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