I can't believe I only read this book now. I would have needed it when I was 18, and 25, and last year and yesterday!
This essay received the Florence Howe Prize, a national award given annually for the best essay in feminist theory and criticism.
While this passage has attracted attention as a description of a traumatic symptom, her ensuing comment tends to pass as a truism and furthermore as evidence of her notorious shrinking from physicality. In this comment Woolf wrote, "I could feel ecstasies and raptures spontaneously and intensely and without any shame or the least sense of guilt, so long as they were disconnected with my own body.
After all, where else would one feel "ecstasies and raptures" if not in one's own body? Furthermore, such philosophically idealist accounts are alien to the precise renderings of physical sensation that Woolf offered in her work.
I want to suggest further, however, that in these writings, the bodies allowed the most unrestricted experience of ecstasies and raptures as well as of loss and horror are bodies of a different order than those seen in the mirror: In essence, Woolf represented and perhaps experienced two kinds of body.
One kind was the body for others, the body cast in social roles and bound by the laws of social interaction.
The other, however, was fundamentally new to modernist representation although arguably always an element of experience. One of Woolf's signal contributions to a distinctively female modernism was this female modernist body. This "visionary" body, a term I adopt following Woolf's own distinction between novels "of fact" and "of vision" was especially the subject of Woolf's most experimental modernist fiction.
In the second part of this essay I discuss how the visionary body could exacerbate as well as allay the tension between two important aspects of Woolf's early and middle-period writing—feminist literary politics and the call for a disinterested and impersonal modernist aesthetics.
But feminist and modernist strains did not merge unproblematically in Woolf's writing, and in particular the figure of the mother was a site more of conflict than of reconciliation.
In thinking "through" literary foremothers, Woolf was inevitably confronted with the vulnerability and complicity of the female body in society.
Her ambivalence about traditions of women's writing derived at least in part from her awareness that a woman in public and on view is a woman available for denigration and exploitation.
As her story of mute, inglorious Judith Shakespeare attests, literary history is a narrative about social, not visionary bodies. In the third part of this essay, however, I suggest that the visionary body could be a desiring body only in a very restricted and metaphorical sense.
Woolf explored the limits of this ostensibly extra-social body in the novel that marks both the high point and the end of her "visionary" experimental period. Even the visionary body is not just limited, but in the final analysis constituted, by requirements of social coherence and intelligibility.
If Denham could have seen how visible books of algebraic symbols, pages all speckled with dots and dashes and twisted bars, came before her eyes as they trod the Embankment, his secret joy in her attention might have been dispersed.
She went on, saying, 'Yes, I see. Your brother has passed his examinations? Nor is the division figured as between Katharine's body, treading the Embankment beside an ardent suitor,and Katharine's mind, abstracted to the ideal status of a concentrated silver globe and adrift in a Platonic empyrean lit by algebraic symbols.
Instead of availing herself of the conventions of two long philosophic traditions, Woolf had her narrator present the experience in different terms: But the conceit of the two bodies is not accidental, nor is it particular to this example.
Woolf did sustain a dualism through her writings, critical and autobiographical as well as fictional. But in her most interesting formulations of this dualism, both alternatives are embodied, although in very different kinds of body.
The social body walks Katharine Hilbery through the comic version of the romance plot with its sanctioned euphoric conclusion.
The visionary body is the site of her most acute sensations p. Katharine views these sensations as explicitly opposed to poetry, the domain of her eminent and Stephen-like family and ancestors, and thus of social obligation.
The aloofness that was once within the reach of genius and originality is only now coming within the reach of ordinary women. Ralph and Katharine conjoin their powers in a discussion of botany: Circumstances had long forced her, as they forced most women in the flower of youth, to consider painfully and infinitely all the part of life which is so conspicuously without order; she had had to consider moods, and wishes, degrees of liking or disliking, and their effect upon the destiny of people dear to her; she had been forced to deny herself any contemplation of that other part of life where thought constructs a destiny which is independent of human being.
As Denham spoke, she followed his words and considered their bearing with an easy vigour which spoke of a capacity long hoarded and unspent. The very trees and the green merging into the blue distance became symbols of the vast external world which recks so little of the happiness, of the marriages or deaths of individuals.
The "vast external world" is not the most conventional "outside" of subjective consciousness, the world of human communities, but instead a vital, fundamentally other realm, the object of scientific and also artistic apprehension. Although the mention of a mind most often connotes disembodiment, the Democritean language of this essay, equating "a myriad impressions—trivial, fantastic, evanescent, or engraved with the sharpness of steel" with "an incessant shower of innumerable atoms," on the contrary insists on the material nature of sensation, the inescapable organicism of this "mind"—especiallyin its visionary contacts with the "real" or "being.
The body represented in the "materialist" novels is embedded in social life.
All its experiences have social consequences. By contrast, that sensitive organism the "ordinary mind on an ordinary day" is alone, absorbing and contemplating its "myriad impressions" without thereby either contracting to be married or being "ruined"—the two eminently social conclusions for the female body as the subject of nineteenth-century realist representation.
Having rid herself of the importunities of Mr. A more dramatic case in point is Clarissa Dalloway's orgasmic meditation on the "sudden revelation, a tinge like a blush which one tried to check and then, as it spread, one yielded to its expansion, and rushed to the farthest verge and there quivered and felt the world come closer, swollen with some astonishing significance, some pressure of rapture, which split its thin skin and gushed and poured with an extraordinary alleviation over the cracks and sores!
Both qualities could make her vulnerable to social repercussions, aligning her with the abject Miss Kilman or the homoerotically bereaved and traumatized Septimus Smith. The text, however, insists on inviolability as Clarissa's defining feature, and this passage guarantees inviolability by triply framing the erotic experience.
First of all, it is a recollection rather than a present event.Considered one of the best of the Modernist writers, Virginia Woolf's personal life is almost as intriguing as her fiction.
Troubled by mental instability for most of her life, Virginia composed her great works in bursts of manic energy and with the support of her brilliant friends and family. Eric an analysis of the works by chinese philosopher confucius B: Disc Jockey: through symbols and emphasized an analysis of the writing style of author john steinbeck the meaning An analysis of womens contemporary problems in virginia woolfs works behind the forms, Grard de a literary analysis of sonnys blues Nerval.
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The aim of this paper is to offer a different interpretation of A Room of One’s Own and demonstrate how Woolf excludes contemporary working-class women from partaking in her feminist message.
If Virginia Woolf had never published a single word of her own, her role in Hogarth would have secured her a place in literary history. Thanks to the Woolfs’ tiny press, the world got its first look at the early work of Katherine Mansfield, T.
S. Eliot, and Forster. See also Elizabeth Robins's contemporary evaluation of this biography in Way Stations (New York: Dodd, Mead and Co., ) and Alison Booth,Greatness Engendered: George Eliot and Virginia Woolf (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, ).