Virginia Woolf

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  1    Virginia Woolf (1882-1941)    Born in London in very distinguished and respected family    Her father Leslie Stephen  –   Cambridge professor and writer; one of the most educated  persons in Britain (literature, history and philosophy)    Her mother Julia died when Virginia was thirteen years old    Intellectual surrounding in their London home  –   Virginia developed critical spirit, but was isolated from other children as well    After her father  ’s  death, she moved to Bloomsbury, the central part of London (close to the British museum)    In Bloomsbury, young intellectuals and artists were gathering in Virginia’s home; long, useful and influential conversations    ―Bloomsbury Group‖: from 1904 -1915 meetings every Thursday    They were influenced by philosopher George Moore, a Cambridge professor (existential questions  –    sense of life and the man’s attitude towards it)      Bloomsbury group rejected strict moral notions, Victorian hypocrisy and Puritan morality    They glorified spontaneous individual feelings, human relationship and, above all, personal qualities of a single man    Attitude to art: bases of the Moore’s philosophy –   ethics and aesthetics are not separated    Art = Beautiful = Good    Art should not be educational in order to justify its existence; art is enough for itself    For such work, moral and didactic principles are irrelevant    The function of art is to sharpen human sense; art should respond to the question ―how‖; what are people’s impressions about life      Bloomsburians created their assumptions on the basis of paintings: Roger Fry organized two very influential postimpressionist exibitions in London (in 1910. and 1912.)  –   painters (Cezanne, Van Gogh, Matisse, Picasso)    Fry claimed that the artist produces from his subconscious world the refined picture of the world; artistic reality is more valuable than objective reality    In such surrounding, Virginia Woolf searched for her mode of expression; no formal education; she read a lot of books in her home    Major influences:    Sir Walter Scott: a romantic writer, a poet, wrote about the famous Scottish past (individualism)    Romantic poets: Wordsworth, Shelley, Keats (she appreciated the romantic subjectivity)  2    Jane Austen: writing technique, the importance of the female mind and its differences from the male mind; look on the world from female perspective    Laurence Sterne: the treatment of human consciousness, the lack of logic in human mind; the subjective perspective; psychology of the characters from inside; treatment of time (subjective vs. objective)    Marcel Proust: ―In Search of the Time Lost‖ –   treatment of the human memory as smth.  belonging both to the present and past; human soul is present in past, present and future    Fyodor Dostoevsky: treatment of the human soul; the courage to explore deeply human soul and his Christian attitude that human soul is in the centre of everything; he is merciless and merciful to the human souls    These writers influenced Virginia Woolf very much, but ―Bloomsburian values‖ had crucial impact on her art    The voices from t he artist’s depth address to audience’s depth; art for art’s sake    Virginia Woolf accepted the ―Bloomsburian values‖; she wanted to find and perceive that ―real‖ reality, spirit, consciousness, subconsciousness    The true reality we may see only in the ―moments of vision‖; the stream of these visions is the real art    Some members of the Bloomsbury group: Roger Fry, Clive Bell (painting), E. M. Forster, Leonard Woolf (critic of the British imperial system). Lytton Strachey, R. Brooke    George Moore: ―Principa Ethica‖ –   beautiful equals good; what is good is beautiful    Art as the highest value of life (not new idea: Keats ―Ode on a Grecian Urn‖); Moore –   the art critic, expressed new philosophy of art    E. M. Forster: ―Aspects of the Novel‖ –   one of the most influential works about novel;  proves that traditional novel belongs to the past; introduces new novel without conventional  plot, characters; fiction within a flow of human consciousness; novel is a process, not a state    For Virginia Woolf, most dignified human quality is consciousness; the escape from the terror of facts, the desintegration of material world    Stream of consciousness: revealing the horror (Conrad); the world is falling apart (Eliot); the end of the old perception of the world (Laurence); aesthetics (Woolf)    Virginia Stephen married Leonard Woolf in 1912    They opened small printing house in 1917. and published their two stories and the texts of E. M. Forster, Catherine Mansfield and T. S. Eliot    They did all the work by themselves; it was the beginning of the famous English publishing house  –   Hogarth Press  3    Virginia published her works as well as the works of the future famous writers; had fairly active and happy life with psychological crises from time to time    Virginia Woolf died in 1941. (the river Ouse)    Together with James Joyce, the greatest modernist writer in the 20th century    One of the first feminists: A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.― (A Room of One’s Own, 1929)    Common with James Joyce:    Stream of consciousness, the same birth and death year, the pioneers of modernism, rejected the importance of material world, fought against ―the terror of facts‖, emphasized the subjective essence of human being    Different from James Joyce:    Grew up in different social environments, she is more discrete, not vulgar; more exposed to the British and European literary tradition; male-female thinking (Joyce focused on a male world); different approach to novel    The Voyage Out (1915): her first novel; too cautious, afraid of discovering smth. new (traditional technique); the main character  –   young woman with inner conflicts; travels a lot,  but she dies at the end     Night and Day (1919): still looking for her literary expression    Monday and Tuesday (1921): the collection of short stories; looking for the lyrical prose expression    Jacob’s Room (1921): dedicated to her late brother Toby    She finally finds her literary expression, preoccupied with technical problems in order to give one successfull novel    This novel  –   successful experiment; she managed to use stream of consciousness; we do not see Jacob directly through the whole novel (he exists and does not exist at the same time); the translation of the word room    –   may be place to live or inner and outer space; Jacob is not materialized in this novel    Jacob is wanted, looked for and awaited, but could not be found; a kind of her Godot; a non-existent living person (paradox): the status of a modern man (his condition in the world)    In the period from 1925 to 1932 Virginia Woolf published her best works: the peak of her art    Mrs. Dalloway (1925)    Her first masterpiece; she described one day in the life of 52 years old woman and touched the essentials of human existence    She explored the richness of the inner world, the world hidden behind the unimportant, external life of a woman; the significance of the everyday, trivial events  4    Subjective and objective time present; stream of consciousness  –   all the character are connected and focused upon Mrs. Dalloway; at the surface, nothing important happens in the novel    The plot: Clarissa Dalloway prepares the evening reception in her home; she goes to town,  buys flowers and does all the necessary things in connection to the event; through Clarissa’s thoughts (internal monologues) Virginia Woolf introduces Clarissa Dalloway  –   at one moment we see her as a young woman in white dress, then like woman in love    Woolf uses multiple perspectives (uses streams of consciousness of various people in the street in order to describe London from various angles); the scene when the car with distinguished personality passes    We are in London, in one day, but in the minds of characters we constantly move through the time and space; subjective time dominant over the objective one    Clarissa Dalloway  –   the wife of the respected Labourist politician; PM on her evening reception; snobbish guests and life    Woolf introduces social and psychological contrast to Mrs. Dalloway  –   the character of Septimus Warren Smith (he becomes the dark side of her personality)    Septimus is a young man mentally ill because of his participation in war; he does not have the problem with the choice of flowers, but he could not stop thinking and hearing the voice of his war friend who died from the grenade explosion (existential messages through his insanity)    Mrs. Dallowa y’s great reception vs. Septimus’ way to insanity and final suicide (strong contrast); Septimus is not physically present, exist as much as Jacob    These two worlds connected with the wealthy London neuropsychiatrist William Bradshaw who will tell Mrs. Dall oway about Septimus’ death    Bradshaw  –   the most grotesque figure in the novel)  –   the meeting point of the two worlds    Mrs. Dalloway’s epiphany: the crucial moment in the novel; unknown Septimus coped with the real life and finally jumped through the window in order to avoid asylum; she suddenly see her whole life, pointless and spiritually poor comparing to Septimus’ life; she admires him    The window and one old woman  –   she realizes the importance of her life and of all small things; the strong triumph and affirmation of life; she wins over her dark side (Septimus)    She realizes that even such life may be worth living    Ironical and minor life won over the cold and giant life tragedy; two sides of one  personality; finally, she returns to her guests    To the Lighthouse (1927)
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