Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Modernist Writer, Virginia Woolf

This term is a very exciting term for me. I'm taking a class showcasing one particular author, and that author would be Virginia Woolf. The first of Woolf's novels assigned is Mrs. Dalloway, which I've picked up several times before, but never actually broke into for real, until now. We were only assigned the first 50 pages in class this week, but I've read almost three-fourths of the book, and can't get enough of the genius of this novel!

 Okay. I'm going to go all lit major on you all for a minute. You've been warned.

For one thing, I was totally blown away to discover that Mrs. Dalloway is a parody of James Joyce's Ulysses, and like this latter work, takes place all in one day, and features characters, who, like Joyce's Leopold Bloom and Stephen Dedalus, symbolically stand in for Homer's Odysseus and Telamachus. It's really quite brilliant.

I also love, love, love what Woolf is doing with time in this novel. Time is patriarchal, linear, incessant. The narrative is constantly punctuated by the jarring chiming every hour and half hour of Big Ben, and within these seemingly trivial increments, the characters are repeatedly reminded of their age and the inexorable rush of time away from their past, their youth.

The women in this novel, most especially Clarissa Dalloway herself, are complex figures, somewhat conflicted persons questioning their roles in life, their relationships to men and to other women, and--a natural progression--their sexuality as well. These women are also questioning the social mileui all around them, exhibiting a rather fragmented outlook, in the context of  increasingly deconstructed social meanings in the aftermath of WWI. It's modernism at its best!

Okay. I went all academic nerd on you for awhile. Hope it wasn't too snooze inducing. I'll wrap this up here by suggesting you pick up Mrs. Dalloway or any of Woolf's novels, for that matter. Woolf, I firmly believe, has something to offer everybody.You won't be disappointed, I promise.

Happy reading!


  1. Whoo! Yay for modernist writers! I haven't yet read "Mrs. Dalloway" but based on your glowing recommendation, I will definitely add it to my list.

    Personally, the past few months for me have been filled with modernist writers (Americans) due to a class I'm taking. It's a lot of reading but I've been exposed to a good number of works I probably wouldn't have come across on my own so it's been well worth the time.

    Happy reading indeed :)

  2. I love the modernists! Have you had a chance to read any Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, T.S. Eliot? All of them are great!

  3. I've long loved her name, but never tried her books (sad, yes?) I'll have to give this one a shot - I love retellings, especially of great works like that! :)

  4. Count me in as well. Any classic work that comes recommended as a transitional read, is right up my alley. If something written several years ago can inspire good writing today, I am all for it. Thanks L!

  5. She is one of my favorite writers, you will certain enjoy the class.

  6. I'm considering picking up Orlando. Have you read it?

  7. Abbi, I'll be reading Orlando in a couple of weeks for this class. I can't wait!



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