Presentation on theme: "Woolf and the Modernist Experiment. Born Adeline Virginia Stephens in 1882 to literary family. Suffered bereavement and mental illness in youth. "— Presentation transcript:
Woolf and the Modernist Experiment
Born Adeline Virginia Stephens in 1882 to literary family. Suffered bereavement and mental illness in youth. Member of Bloomsbury Group. Married writer Leonard Woolf (1912). Her works include: The Voyage Out (1915) Mrs Dalloway (1925) To the Lighthouse (1927) Orlando (1928) A Room of One’s Own (1929) The Waves (1931) Committed suicide by drowning (1941).
Woolf was a pioneering experimental writer in the Modernist mode. She was also a very significant and influential literary critic. Worked alongside her husband Leonard Woolf in pioneering Hogarth Press (founded 1917). Important contribution to feminism as well as literature.
Movement in literature and art post World War I. Deliberate and radical break with traditional bases of Western culture and art. Questioned religion, morality and concept of human self. Influence of important thinkers like Marx and Freud. Modernist writers included James Joyce, TS Eliot and Virginia Woolf, amongst others.
Although diverse, Victorian painting was often very rigidly constructed and formulaic and dealt with social themes. The dominant mode was realist.
A theory or style of painting developed in France during the 1870s, characterised by concentration on the immediate visual impressions produced by a scene and by the use of unmixed primary colours and small strokes to simulate actual reflected light. Painters often painted outdoors.
Post-Impressionists extended Impressionism, using vivid colours, thick application of paint, but they were more inclined to emphasise geometric forms, to distort form for expressive effect, and to use unnatural or arbitrary colour.
A school of painting and sculpture developed in Paris in the early 20th century, characterised by the reduction and fragmentation of natural forms into abstract, often geometric structures usually rendered as a set of discrete planes.
Catastrophe of World War I changed ideas of faith in Western institutions and culture. This was reflected in Modernist fiction which sought to create new forms of narrative to render contemporary disorder and individualism. For instance, TS Eliot’s The Waste Land (1922) James Joyce’s Ulysses (1922) and Finnegans Wake (1939).
"Nam Sibyllam quidem Cumis ego ipse oculis meis vidi in ampulla pendere, et cum illi pueri dicerent: Sibylla ti theleis; respondebat illa: apothanein thelo." I. THE BURIAL OF THE DEAD April is the cruellest month, breeding Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing Memory and desire, stirring Dull roots with spring rain. Winter kept us warm, covering Earth in forgetful snow, feeding A little life with dried tubers. Summer surprised us, coming over the Starnbergersee With a shower of rain; we stopped in the colonnade, And went on in sunlight, into the Hofgarten, And drank coffee, and talked for an hour. Bin gar keine Russin, stamm' aus Litauen, echt deutsch. And when we were children, staying at the archduke's, My cousin's, he took me out on a sled, And I was frightened. He said, Marie, Marie, hold on tight. And down we went. In the mountains, there you feel free. I read, much of the night, and go south in the winter.
O that awful deepdown torrent O and the sea the sea crimson sometimes like fire and the glorious sunsets and the figtrees in the Alameda gardens yes and all the queer little streets and the pink and blue and yellow houses and the rosegardens and the jessamine and geraniums and cactuses and Gibraltar as a girl where I was a Flower of the mountain yes when I put the rose in my hair like the Andalusian girls used or shall I wear a red yes and how he kissed me under the Moorish wall and I thought well as well him as another and then I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes.
Term invented by American psychologist William James in his Principles of Psychology (1890) to characterise unbroken flow of thought and awareness in the waking mind. Now a term used to describe narrative method in modern fiction. Refers to passages of introspection representing consciousness of a character. Aims to capture spectrum and flow of character’s mental processes, sense perceptions, memories, feelings and random associations.
Term sometimes used interchangeably with stream of consciousness. Stream of consciousness is more inclusive term, whereas interior monologue refers more specifically to the recording of thoughts whereas stream of consciousness includes sense impressions and feelings et al.
A style of third-person narration that mingles traits from first-person narration, often shifting pronouns, adverbs, tense, and grammatical mode. The term comes from the French ‘style indirect libre,’ and author Flaubert's use of this technique in French literature strongly influenced English- speaking authors like James Joyce. Refers to the narration going into a particular character’s point of view and adopting their voice.
Group of artists and intellectuals centred around Bloomsbury area, London. Virginia and Leonard Woolf. Artist Vanessa Bell (Virginia’s sister). Artist Roger Fry. Writer Lytton Strachey. Artist Clive Bell. Artist Duncan Grant..
Bloomsbury Group believed in the avant garde in art. Rejected conventional notions of marriage. Woolf had love affairs with women during her marriage, including the aristocratic writer Vita Sackville West for whom she wrote Orlando (1928).
"A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.“ Throughout her career Woolf experimented with form. Early novels more in realist mode. Woolf’s manifesto, essay on Modern Fiction.
Examine for a moment an ordinary mind on an ordinary day. The mind receives a myriad impressions--trivial, fantastic, evanescent, or engraved with the sharpness of steel. From all sides they come, an incessant shower of innumerable atoms; and as they fall, as they shape themselves into the life of Monday or Tuesday … Life is not a series of gig lamps* symmetrically arranged; life is a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end. Is it not the task of the novelist to convey this varying, this unknown and uncircumscribed spirit… We are not pleading merely for courage and sincerity; we are suggesting that the proper stuff of fiction is a little other than custom would have us believe it. *A gig was a small light carriage pulled by one horse. It was lit at night by two oil lamps with thick glass, called gig-lamps.
Woolf originally called the novel The Hours. Novel evolved from two short stories called “Mrs Dalloway of Bond Street” and “The Prime Minister”. Often thought to be a response to Joyce’s Ulysses. Virginia Woolf famously dismissed Joyce's Ulysses as evoking the image of a queasy undergraduate scratching his pimples. Yet proceeded to employ techniques and styles influenced by the same work, most notably in Mrs Dalloway.
In August of 1923, Virginia Woolf wrote in her diary: “I should say a good deal about 'The Hours,' & my discovery; how I dig out beautiful caves behind my characters; I think that gives exactly what I want; humanity, humour, depth. The idea is that the caves shall connect, & each comes to daylight at the present moment."
The novel opens with Clarissa’s walk through London one fine Summer morning in June with the chimes of Big Ben ringing out in the background.
See, for instance: ntro.htm and walk.htm
Virginia Woolf spent much of her childhood summering at Talland House, St Ives, Cornwall. She had happy memories of this house from the time when her mother, Julia Jackson Stephens, and her siblings Stella Duckworth and Thoby Stephens were still living.
All of the action takes place one day in June. Use of free indirect discourse. Boundaries between direct and indirect speech blurred. Narration is stream of consciousness – mix of interior monologue and sense impressions, memories et al. Moves in and out of point of view of twenty characters but only few major characters.
Film version of the novel entitled Mrs Dalloway made in 1997, starring Vanessa Redgrave, Rupert Graves, Natasha McElhone, Michael Kitchen and Lena Headey. Written by Eileen Atkins and directed by Marlene Gorris. Romanticized adaptation of the text incorporating flashbacks as parallel story.
American novelist Michael Cunningham wrote acclaimed novel The Hours drawing on Mrs Dalloway. Won 1999 Pulitzer Prize for fiction.
The novel concerns three generations of women affected by the novel: The first is Woolf herself writing the novel in 1923 and struggling with her own mental illness. The second is Mrs Brown, who is reading Mrs Dalloway in 1949 whilst preparing for her daughter’s birthday party. The third is Clarissa Vaughan, a lesbian, who plans a party in 2001 to celebrate her friend’s major literary award. Novel replicates style and themes of the original.
Cunningham’s The Hours was made into a very well received film in Starring Nicole Kidman, Meryl Streep and Julianne Moore. Written by David Hare. Directed by Stephen Daldry.
On a day in June Clarissa Dalloway prepares for her party; she walks through London; she reminisces about her youth at Bourton and her romance with Peter Walsh and intense relationship with Sally Seton. Clarissa’s story is paralleled with that of Septimus Smith and his wife Lucrezia. Peter visits Clarissa. Septimus kills himself to avoid the treatment recommended by Holmes. Clarissa’s party. Clarissa reflects on her life.
Clarissa Dalloway – Protagonist. Upper-class society hostess, in her 52 nd year, married to an MP named Richard. Peter Walsh – Clarissa’s old friend. She rejected his marriage proposal in the 1890s and broke his heart. He is in love with married woman in Indian. Plays with his pocketknife. Sally Seton – Old friend of Clarissa’s. Wild and spontaneous. Sally kissed Clarissa. Clarissa thinks she was in love with her. Later marries, has five sons and becomes Lady Rossiter.
Richard Dalloway – Clarissa’s husband. Conservative MP. Good but limited man. Septimus Warren Smith – Protagonist. War veteran. Suffers from shellshock or PTSD. Hallucinates about his comrade Evans. Lucrezia “Rezia” Smith – Septimus’ wife. Italian woman. Milliner. Concerned for Septimus, loving but somewhat resentful.
Hugh Whitbread – Old friend of Clarissa’s. Has position in British Royal Household. Despised by Peter and Sally as stock pompous English gentleman. Elizabeth Dalloway – Clarissa and Richard’s only child, she is experimenting with radical ideas. Miss Kilman – Elizabeth’s history teacher. Christian and radical. Self-pitying and self-righteous. Sir William Bradshaw – Famous psychiatrist. Recommends country cure for Septimus. Brings news of his suicide to Clarissa’s party. Dr Holmes – Septimus’ much hated GP.
Mental illness – Critique of treatment of mentally ill in post-war Britain. Woolf drew on her own experiences of bipolar illness. World War I and Social Order – World changed with the war; affected all social norms including class structures. Existential Angst – Novel focuses on individual’s quest to come to terms with their lives, decisions and pasts in a godless universe where old affiliations and traditions are extinct and there is no absolute moral compass. Clarissa and Peter, in particular, come to terms with themselves whereas Septimus makes a decision that is in some respects a gesture of defiance and freedom. Feminism – Clarissa’s role is a circumscribed one. She runs a household and is a hostess for Richard. She lives a pampered and content life but she has chosen this life rather than the more exciting and ramshackle one offered by Peter as it allows her some freedom to breathe. Homosexuality - Clarissa feels about women ‘as men feel’ and remembers the defining kiss with Sally Seton. Hints that Septimus’ relationship with Evans has homosexual overtones.