Hello all! My name is Drew Blanchette. I'm 21 years old and a class member of the Virginia Woolf Seminar. First and foremost, I must warn potential viewers that I have no knowledge of Virginia Woolf's work. I am hoping that as the class progresses and I have a chance to read her apparently fabulous works (or so I have been told) I will develop some knowledge and appreciation. As my blogs increase perhaps the reader will pick up on my progression! Hopefully whoever looks over my site will enjoy my posts and not be too bored by my analyzing attempts. Thanks ahead of time for viewing my site!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Critical Article

Jane Marcus’s article, ““In the Circle of the Lens”: Woolf’s “Telescope” Story, Scene-making and Memory, explores Virginia Woolf’s inspiration behind The Searchlight. Marcus’s article also examines other critical articles that have discussed the short story. Marcus reveals in the beginning that Woolf wrote in one of her diary entries that she had finally written a story that had been forming in her mind for the past ten years. Apparently, there were fourteen drafts written before the final draft! Marcus says that the manuscript was loosely based on the Isle of Wight where her great aunt and Alfred Tennyson lived in the mid nineteenth century. There are many discussions about when the final draft was published, and Marcus believes that Jane de Gay stopped the argument with her revelation that the last publication was in 1941. Marcus is interested in the differences of the two stories The Freshwater and The Searchlight. There are differences to the two texts that Marcus believes help to reveal how Woolf would set up scenes. Marcus is interested in the choices that Woolf made about what to keep and discard. She says her choices form “frames” that reveal the inner Woolf. Marcus thinks that by closely examining both texts much can be learned about Woolf’s narration style and choices. Woolf’s writing forms a series of scenes that generate from her own personal life and experiences. Her writing resembles a camera in the way that she can depict such vivid snapshots of life. Marcus shows how Woolf’s writing is closely linked with photography.

Marcus, Jane. "“In the Circle of the Lens”: Woolf’s “Telescope” Story, Scene-making and Memory." Journal of the Short Story in English 50 (2008): 1-13. Print.

Lapin and Lappinova

A rabbit king and a rabbit queen…it sounds like something Beatrice Potter would write about in one of her children’s tales. But no, it’s just Virginia Woolf, writing about gender differences and the constraints of marriage. Rosalind and Ernest are newlyweds, and Rosalind is still uncomfortable in her marriage. She isn’t used to Ernest and finds his name inappropriate for him. She decides that he resembles a rabbit and so she makes him a king rabbit and she is his queen rabbit. It would be one thing if it was just a silly comment that led to nothing, but no, Rosalind holds onto the fantasy dearly. She constantly refers to situations that revolve around the two rabbits, and she even has nightmares about it. Of course, her fantasy eventually runs out because Ernest tells her to stop acting like a child.
It is an interesting story because although nothing drastic happens, it is very depressing. Why? I suppose her fantasy being taken away by her husband is a rather sad notion. Rosalind is attempting to be herself around her husband, her real self, and he takes that away from her. He wants to act a certain way, and she does. It’s almost like she has a realization that she is unable to be her real self anymore. It’s like when the fantasy is taken away so is her innocence.
In class we talked about gender differences and how Woolf didn’t think that it was possible for men and women to truly understand one another. They might be able to get along, but their connection will never be on the same level because of the way that we view things. I don’t know whether she thought this was socially brought about or something of a genetic or scientific matter that could never be remedied. When Rosalind was able to be herself, to think and have an imagination, the marriage was going well. But when Ernest takes her imagination away from her the marriage is already on the road to unhappiness.
I can see how the idea that men and women are on two different wave lengths that will never coexist if you lived in Woolf’s time period. Older generations of men didn’t respect women and they didn’t allow them to think, have opinions, or imaginations. But I don’t think that this is entirely true of men in general today. Of course to claim that all men have evolved to the times and view women with respect would be an exaggeration and very wrong. Even so, I do believe that men and women are more in sync then ever. It has been scientifically proven that men and women perceive the world differently, but that doesn’t mean we are so different that we can never be connected. I suppose it just seems like such a sad idea that every heterosexual couple is only together because of society’s influence, even though we are ultimately unhappy or unfulfilled. Perhaps that is why I found Lapin and Lappinova to be so depressing, because it presents questions that could be asked of our present day world.

The Legacy

It was interesting to read The Legacy after I had read a critical article on it, (by Ann Lavine I believe, but don’t hold me to it). Usually, I’m the type of person that doesn’t like reading a critical analysis before (like reading the introductions to all of the novels we read) I read the work. I want to see if I pick up on things myself, and go into the reader unbiased. Sometimes if you read something with a pre-set idea you go into it looking for it. I suppose that’s kind of how my reading of The Legacy went for me. It’s interesting to look at it from the vantage point of who was wrong? Gilbert or Angela? Lavine had her class divide into two groups, one on Gilbert’s side and the other on Angela’s side. The big debate is over whether it was Gilbert’s fault that Angela resorted to adultery, or if Angela was still wrong because she committed the act regardless of reasons behind it. There is still another choice to be made though: what if both people are wrong? Lavine said that Woolf always wanted to portray multiple perspectives and there is never one answer to her writing. Woolf loved to portray different versions of reality because that is how it is for everyone: we are all living in our made up reality. The way that we interpret or view the world is completely different and our versions differ greatly. Woolf also liked to show the difference between women and men.
It can’t be denied that The Legacy is targeted towards male chauvinism. Gilbert reads Angela’s diary and is only interested in the passages that talk about him. Sadly, it seems like his attraction or feelings for Angela revolved around her looks and nothing of her mind. In fact, he remarks a few times that she wasn’t very intelligent and not thoughtful. Obviously, it’s the reverse because Angela produced multiple volumes of diaries. If she wasn’t thinking then why was she writing so much? Furthermore, a lot of her writing was about important issues in life, not just about men or frivolous vanities. Gilbert seems like the less intelligent of the two because all he can think about is himself. The only other time that he is interested in her entries is when they keep referring to B.M.
Going back to the question of who was right and who was wrong, I believe that it’s hard to make a decision. Of course, from Woolf’s portrayal of Gilbert the reader might immediately want to Angela’s side. Gilbert seems selfish and doesn’t respect anything about Angela except her beauty. He views her as a careless child and his view is obviously wrong. But it is important to also wonder if it isn’t entirely Gilbert’s fault. Yes, his personality has many faults, but is he not the product of his time? If men of his time period were taught to view women in this light then how could they rise above it and think progressively?

Between the Acts

Between the Acts in my opinion has one of the most interesting settings. I love the contrast between the rural English village while a war is going on, literally, right over their heads! The reader gets the small town or bubble of reality that people are living, while also comparing it to the grand world events that are coming slowly closer to them. This small backdrop of life compared to the great whole is shown through the metaphor of the play going on throughout the novel.
One would think that with a great war going on, people would not do such things as hold plays. When the world is going to ruin, why would people hold onto such trivial acts? I think Virginia wanted to capture something about the human spirit. Even in times of war and potential destruction, people are more concerned with themselves. There is a great war going on, with an enemy that stands for complete evil. The Nazis and their power struggle was very much a perfect example of good vs. evil. If they won, the world would have been a very scary place indeed. And yet, here we are presented with people worrying about plays and failing marriages. Isa’s world view seems very small indeed and her perspective is consumed with her own life.
While one might say that to hold onto past practices, or refusal to change one’s way of life is an act of bravery and resilience. However, I wonder if Virginia was trying to point out the vanities and frivolities that follow every person in life. Wouldn’t this be a time of reflection? You would think that a person would be deeper and their thoughts would be centered on the welfare of the future world, but instead they are consumed by lust and even vanity. Isa is unhappy in her marriage and attracted to another man. While the world fights the big battle, she is obsessed with her own situation.
Again the reader is passages about the reflected image. Any mirror or reflective object is of much importance to Woolf. The play itself is a sort of reflection of the audience. As the audience watches, we are essentially looking at our own selves.
Does Woolf wonder if people can truly see themselves? When we look into the mirror or at any object that reveals ourselves what are we really perceiving? As much as we fail to realize that in a play or movie we are looking at the same human mind, we refuse that it could be like ourselves. The mirror is reality and then not. In a literal sense it is reflecting the truth. However, most people do not see the reflected image in it’s true form. Our personal perspectives mold and alter the reality of the reflected image. We deny and build ourselves up with false images that are not representations of the truth. A play is not reality, and yet it mimics reality. We watch the play, laugh and cry, and not realize that we are looking at our own reflections.
In class, we talked about the Egyptian symbology in Between the Acts. Isa's name could come from the Egyptian God Isis, which is one of the main Gods and a female. I believe that she is related to the sun? Furthermore, there are multiple mentions of mud. Ancient Egyptian religion believed that all life forms had spawned from the mud of the nile. I think this has to do when it is the dry season (?) and the river dries up and there is a lot of mud...or the wet season, and the river floods a little bit and spreads mud all over the country side? I don't know, so I'm only guessing. I suppose the wet season would make more sense. In an attempt to figure out why this would be relevant I might have to take a guess of imperialism? I know that Woolf is against imperialism and her previous work of Three Guineas had a lot to do with imperialism. The three guineas had something to do with slavery at first...I think. I realize that she is vehemently against imperialism. Perhaps it's just showing the integration of different cultures?

Three Guineas

Three Guineas would have to be my least favorite of the Virginia Woolf works that we read for class. There is no denying Woolf’s talent. It’s obvious that she is a brilliant writer, but I can also see why this was not a fascinating read for anyone in our class. Like A Room of One’s Own, it’s a long essay with a narrator. A narrative essay, I suppose. It is in the form of epistolary, or written in letters. Woolf attempts to answer three questions, or argue three points.
Her first question is how is it possible to prevent war? Woolf is a socialist and despises warfare. She is horrified by the Spanish war and the grotesque images that are being published in the newspapers. She is constantly reinforcing that women and children, civilians, are being murdered pointlessly in the war. She keeps talking about the dying children and battered houses. She uses constant repetition. I understood what she was trying to do. She was so desperate, or anxious to get her point across to the reader, and maybe the average reader, that she had to keep reiterating her point. I felt like she was banging on my head saying, “Remember this, listen to this, take this in, be horrified and then do something.”
Unfortunately, I don’t know what can be done? In the second half of her novel, she addresses women’s issues. She is very angry about the funding for women’s education and institutions. She claims that while men are given the chance to a wonderful education, with hundreds of thousands of pounds supporting the institution, the women’s universities lack appropriate funding. While the male’s colleges are ornate and large, the women’s universities are mundane and simple.
I still don’t really understand the purpose of the title, Three Guineas. I understand that it is an amount of money, 21 shillings. I also realize that it has something to do with upper class society. This is where I get confused though. Virginia Woolf is not poor. She makes a decent amount of money, lives off of an allowance, and has servants. She isn’t living in a hut or starving. Essentially, she is referring to herself. I know that she wasn’t filthy rich, but she wasn’t hurting either. It just seems ironic to be shunning the upper class public when someone could be pointing the finger at her.
I like that Woolf tries to tell people that while sending money will help solve some of the issues regarding war and women’s rights, it will not solve anything. If people just sit around and claim that they want to do something, they haven’t really done anything in the end.
Like I said in the beginning, I respect Three Guineas because it is well written. In A Room of One’s Own though she said that the problems facing women writers is that they can’t leave behind their bitterness. According to her, women show too much anger in their work. Again, this is another irony because Woolf sounds very angry in this work. She does try to downplay the anger with some humor, but it still comes out as being sarcastic and pissed off.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Critical Article

Radclyffe Hall went to trial in 1928 for her novel, The Well of Loneliness, which was focused around lesbianism. Jane Marcus believes and explains in her article, “Sapphistry: Narration as Lesbian Seduction in A Room of One’s Own, that Virginia Woolf loosely based her character of Judith Shakespeare in her work, A Room of One’s Own, on Radclyffe Hall herself. She further believes that the unnamed narrator is meant to be the voice of the character Mary in The Well of Loneliness. Marcus claims that Woolf’s fictive essay attempts to seduce the woman reader and also makes fun of the masculine world. Woolf’s words are sexually and politically exciting for women because it encourages them to accept sexual and intellectual progression. The second point that Marcus wishes to examine is Woolf’s emphasis on women seeking a female intellectual mentor. Marcus claims that Woolf was upset with the male homosexuality misogyny that was occurring in academic settings. Woolf delivered parts of A Room of One’s Own in a lecture to a room full of college women. Marcus says that when Woolf delivered the lecture she was accompanied by Vita Sackville-West and the rumor of the novel Orlando representing a lesbian love letter had already circulated. Furthermore, there are allusions in Woolf’s speech that refer to the trial of The Well of Loneliness. Marcus reveals that the setting of the delivered speech was seductive and extremely feminine. She ascertains that the beauty of Sackville-West and Woolf, as well as the feminine seductiveness of the setting was all meant to entice the women. The enticement was for the purpose of bringing women together in a bond that were united against the patriarchal society.

Marcus, Jane. "Sapphistry:Narration as Lesbian Seduction in A Room of One's Own." Virginia Woolf and the Languages of Patriarchy. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1987. 163-87. Print.

Criticle Article

Jane Lilienfeld’s article, “Where the Spear Plants Grew: the Ramsays’ Marriage in To The Lighthouse”, examines how Virginia Woolf displayed the Ramsays’ marriage in negative and positive lights while still hoping to urge others for new types of human love. Lilienfeld shows how the Ramsays are stuck in their middle class Victorian roles and values in the essay. Mr. Ramsay represents the perfect masculine figure, while Mrs. Ramsay represents the feminine figure. Their marriage is bound by the set patriarchy that Lilienfeld says hasn’t changed much since the 1850’s. The Ramsays’ are based on Woolf’s own parents and Lilienfeld says that the gender roles they play in the novel mirror the real Stephen’s. Apparently, Leslie Stephen, or Mr. Ramsay, believed that it was natural law that women should not have any legal rights and that she should not take a job. Even though his wife, Julia Stephen, or Mrs. Ramsay, was held tight by Mr. Stephen’s beliefs, according to Lilienfeld, her quiet resistances were not lost on Woolf as she grew up. Lilienfeld also says that the Victorian age constantly reinforced that women were inferior to men, in every possible way. To keep this notion in control the society did not allow women to be educated or even if they were, still held the notion that they were not intelligent. Lilienfeld says that whenever Mr. Ramsay believes that his wife is intellectually inferior, he finds her more attractive. But Mrs. Ramsay is not content with her status in the marriage. Although she constantly defers to Mr. Ramsay and eventually blames herself for any anger felt, she does feel anger. Lilienfeld claims that the Ramsays do love each other, but because they are constrained and unable to communicate their marriage has many faults. Mr. Ramsay is unable to admit his wife’s intelligence because he is too self conscious of his own, while Mrs. Ramsay won’t allow herself to be occupied by anything outside of the domestic sphere. Therefore, Mrs. Ramsay forces her husband to have a strange dependency on her and they are not able to grow intellectually together.

Lilienfeld, Jane. "Where the Spear Plants Grew: the Ramsays' Marriage in To the Lighthouse." New Feminist Essays on Virginia Woolf. Ed. Jane Marcus. Lincoln, 1981. 148-69. Print.