Virginia Woolf

Virginia Woolf (1882-1941) Her work was different from the previous modernists. She didn’t go to school because she was a woman and was bitter about it. She became orphan when she was young leading to her first mental problems. She was bisexual, but that didn’t affect her relationship with her husband. They started a publishing house and she was self-published. Her nervousbreakdowns continued andshe committed suicide. Virginia hated conventions, she wrote experimental proseto create something new. She was a feminist writer. T.S. Eliot was centred on the state of the world or history, grand-narratives whereasVirginia Woolf was interested in the particular in life. Her works: Mrs. Dalloway (1925-it made her famous), To the Lighthouse (1927), Orlando (1928), The Waves (1931), Between the Acts (1941). A Room of One’s Own The title addresses the necessity of women to have a place of their own. She addresses the issue of women in writing and education. What had been written about women had always been written by men and she wants to break that. A poem could be said to be great before the war because there existed certain categories by means of which we could say that. After the war, that didn’t exist anymore, it was not possible to say that a poet was great. We can’t determine anymore what’s good or what’s bad, the absolute truth does not exist. It is very ironic, sarcastic and making fun of some pre-established notions. Illusionis far away after the war and we can see this in poetry. Truth changes and it is intermingled with illusion. Women writers will analyse this more deeply. To the Lighthouse (1927) It is a realistic novel, but different to traditional realism: the latter would make an assumption about the world and how to portray it, whereas Virginia Woolf’s showed truth and reality made up by different pieces of realities through different points of view. T.S. Eliot focused on fragmentation (multiple perspectives). Woolf used the stream of consciousness. //Time is divided into 3 parts: before the war (an afternoon that lasts 85 pages),10 years afterwards (20 pages) and the journey to the lighthouse(few hours in 40 pages). There is a cycle: afternoon, night (10 years) and morning, a new day. In the 1st part, nothing really happens. The 2nd deals with war, deaths of some characters and the decay of the family. Finally, the 3rd one talks about the relationships between some characters. Daily live acts are more important than grand acts like war, showing an unconventional perception of time, we don’t measure time objectively. 1st and 3rd parts can be following one each other, since the 2nd part is not relevant, a parenthesis of the real story. Bad times are described in more detail and the good ones very shortly (good times fly). Everything becomes relative (modernism).

Most of the action happens in the house, although it decreases as the story advances. It represents social conventions(traditional symbol of family). The island symbolizes the isolation and the independence from mainland. The lighthouse means another level of isolation. Mr. Ramsay goes there and he is a very isolated character himself. It is a symbol of guidance, hope. // Nothing happens in the novel. Readers get lost by the use of the stream of consciousness, since a lot of thinking takes place inside the characters. External things are just trivial, action takes place inside the mind of the characters. They have different attitudes towards the world: some of them have intellectual motivations. All of them want to get some meaning from life. // Mrs. Ramsayis socially harmonious. She plays the traditional female role (conservative and manipulative, she wants to have everything under control) and follows instincts and feelings. Lily is jealous and respectful to her.Lily Briscoeis different, modern and independent. She wants to break free from menand has an internal conflict shown through the stream of consciousness. She is a painter but Mr. Tansley, Mr. Ramsay and Mrs. Ramsay don’t support her. She paints as a personalexpression, but it went against tradition. Mr. Ramsayis a difficult person, self-centred andneeding self-attention. He wants to be eternal and that’s why he is a philosopher and writer in university. He doesn’t take into account his children dreams or wishes. He represents thestereotype: male dominating society before the war. // Gender issues:there is a clash between Lily Briscoe and Mr. Ramsay, since he is impatient about Lily’s painting and she feels nervous and uncomfortable when he is around because her creativity is being stifled. There is no natural dialoguebetween them. Charles Tansley is a misogynist,such attitudes still remain after the war. For him women are not an issue and he is impatient with them. He is interested in searching and expressing the truth, but only his own truth. Lily doesn’t care about him. Mrs. Ramsayrepresents the old-mannered women, behind of their husbands’ backs and repressed all the time. Their marriage is not very successful, they don’t show their feelings, but they can see that they love each other. Lily’s paintings are symbolic, she wants to capture the essence of reality. Woolf leaves a question whether the dominance of men is going to be over or everything will continue as it was.  // James Ramsay and his siblings don’t want to go to the lighthouse and they think how much they hate their old father. He insists on going there, even though they are already teenagers. There is a big shiftwhen they get to the lighthouse as his father allows James to go there by boat. James achieves recognition,something vital for him. He is quite like Mr. Ramsay: aggressive, impatient, angry, upset… The new generationperpetuates the old.Mr. Ramsay is respected, even feared, but not loved.