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

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.