando reflects on the influence her poetry has had. She talks of how it has remained ’fundamentally the same’ even through all of her changes (173). It has been the constant presence that she refers to when times are hard. It is her rock and no other changes make a difference.

Through this scene, the reader sees the positive influence that art can have on a person. Woolf quickly reiterates the idea by having an outside force take hold of Orlando’s pen. She states, “Nothing more repulsive could be imagined than to feel the ink flowing thus in cascades of involuntary inspiration” (175). Clearly, Orlando does not being in control of her art, just like Lily did not enjoy not being able to create art. For both, art is the center of the universe and the stable ground that keeps them functioning. For Orlando, the influence of an outside force controlling the pen may have been Woolf’s commentary of the strict codes of the Victorian Era. Orlando was not free to write as she wanted and do as she pleased; therefore, she felt trapped in a despair of human emotion. By showing this in Chapter Five of Orlando, Woolf reaffirms this idea of art as a needed source of society within the reader.

Monday, October 4, 2010

The Power of Art in The Lighthouse

The third chapter of The Lighthouse really caught my attention. While reading thru the first portion of the entire last section, I began to mark examples of where characters felt alone or portrayed a sense of emptiness. This ideal was most commonly displayed thru Lily Briscoe’s character. In the beginning of the second portion, Woolf states,” It seemed to rebuke her…he had gone and she had been so sorry for him and she had said nothing) trooped off the field; and then emptiness. (160). However, soon after the statement of these lines, the reader sees a change in Lilly’s attitude. She returns to painting and a ‘curious physical sensation’ begins to emerge as displayed by the language in the text (161).

Surprisingly, it seems as if Lily’s painting and its implications are physically abusing or raping her. Language and phrases such as ‘laid hands on her,’ ‘banged,’ ‘intercourse,’ ‘protruded,’ and ‘lubrication’ give the text a very sexual connotation. When used within a sentence, most of these words are incorporated in a violent way, which gives the reader (or me anyway) the sense that Lily is being physically raped by the art. Since this situation is not actually possible, one must deduce what Virginia Woolf is actually trying to say. Personally, I believe she is commenting on the power of art as an expression of emotion. In this scenario, art is belittling Lilly and her capabilities as an artist. This section shows the power a blank canvas can have over a person and in this case in particular, a woman.

In later paragraphs, Woolf reiterates Charles Tansley and his comment concerning woman and art. He states, “ Women can’t paint, can’t write.” (165). Lily reminisces of Mrs. Ramsey writings letters on the beach and seems to have much admiration for Mrs. Ramsey because she breaks the code established by Tansley’s claim. In the same way, Lily breaks the code established by Tansley. Slowly, she begins to lose consciousness of outer things and becomes completely immersed within the work. The text states, “Her mind kept throwing up from its depths, scenes, and names, and sayings, and memories and ideas, like a fountain spurting over the glaring, hideously difficult white space, while she modeled it with greens and blues.” It is only when Lily lets go of her insecurities of being a woman and subordinate to the male that her creativity flows. The violent and forceful language ceases and the reader sees a canvas full of vibrant colors rather than plain white. Similarly, the repetitive mentions of emptiness cease and move from Lily to the Ramsey’s daughter, Cam.

Through this scene, one can finally deduce that the colors of blue and green seem to be the colors of ecstasy. Lily is finally able to paint when she triumphs over Mr. Tansley’s idea that a woman can’t paint or write and she does so by using these two colors. Having power to create art rather than let art control her gives Lily satisfaction. If Lily is able to create art then she also triumphs over the male gender’s perception than women cannot be involved in the artistic process. Overall, I think this entire third section of The Lighthouse is important in discussing male/female relations, the power of art, and the violent nature of humanity in one intertwined context.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Critical Reflection #3

Virginia Woolf and the General Strike

Kate Flint

Kate Flint’s article regarding ‘Virginia Woolf and the General Strike’ is insightful in many ways. Taking the most obvious literary devices incorporated in “Time Passes,” Flint argues for a specific understanding regarding the baffling nature of the middle passage. Arguing that Virginia Woolf may have been thinking of the general strike regarding the reduction of wages for coal miners in the 1920’s when writing “Time Passes,” Flint shows the reader the ways in which the passage reveals one uncertain event and its relation to society as a whole. When talking about the destruction of the Scottish residence in the section, Flint states, “Its near destruction is being used, potentially, as an image of fear greater destruction. If this whole house had ‘plunged downward to the depths of darkness’, so, in a sense, the set of social and cultural values which occupied it…might be said to have fallen too” (329). In the end, the only thing that saves the house is human nature and the work of Mrs.McNab and Mrs. Bast. (Which may I add is interesting in itself because up until this point in the course I think we have seen a negative view of human nature by Woolf. To have the goodness of human nature triumph and save the house is an important distinction between this section and other portions of Woolf’s work we have read).

Similarly, Flint argues that Woolf’s feminist ideals are portrayed through the triumph of the feminine spirit. She states, “ The destructive forces of patriarchy and the dangers of impersonality are countered by female effort.” She alludes to Woolf’s commentary on the negative influences of World War I through her destructive and violent language, reiterating that unity must be more powerful than the “forces of division” (333). This is where we see the comparison to the General Strike. Because the General Strike was mainly centered on middle class unfairness, Woolf seems to be commenting that society as a whole must be united to function successfully and thus is degrading the wage reductions.

As a whole, the article is very informative. Although I personally believe Flint could have included a little more detail regarding the General Strike, I think the article really explains in-depth the meaning behind “Time Passes.” Examining almost all portions of the text from Woolf’s use of language to references to other literary works, Flint creates a successfully functioning article. I can honestly say I now understand ‘Time Passes’ in a more historical context due to Flint’s interpretations.

I particularly enjoyed the inclusion of quotes from Woolf’s diary. The personal thoughts and feelings of Woolf greatly helped in supporting Flint’s argument. Similarly, Flint did a great job of analyzing Woolf’s thought from all perspectives. Not only does she support her argument, but also addresses rebuttals a critic may commonly devise; therefore, I am convinced that Virginia Woolf’s ‘ Time Passes’ has historical undertones concerning the General Strike of 1925 and World War One.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Critical Reflection #2

Commentary on Reginald Abbott's What Miss Kilman's Petticoat Means: Virginia Woolf, Shopping, and Spectacle

MFS Modern Fiction Studies, Volume 38, Number 1, Spring 1992, pp. 193-216 (Article

In his critical essay concerning Virginia Woolf and the aspects of commodity culture, Reginald Abbott opens the reader’s eyes to underlying values of shopping and the influence of commodity exchange in Woolf’s work. Primarily discussing Mrs. Dalloway, Abbott depicts Woolf’s ability to subtly comment on the emergence of department stores in the England. By analyzing the distinction between upper and lower class influences on or from commodity, Abbot shows readers the way in which commodity varies between classes. While the Dalloway’s have a control over their spending habits, lower class individuals such as Miss Killman do not. They are inferior to the exchange of commodity.

Throughout the course of Abbott’s commentary, one notices his very specific attention to detail. Very small moments in Mrs. Dalloway illuminate the core of Abbott’s argument; therefore, he shows the reader the in-depth research he has done to support his argument. Small instances such as Rezia and Clarissa’s reactions to the queen, illuminate larger issues for the reader that may have gone unnoticed without Abbott’s description. Abbott should be praised for his ability to pull specific details from the text.

Similarly, Abbott should be praised for his application of the novel to external life contexts. Many critical articles seem to address the work in relation to itself rather than an outside source, but by including historical information such as the development of Oxford Street over time Abbott justifies his argument concerning the “boom” of commodity spectacle. Abbott says that in Woolf we see then tension and excitement of commodity spectacle without the blatancy of actual commodities” (209). Because Abbott includes historical developments to trace this notion, one can see the article as a more reliable piece of literature. In addition, Abbott also includes the insight of other scholars to help make the work seem more applicable and justified.

The only qualm I have with Abbott’s article is his inability to discuss the subject in common terms. Often times he uses scholarly terms that may have be substituted for a more approachable term. Similarly, at points, Abbott seems to get ‘bogged down’ in the meat of his subject. Not giving the reader enough credit to understand his argument leaves a lot of room for confusion when he adds too much detail. Also, many of his sentences are a little wordy and confusing. Although there are small qualms, the article as a whole offers a fresh view of Mrs. Dalloway. Having read the novel three times, I have heard the same interpretations over and over again, but this was a new way to approach the reading. Personally, I appreciated the article and would praise Abbot for his insight into how Mrs. Dalloway illuminates aspects of commodity exchange as a whole.

A look at lesbians in Slater's Pins Have No Points

After reading the collection of middle short stories, one can see huge transformations in Woolf’s writing style. While the beginning short stories are less complex and possibly a little easier to understand, the middle short stories throw the reader for a literary loop (or at least they did me anyway). Of the four, the one story I found most intriguing was “Moments of Being: Slater’s Pins Have No Points.” While the body of the story was somewhat manageable, the last paragraph is an accurate depiction of the way Woolf can completely baffle the reader to leave them wanting more. All of a sudden Julia and Fanny kiss? Needless to say, that surprised me a little.

Instead of throwing the story aside in my frustration to decipher what was actually happening, I begin to think of this paragraph as the moment in the text where Fanny finally pinpoints (hint hint: this could be how the title relates to the work) Julia’s enjoyment. Through the body of the work, Fanny speculates regarding Julia’s happiness and shows the reader an existence between Julia’s past and present. She wonders whether Julia is a lonely women for she seems that way, but then also discusses Julia’s strength as a strong woman for ‘she had not sacrificed her independence.’ Through Fanny’s descriptions, we as readers have NO IDEA if Julia is a happy or unhappy person, but in the last moment of the text it all seems to come together as a coherent explanation.

In the last paragraph, Woolf states, “Julie possessed it.” To me, this statement sums up the entire argument within the story. Julia finally has a chance to possess and have control over something in her life; therefore, the kiss can be seen as Julia’s only sense of happiness. Fanny seems to be the only thing that Julia can possess and take control of so kissing Fanny is seen as Julia’s fantasy because it leads to happiness. This instance along with the use of the word queerly and breast in the next sentence gives the reader the perception of a female love existence. Fanny and Julia may have lesbian encounters to show Woolf’s embrace of the feminine identity.

Additionally, this is the moment during which Fanny finally locates the pin and is able to pin it onto either herself or Miss Craye’s dress (Woolf leaves that detail a little ambiguous). Finding the pin and putting it into its correct position may serve as a reference to the correct positions of both Julia and Fanny in this moment. The pinning of the flower symbolizes closure; therefore, the kiss between the two women can be seen as closure in discovering Julia’s existence. Julia likes women rather than men thus her life is not a series of lonely encounters, but rather a rewarding journey of discovering herself and what she really wants out of life. Therefore, Julia is strong for adhering to her lesbian emotions rather than conforming to the strict standards of marriage to a man.

If thinking of this encounter as one of lesbian happiness, then one can also explain the title of the short story: “Slater’s pins have no points.” If thinking of the title in terms of gender identities, one automatically associates a point with a male’s reproductive part, but if the pins have no points then Woolf may be dubbing the male as inadequate or unnecessary. If a pin has no point then it is not actually a pin and does not actually have any use. I’m a little unsure about what the Slater part is about but those are just some of the immediate thoughts I had concerning the title and the last paragraph of the story.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Mrs. Dalloway and Religion

As this is my second time reading Mrs. Dalloway, I made a conscious effort to locate specific details I had not noticed while previously reading the novel. Although many new thoughts and ideas emerged, one instance in particular constantly revealed itself. The presence of religious undertones seemed to be an impending force within the work. Although subtle, the inclusion of religious references does add an ironic twist to the already chaotic nature of the novel. In a way, I think Woolf presents challenges to the beliefs and ideals of the Christian doctrine through the character of Septimus. Through this comparison, she is able to desensitize the reader’s emotions to the idea of spirituality, and heighten their emotions to the idea of reality. In an essence, the comparison of Septimus to Jesus and the inclusion of additional religious references such as the voice of an omniscient narrator and homosexual encounters work as literary techniques designed to eradicate extraneous influences other than one’s own personal self. The self as the ultimate source of satisfaction is a theme that emerges when thinking of Mrs. Dalloway and its religious implications.

My first thoughts concerning Christianity came to life when Woolf describes Septimus as ‘the most exalted of mankind’ and ‘lord who has gone from life to death’ (94).These descriptions are ironic within the text because they are presented in a moment during which Septimus seems to be going through a bout of insanity. The narrator’s lines describing Septimus present his character as enlightened through the use of words such as lord, exalted, poet, and victim because they serve to emphasize the other character’s inability to understand Septimus. He is different than others and while he is not seen within the work as the superior by the other characters, the description highlights his superiority over the other characters to the reader. Like Jesus, the leader of the Christian doctrine, Septimus is removed from society and feels as if human nature has ultimately led to his downfall. The narrator states,” He had committed an appalling crime and had been sentenced to death by human nature” (94). Human nature condemns Jesus through whipping and crucifixion on the cross while human nature condemns Septimus by judging and condemning his actions as different and somewhat mental. No person seems to realize Septimus’ true feelings and the depth to which his soul reaches. Like Jesus, Septimus eventually dies as a result of human nature. He has to escape the confines of Dr. Holmes and is making a dramatic approach to the windowsill as Jesus made a dramatic march with the cross while being tormented and taunted to his crucifixion. Although this small comparison of Jesus and Septimus is not enough to say that Christianity is completely mocked in Mrs. Dalloway, the realization of this parallel contributes to one’s thoughts concerning Septimus’ suicide. It helps the reader understand Clarissa’s willingness to accept the suicide.

Aside from the comparison of Septimus and Jesus, there is an omni-present and all-knowing narrative voice within the work. The narrator seems to be inside not only Mrs. Dalloway’s head, but also inside every other character’s mind included within the novel. This all-knowing narrator is much like an all-knowing God in which the Christian religion believes. Through the use of an all-knowing narrator, this novel destroys the established Christian belief that God is the centralized controller of the universe because the characters have the ability to think and act upon their own accord. The narrator does not control them. Septimus flings himself out of a window, Clarissa fantasizes over a woman, and the upper tier of society judges and torments to the point of ripping different characters mentality into separate pieces. If God were an all-powerful and mighty God then he would not allow these actions to happen; therefore, Mrs. Dalloway undermines religion by displaying characters who act out against established moral actions.

The last reference degrading the Christian religion seems to be Clarissa’s homosexual tendencies regarding Sally Seton. Although she does seem to reminisce regarding her relationship with Peter, Clarissa describes that the most exquisite moment of her life was when Sally kissed her at a young age (35). Sally has a greater influence on Clarissa than any other character. Their homosexual tendencies may serve to demonstrate the breaking barriers of religion by showing that true happiness can result from an activity that is condemned by the Christian religion. Happiness for Clarissa and Septimus seems to come in spurts during moments when they are remembering Evans and Sally.

Overall these ideas may be a little far-fetched, but I thought the presence of religious overtones was significant within the novel so I wanted to bring a few of my ideas regarding the subject to the attention of other readers. Overall I think Woolf has a great deal to say about the Christian doctrine and Mrs. Dalloway may be her first attempt to break down religious beliefs.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Jacob's Room

Men vs. Women

After reading Jacob’s Room, I was left with many unanswered questions (probably a pretty standard reaction to a Woolf novel). However, through the first chapters, many reoccurring ideas seemed to emerge with vitality. Although I have yet to determine specific meanings behind these motifs/symbols, several thematic interpretations have come to mind. After thinking of the novel in terms of the relations between men and women (because I noticed an ever present pull between the two), one can see a small power struggle at play. One instance in particular sparked my interest in the subject, which fueled the ‘men vs. women’ fire bubbling in my imagination. At the beginning of chapter three, Mrs. Norman, who is riding in the smoking carriage with Jacob seems apprehension of being around a male. She is constantly on edge and at one point the narrator states, “it is a fact that men are dangerous.” AHA, the first small inkling of Woolf’s feminist demeanor is revealed. In addition to this situation, Woolf continues on an underlying rant regarding the differences between men and women when stating that women are ugly as sin and specifically compares them to dogs (31). When reading these lines, one assumes that women are in the subservient position. Mrs. Norman acts as if Jacob is the person in the position of power. She watches as a timid on-looker and women are degraded and ridiculed as the novel progresses.

Thinking that the woman is the lesser-of- the-two- evils, I, as a reader was confused as to where the Virginia Woolf ever-praised feminist voice had disappeared? For at first, it seemed as if the male figurehead received all of the praise and attention in Jacob’s Room. However, Virginia Woolf subtly includes references regarding women’s ability to undermine male’s translucent behavior. When discussing the relations between Mr. Dickens and Mrs. Barfoot, Woolf states, “ He, a man, was in charge of Mrs. Barfoot, a woman.” This is an automatic red-flag to the Virginia Woolf reader. While she is directly claiming Mr. Dickens authority over Mrs. Barfoot, she undermines that authority in later lines when Mrs. Barfoot is discussing her husband’s actual actions. By having Mrs. Barfoot know her husband if off to see Mrs. Flanders shows Woolf’s subtly commentary on a woman’s insight. In reality, Mrs. Barfoot is the more sly and intelligent of the two subjects because Mr. Barfoot believes he has outsmarted his wife into not knowing where he is going when in actuality she knows his deceiving ways, but chooses not to reveal her true knowledge.

This is one of the more specific examples of a woman’s domination over her male counterpart in Jacob’s Room, but the novel is littered with examples of the power struggles between the two parties. Overall, I would state that the entirety of finding out who Jacob actually is comments on a male’s inability to find his true identity. In the novel, we see a variety of female characters who recognize themselves and what they desire from life (most of the time Jacob). Although all the female characters are not society’s top class, they seem to be happy in their various occupations, while Jacob seems mysterious and aloof throughout most of the novel. The reader never gets a full image of the real Jacob Flanders and thus Woolf slyly hints at the downfall of the male gender. Because she includes a great number of derogatory comments against women, she further exploits the male gender’s unintelligence. She allows comments against women to be included within the novel to further show the male’s inability to see a situation for what it really is. Women are the strong point of the text, but Woolf seems to include derogatory comments against them simply so female readers can laugh at the male’s constant inability too see how the world truly works. Knowing oneself and the world around them seems to led to a satisfying life in Woolf’s eyes and she uses the juxtaposition between the male and female characters to highlight this exact point.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

A Critical Commentary on Edward Bishop

In his critical essay attempting to describe “it” through the vivid interpretation of Virginia Woolf’s Kew Gardens, Edward Bishop seems to reveal a personal respect for what he likes to call Woolf’s ‘voice.’ Although his feelings towards Woolf’s scholarship are never directly stated, it becomes clear to the reader that Bishop’s critique is rather a praise of Woolf’s ability to merge language and reality. Highlighting some of the most influential portions of the text, Bishop develops and displays Woolf’s ability to capture ‘it’ which he dubs the natural and the human world of the garden. One portion of Bishop’s critic that sparks particular interest is his immediate separation between the natural and the human world. For most, the natural and human worlds seem to be one undivided entity, but Bishop makes the assumption that they are in fact two very separate groups. Although this is apparent in Woolf’s Kew Gardens, it is ambitious of Bishop to recognize Woolf ‘s immediate separation between the two worlds. For Woolf, humanity seems to need support from nature, as it is the weaker and somewhat less enlightening of the two realms.

Throughout the course of Bishop’s commentary, he chooses to include a series of additional quotations from other critics. The critics seem to have a positive view of Kew Gardens and thus correlate well with one another. Bishop notes that while many of the mentioned authors have attempted to describe the “luminous halo” that Woolf creates; most have failed to completely realize the depth of her work as it stems from the operation of language. Next, Bishop provides an example of Woolf’s ability to scaffold internal and external action. By using the couple’s movement within Kew Gardens as an example, Bishop simply immerses the reader in what Woolf is actually trying to portray. Rather than using complex language to try and explain the situation, he maps the concept in a visual way and thus the reader gains a clearer image of the perspective Woolf subtly incorporates within the text. Bishop should be praised for his ability to portray the duality involved in many of Woolf’s images.

Although enlightening in many senses, Pursuing “IT” Through Kew Gardens lacks the depth often seen in many critical articles. Although Bishop does a great job exploring Woolf’s concepts, he seems to simply skim the surface of Woolf’s ability to contour language. More detail and a few additional textual examples may have strengthened Bishop’s argument in defining “it.” Negativity may also stem from Bishop’s inability to remove personal perspectives from view. Clearly, he is a Virginia Woolf fan (which is fine), but a critical article may gain more respect if it incorporates more fact and less emotion. Ignoring the minor qualms regarding the article, Pursuing IT Through Kew Gardens is an enlightening source of commentary.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Kew Gardens

Reflection of relations between Kew Gardens, The Mark on the Wall, and Modern Fiction

When brainstorming what to write for this particular blog entry on Kew Gardens, I laughed to myself trying to select one particular aspect of the story on which to focus. There is not one individual instance in the story during which a specific thought or idea jumped out at me, but that is probably because Kew Gardens stirs a constant revelation of thoughts within one’s mind. Not knowing where to begin, I tried to find a way to connect the three stories we have read within the scope of the course so far. In Kew Gardens and The Mark on the Wall, the most obvious connection between the stories is the focus of the stories themselves. In both, the plot only moves due to the snail. I found this interesting because when thinking about a snail, one normally envisions something that is immobile or very slow, but in fact within the realm of Woolf’s work, the snail is the portion of the story that makes everything happen. The snail shows the reader what they “need” to see and keeps the plot moving (especially in Kew Gardens, though Woolf’s constant readdressing the snail on the wall keeps the course of events flowing in The Mark on the Wall as well).

Woolf’s choice to use the snail in both of these stories seemed to be a very deliberate one so I started to ask myself why exactly this was. The only thought concerning snails that came to mind was “a snails pace,” which is a phrase often used to describe someone who is very slow or a process that is tedious and sometimes inefficient. After thinking of this stereotype associated with snails, I began to see a little of Woolf’s personality shine through within her work. It seems clear to me that she chose the animal portrayed in the stories to be a snail simply because it is a slow creature. As she explained in Modern Fiction, the process by which she wants one to engage is a tedious one. It requires looking beyond the surface level and diving into the depths of one’s own thoughts and feelings. Since this was an unconventional method of discovery, Woolf seemed to be using the snail to incorporate a smart-alleck tone into the stories. She knew the reputations of snails, but also predicted the resistance that would come with her unconventional method of thinking. By having the snail control the story, Woolf shows that her method of thinking triumphs others. By taking time to really “see” and interpret the world, one is in the position of the snail and thus has a better outlook and control over their own life. This may sound a little philosophical and like a stretch to some people, but I was very interested in why Woolf chose the snail as her point of focus and I feel this could be one of many explanations for the choice.

Aside from the snail, another point of focus I found within Kew Gardens was when Woolf describes the two women walking through the gardens. One of the women stops to look at the flowers and Woolf states, “ She stood there letting the words fall over her, swaying the top part of her body slowly backwards and forwards, looking at the flowers.” For me, this specific instance really tied the connection between modern art and literature. Specifically, it reminded me of in class when Dr. Sparks described swaying back and forth while looking at a piece of art because one becomes so lost in the brush stroke and color pattern of the painting. I thought this connection was interesting and really helped develop the similarities shared between artwork and literature of the same time period.

Monday, August 30, 2010

The Mark on the Wall and Modern Fiction

Thoughts about Nature...

In my previous blog I discussed Woolf’s relation to nature and after reading “ The Mark on the Wall” and “ Modern Fiction,” I have some additional thoughts that build upon my previous observations. In both “ The Mark on the Wall” and “Modern Fiction,” Woolf addresses fiction and nature in a personal way. She acts as if they are physical entities addressing them as her. In “The Mark on the Wall” she states,” I understand Nature’s game-her prompting to take action as a way of ending any thought that threatens to excite or to pain.” In “Modern Fiction” she ends her argument by stating, “And if we imagine the art of fiction…she would bid us break her and bully her.” The manner in which Woolf addresses both of these inanimate objects highlights the tension that Woolf recognizes between Nature and Fiction. Giving both Nature and Fiction an identity helps the reader recognize the power the two elements have over humanity through their influence on literature. The relationship between the two entities is so concrete to Woolf that the entirety of “Modern Fiction” is merely a summation of it. For Woolf, it seems that Nature and Fiction (or successful fiction in Woolf’s eyes) cannot coexist. The author must learn to look past what Nature or their past has taught them. They must examine specific situations according to unique individual experience in a way that leaves no room for generalizations or reliance on previous knowledge.

Although the type of Nature that Woolf addresses in these short works does not seem to be the same type as the outdoor, flower, garden type that I was referring to in my previous post, in my eyes it is still significant. It shows that Virginia Woolf is not only focused on natural elements, but upon the nature of humanity in general. I found this connection regarding the two works very interesting and hoped to elaborate on my previous post by introducing a different type of nature examined within Woolf’s work.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

A Sketch of the Past

The title “A Sketch of the Past” is an inadequate representation of the ideas and enlightening concepts put forth in Virginia Woolf’s autobiographical work. To me, a sketch is merely a glance or a surface-level introduction to the concept that one is introducing. In thinking of sketch in accord with that definition, Virginia Woolf’s autobiographical sketch goes beyond the call of duty displaying Woolf’s innermost thoughts and actions. Although I was somewhat surprised at the ever-looming descriptive feeling of despair lurking throughout the entire work, I was shocked at Woolf’s physical reactions to past situations. In reading the first few pages of the sketch, it became obvious that Woolf ‘s immediate connection to the world is through nature. Some of her first memories are of flowers, gardens and waves. She seems to embody certain eloquence when speaking of natural elements.

She seems very detached from anything other than her natural descriptions and although she describes difficult moments in her past (like her mother’s death), she quickly seems to divert her attention back to a natural element, never staying focused on her own feelings regarding tough situations. At one particular point in the text, she begins to talk about the past and it’s role in one’s life. She states, “Nothing remained stable long…that was the past and it is altered.” Because of these two lines, I started to think about Woolf obsession with nature and the feelings she unknowingly displays through the tone of her work. Woolf clearly feels somewhat helpless in her childhood because of instability; therefore, maybe she uses nature as her stability and crutch. Nature is constant; it changes with the season but is always ever-present. For Woolf, it seems like nature is her stability, she can predict what will happen during which season and can watch objects bloom and develop in a way that she as a person cannot.

I immediately thought of this connection when reading through “ A Sketch of the Past” for the first time so I wanted this to be the focus of my blog. I feel that I will encounter many other explanations as to why Woolf embodies natural elements so greatly in her work, but this is a starting point and one I hope to build from.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Reflection on 2010 Conference Schedule

Hi Guys. As most of you probably heard in class, my first experience with Virginia Woolf was not one of the best. The stream of conscious style that she is so greatly known for really baffled me and made some of her novels a difficult read. Luckily, when given another opportunity, I grew to love the Virginia Woolf style of writing and I’m excited to discuss her works more fully over the course of the semester. I feel like there have to be more surprises in store from this woman. Although her work interests me a great deal, I am also hoping to discover a little more about Woolf’s life in general. Just from the very little information I happen to know, she seems to be a person who really expressed herself through written prose. I have always heard she had a variety of psychotic issues, which may or may not be true, but I am curious to see how that shines through in her writing. I would also like to explore whether or not her mental instability may account for some of her success as an author.

When reading over the schedule for the 2010 Virginia Woolf conference, I was first intrigued by the male to female ratio of those interested in Woolf scholarship. It was apparent that feminist ideals were strongly represented, as more women seemed to be presenting at the conference. Although many feminists probably embrace Virginia Woolf’s success, I am curious to explore the male population and its feelings toward Woolf. Is it normal for many presenters to be female or did this conference just happen to include many female critics? This is one trend I am hoping will reveal itself more fully through our course of Woolf studies. I also noticed the same works being discussed very frequently. Because I have read over our syllabus I was familiar with all the titles I encountered and I am curious as to why these seem to be the most popular Virginia Woolf works. Are they the most interesting, do they contain the most scholarly information, or are they simply some of the only manuscripts we have? I assume I am just intrigued as to why the same novels appeared on the conference list numerous times.

Since I am also enrolled in a Literary Criticism course this semester, the paper entitled A Chinese Interpretation of “ The Death of the Moth” really captured my attention. As an introduction to the Literary Criticism, I discovered that one’s critic of a certain work is influenced by their background and past experiences. I think this author should be praised for taking the initiative to recognize that portion of criticism. To publish a paper with such a personal touch is a bold statement; therefore, this paper would probably be one I would most enjoy reading. Incorporating one’s own culture into literature could give readers a completely new look from which to analyze a work so I’m sure Qinghong Wu’s work caught the attention of many conference goers.

Animal imagery also seemed to be a noticeable trend in discussion at this particular Woolf conference. The title A Woolf in Hare’s Clothing was actually one of the catchier of the entire bunch. The papers that discussed more than one of Woolf’s novels also intrigued me. It is an ambitious task to analyze two separate pieces of literature so an in-depth study of two Woolf’s novels would be a highly interesting paper to study. Overall, I thought many of the presentations seemed like a worthwhile depiction and representation of the greatness that Virginia Woolf embodies.