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!

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.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Critical Article

Karen DeMeester believes that the literature of the modernist period is completely affected by World War I. She claims that the war produced in the 1920’s a post-traumatic stress and psychological condition not only upon the veterans of the war, but also of the public. The trauma of combat was so intense and the devastation that was witnessed forever marred the inhabitants of that time period. In effect, the literature of the age was inspired from the trauma and horror of the war. In her essay, “Trauma, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and Obstacles to Postwar Recovery in Mrs. Dalloway”, DeMeester examines how Virginia Woolf portrayed the characterization of the veteran, Septimus Smith, and his trauma that led to his ultimate suicide. DeMeester believes that Woolf understood how veterans of this time were not necessarily given the adequate help they needed for their psychological trauma. After witnessing such horrors that can only happen in war, it is difficult to return to the civilized world. Septimus is disoriented and depressed, and DeMeester claims that these are tell-tale signs of a post-traumatic stress victim. When the person returns to society their reality becomes skewed. They are unable to process time as they previously did, and their consciousness becomes fragmented and jumbled. Woolf is able, DeMeester says, to mimic this confusion of thoughts and time through her stream of consciousness writing. She also claims that Woolf’s style is different from literature of the past and DeMeester says that Woolf mirrors the trauma survivors by showing her loss of faith in the previously held ideologies of the ages and of literature. Furthermore, she says that Woolf is able to portray through Septimus the trauma victim’s constant obsession and reliving of one particular traumatic event that begins to eventually envelope their life. The victim becomes so engrossed within the memory that they are unable to make progress and move on. DeMeester says that these observations and representations from Woolf of Septimus are decades ahead of science. It will not be until years later that science will describe post-traumatic stress as a medical condition, and Woolf’s depictions of Septimus will fit perfectly with the symptoms. Woolf’s representation of Septimus is also unique because she does not depict the usual symptoms that are generally referred to as “shell shock”. Instead, she delays Septimus post-traumatic stress until years after the war. At the time, it was previously believed that shell shock usually only lasted for about six months after the victim’s service had ended. However, Woolf was ahead of her time, because she had accurately produced in Septimus an example of the delayed war neurosis that struck at the victim’s identity. Simply put, the victim suffered an identity crisis that was produced from the stress and horror of the war. DeMeester says that the horrors of war strips the victim’s previously held views of civilization and humanity. They are confused by the evil and primitive nature that was witnessed. It is hard for them to acclimate back to the world when they realized the potential society has for depravity. It is further stressful for the victim to realize that the depravity is not gone, it is just held back by society’s civilized laws. Septimus is represented as having little emotions towards loved ones and DeMeester says that this indifference is a repercussion of battle. She claims that indifference is the only survivor tool they can use to cope with the grotesque images and assaults to the senses that they are forced to witness. DeMeester believes that Woolf shows how Septimus’s failure to bring meaning to the suffering is a part of his downfall. She says that trauma victims that can’t find meaning to the world or life are unable to escape their disorder.

DeMeester, Karen. "Trauma, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and Obstacles to Postwar Recovery in Mrs. Dalloway." Virginia Woolf and Trauma: Embodied Texts. By Suzette A. Henke and David Eberly. New York: Pace UP, 2007. 77-93. Print.

Waves Post 2

In Virginia Woolf’s novel, The Waves, the reader is introduced to six voices that reflect their lives and thoughts in poetic soliloquies. Although each voice is given a name, and the genders are split evenly, they are not completely separate entities. Some would like to call them characters, but to do so would be missing or even mistaking Woolf’s intentions for her work. The six voices are meant to mingle, separate, and unify throughout The Waves, because they represent the different selves that each human carries within them. Woolf herself said that she was surprised when people remarked that her characterization was excellent considering that she hadn’t intended to create characters. The form of the work and the connections between the voices form a single unifying whole that could be said to represent the human soul. People are not black and white, and Woolf knew this better than most. Instead, every person has different personalities and souls that govern our lives at certain times. It is said that her voices represent aspects of herself and of people close to her in real life. This idea would only reinforce her attempt to capture different aspects of the human psyche. At once, we are separate, and yet also the same in many ways. Just as the waves in the ocean are small ripples that separate themselves to charge the shore, they still return to the sea to complete the whole. It would be interesting to explore why Woolf was so fascinated to reveal the different psyches that inhabit each person and to what purpose? Is it possible that through the voices she is trying to show people that in the end we are all so similar that together we make one great whole: the ocean?
In her essay Modern Fiction, we are introduced to Woolf’s ideas of the human soul. She talks about how it is a luminous halo, and not a series of symmetrical gig lamps. Woolf does not believe that reality can be captured through one single interpretation. Instead, she believes that reality is represented through multiple subjective realities that are all intertwined. It is the individual’s perspectives that are subjective, and yet within each person there are more than one representations of the psyche.

In her essay Modern Fiction, we are introduced to Woolf’s ideas of the human soul. She talks about how it is a luminous halo, and not a series of symmetrical gig lamps. Woolf does not believe that reality can be captured through one single interpretation. Instead, she believes that reality is represented through multiple subjective realities that are all intertwined. It is the individual’s perspectives that are subjective, and yet within each person there are more than one representations of the psyche. Perspective and emotion are what govern the human mind. In each person we have a multi-personality that emerges in variations of time and place. Every moment of living is interpreted differently depending on our varying perspectives and emotions that are entangled within. The brain is a powerful organ, one that is not yet fully explored or understood. It could be argued that Woolf knew this better than most, and was very interested in capturing the different thoughts and ideas that are constantly racing through our mind. For many, the form of The Waves is very confusing. The six voices that speak eloquently, poetically, and with such sophistication are far from reality. Or are they? If one were to open the brain (philosophically and hypothetically speaking, not literally of course) but if we were to open a stranger’s head and allowed to listen to their thoughts would anything make sense? Furthermore, would everything sound the same or be grouped as one unifying whole? It’s impossible to say, but by looking at the form of The Waves one could argue that Woolf would say no.
There are similarities between the six voices, but there are also extremely differentiating characteristics that could be pinned to each voice. These differences are what make the multi-layered personality that represents the whole. The three women are very feminine, and the males are very masculine. Woolf believed that within each person, there is a resemblance of both genders residing in our characters. Whether we embrace or suppress either gender is up to the individual. Ginny could be argued to be the representation of vanity and frivolity, and perhaps even adventure. The city attracts her because of its fast pace, fashion, and lust that could be associated with a more urban setting. Susan represents the maternal and country. She is essentially the opposite of Ginny. And then there is Rhoda, the dark side of every human’s nature that lurks in the corner. Similar comparisons and descriptions could go on for the male characters. Louis is self-conscious, while Neville constantly looks for love. But the voice of Bernard stands out, and he certainly dominates much of The Waves.

At the end of The Waves, the reader is given only the voice of Bernard. This is interesting, because it could further reinforce the separate entities that reside in one person. Yes, there is only one perspective and voice, but could Bernard be a representation of the dominating part of the soul? Every person has different aspects to their personality, but we also have dominating features and traits that tend to reside over the others. Furthermore, Bernard’s presiding voice is at the end of the novel, when the characters have grown up. Could it not be argued that the older humans get the more we realize our true selves. At the beginning of the novel, we are given so many different voices, and only snippets of each voice. The voices are children and therefore have not developed into separate entities yet. As the novel progresses, the voices differentiate themselves from each other and grow into their own selves. Finally, at the end, the reader is left with just one voice, and perhaps this is Woolf’s way of saying that the individual has finally found the true self?

Critical Article

De Gay, Jane. "Virginia Woolf's Feminist Historiography in Orlando." Critical Survey 19.1 (2007): 62-72. Print.

Jane De Gay’s article, “Virginia Woolf’s Feminist Historiography in Orlando”, develops the argument that Virginia Woolf’s novel, Orlando, is her attempt at writing a female literary history, albeit a fantastical one, but still a history that promotes feminism. Gay’s argument stems from multiple statements that Woolf made in A Room of One’s Own about the lack of female literary history that had been yet to be discovered. Woolf urges her audience of collegiate women that it is their duty to discover the history’s female writers. Gay notes that although Woolf didn’t personally contribute an alternative literary history, she believes that Orlando is an example of a literary history and how it pertains to gender and its effect on the writer’s experiences. Since Woolf’s character of Orlando lives for 350 years and changes gender, Woolf is able to examine the different contexts of time and gender and how they affected the writing of the ages. Gay says that Woolf shows how when Orlando is a woman, her writing is not acknowledged until the 20th century, and she is forced to hide her work in the previous years. Gay claims that this representation is very important because Woolf wants to emphasize the constraints that have been put on the female writer. Gay also says that she mocks the male idea that each period should have a “spirit of the age” that describes the writing of the time. Gay believes that Woolf wanted to reveal that the past could not be separated from the present, and that each period of time builds upon the other. By having Orlando live, change, and grow throughout the 350 years, he is a metaphor for the molding and changing that happens in literature.

Critical Article

Lavine, Ann. "Virginia Woolf's The Legacy." The English Journal 75.2 (1986): 74-78. Print.

Ann Lavine explores the complexities behind Virginia Woolf’s writing in her article about one of her short stories called The Legacy. Lavine’s article, Virginia Woolf’s “The Legacy”, was inspired from teaching one of her high school classes where she found a way to introduce Woolf’s writing to the classroom. Lavine believes that to approach Woolf’s writing, one must accept that there are multiple themes and that reality is not meant to be presented as absolute. Lavine claims that Woolf believed that reality is interpreted through every person’s subjective personality, and therefore, there is never one precise answer or solution to anything. Lavine represented this subjective reality by splitting her classroom into two groups: each group choosing one of the two main characters and siding with one or the other as the protagonist. In the case of The Legacy, Lavine had her students pick whether they believed Gilbert had been wronged or Angela gave him what he desired. Lavine proposes a third way of interpreting the text, and claims that Woolf intended to have the multiple interpretations and that without it the text would not be the same. She notes that not much has been previously written about The Legacy. What had been written usually determined that the story represents the misunderstandings that each person has of one another, and even though we try in vain to have knowledge of other people we will always fail in ignorance and loneliness. Lavine disagrees with this conclusion, and says that it is more likely a representation of Woolf’s hatred of the patriarchy. She says that because we are only given the male perspective through Gilbert as the narrator our perception of Angela is skewed. Lavine believes that Woolf intended for this skewed reality, because it is a representation of the male reality that encompassed Woolf’s time period.