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Sunday, November 28, 2010

Several Short Stories of Woolf's

This blog will cover "The Duchess and the Jeweler," "The Legacy," "Lappin and Lapinova," and "The Searchlight."  I was shocked when I read in Virginia Woolf:  A-Z that Oliver Bacon was Jewish, well, yes, there is the long nose, but was it a little joke to give a Jew the last name "Bacon"?  Is that Kosher?  It was a bit of a challenge to unravel the mystery of the bet, but it was more clear after finding out that Oliver was Jewish.  The bet was that Oliver would never become anything because a Jew didn't have a chance.  He seems to have had high ambitions.    Maybe he changed his name to seem less Jewish.  Maybe that's what the tapping of the nose meant as he walked down the street passing the other jewellers; however, wikianswers claims that it means "this is a secret."  But then again, Jews were being rounded up in Germany at this time.  Moving on to the nod to Joseph Conrad with the comment of mines and diamonds is South Africa, I wonder if she read any of his work.  I think I read somewhere during this course that she did.  After she leaves, he discovers the pearls are indeed fake, and that's why the weekend is going to be so very long.  Is the truffle he routed out the invitation to spend the weekend with the duchess's family?  But the truffle is rotten.  Was it that he thought he bested this duchess, but then she got 20K for fake pearls?  He thought he had the noble woman begging him, a low-born Jew, and, therefore, making her subservient to him, but she got one over on him.  She dangled the bait of her daughter to the jeweler and caught herself 20K.

In my altered book, I write two letters for Angela, the wife from "The Legacy" -- one to her husband and the other to her lover -- and I change the outcome of the tale giving it a feminist twist.  It was in writing these two letters that I realized both were holding or trying to hold power over her.  B.M. made his demands, and Gilbert made his -- that she stay childlike, stupid -- excuse me ignorant, and beautiful while on his arm.  B.M. employed blackmail to try to force her into his demands.  They ended up together in death.

For "Lappin and Lapinova" I found it sad that the one way she felt a connection to her husband, he killed.  The honeymoon was over, and he grew tired of the childish game.

Mark Hussey claims that both of the stories of the married couples deal with the woman being subservient to the male-dominant society.  Rosalind tried to compensate by living in a fantasy world where her husband did accompany her for a time, and Angela tried to escape by trying to find worth in charity.

"The Searchlight," I must say that I didn't get it; however, with these people living in an old castle, I was reminded of the book I Capture the Castle.  If these stories are about ghosts, then this is the ghost of her great-grandfather.  The ghost in "Lappin and Lapinova" is the marriage and the rabbit royalty.  In "The Legacy" it would be the wife, B.M., and the child Angela never had (ghost of a chance of having a child?).  Oliver is haunted by his ambition, his mother, and his poor childhood.  Maybe the ghost is partiarchy.  Well, not for Oliver...

Works Cited

Hussy, Mark.  Virginia Woolf:  A-Z.  New York:  Oxford University Press, 1995.  Print.

Woolf, Virginia.  “The Duchess and the Jeweler.”  A Haunted House, and other short stories.  eBooks@Adelaide.  26 July 2010.  Web.  2 November  2010.

---.  “Lappin and Lapinova.”  A Haunted House, and other short stories.  eBooks@Adelaide.  26 July 2010.  Web.  2 November  2010.
---.  “The Legacy.”  A Haunted House, and other short stories.  eBooks@Adelaide.  26 July 2010.  Web.  2 November  2010.

---.  “The Searchlight.”  A Haunted House, and other short stories.  eBooks@Adelaide.  26 July 2010.  Web.  2 November  2010.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

"Divine Politics: Virginia Woolfs Journey toward Eleusis in TTL" CR#14

When I began reading Tina Barr's article "Divine Politics:  Viriginia Woolf's Journey toward Eleusis in To the Lighthouse, I initially felt that I would be overwhelmed with her turgid speech with words such as "prosodic" and "semiological," and after looking at the definitions, I realize that she is vastly more educated than me, and this is going to be a scholarly article written above my head.  She calls upon the literary gods:  Northrup Frye, Nietzche, and Kierkegaard to assist her with her "very detailed reading of the text in light of its mythic resonances (Barr 126).

Barr writes about how this novel helped Woolf to confront her childhood trauma, and, in doing that, she adds to the growing array of literary feminist discourse.  She then delves into the mythical resonances and also mentions how this was a self-psychoanalytic novel for Woolf.  Many scholars have used the Demeter - Persephone myth to illuminate the Mrs. Ramsay/Prue relationship.  In my own estimation this errs.  Barr does not critique this idea, so much as just comments on it: however, she does bring up a concept that I find more believable:  Demeter is Mrs. Ramsay, and Lily Briscoe as the adopted daughter is Persephone.  Lily only spends summers with Mrs. Ramsay, and it is believed that Lily represents Virginia Woolf in the story (Barr 130).  Thus, as Lily is beginning to work on her painting, she finds it difficult to begin which takes us back to her quote from Nietzche in that he "susggest that man creates the mythic out of his fear of his ancestors" (Barr 129).  So, at the end of the novel when Lily finishes her painting and thinks, "It was done; it was finished.  Yes, she thought, laying down her brush in extreme fatigue, I have had my vision" (TTL 211), we can now realize that this is Woolf saying that writing this was indeed carthartic and she is now free of the obsession.  I never felt that Lily was as caught in the netting of the cult of Mrs. Ramsay until the last of the book as she struggled to finish her painting.

Barr believes that using the tool of the mythic substrata that Woolf can resolve character's identities by asserting importance to Lily's vision she has as she tries to finish her painting.  Just as I'm feeling comfortable reading the article, this sentence comes along, "This mythic supplementation si not simply some Lacanian prosthetic simulacrum (OED: a material image made as a representation of some diety, person, or thing) of the missing phallic signifier" (Barr 131).  She then relates to the reader how Mrs. Ramsay received many goddess images from Woolf which she uses her verbal prowess to prove.  Just as I am reconciled that Barr has nothing to say about Augustus Carmichael, she comes up with a fresh idea:  Mr. Carmichael acts as the hierophant (OED: An official expounder of sacred mysteries or religious ceremonies, esp. in ancient Greece; an initiating or presiding priest.).  It was like a lost piece of the puzzle was found and properly placed.  Logic had arrived.

In summation, her article is somewhat above the average undergraduate level being that she has interposed the ideas of many of the literary theorists; however, her basic sentence structure is not difficult to follow and her turgid speech was fitting.  (I learned the word turgid for that other critical read, so I must make sure to employ it at every opportunity.)

Works Cited:

Barr, Tina.  "Divine Politics:  Virginia Woolf's Journey toward Eleusis in To The Lighthouse."  boundary 2.20 (1993): 125-145. Web.  6 October 2010.

"hierophant, n." The Oxford English Dictionary. 2nd ed. 1989. OED Online. Oxford University Press. 23 Nov. 2020

"simulacrum, n." The Oxford English Dictionary. 2nd ed. 1989. OED Online. Oxford University Press. 23 Nov. 2020

Woolf, Virgina.  To The Lighthouse.  1927.  Ed. Mark Hussey.  Orlando:  Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 2008.  Print.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

BTA Blog: WARNING! Construction in Progress, Proceed with Care.

Just wanting to get some thoughts down before they evaporate, or fade-away, or scramble off with some other cute little idea that happens by....

I admit it, I'm coming out of the closet -- well, maybe not a closet, how about the back bedroom -- back to my point, I admit it:  I'm coming out of the back-bedroom to admit that I like plot.  I like multi-layered, fully formed characters whom I get to know, like, and sympathize and empathize and maybe even fantasize with or about or on.  Yes, Virginia Woolf does give us characters, but she gives us just enough about these people that we must "guess the rest," or she gives us characters that are stereotypes so that we as educated readers know the rest.  Finally in Between the Acts, we do have plot.  Or do we?  I'm only on page 66 (one digit short of being the Antichrist -- so don't be alarmed), so I'm not sure if this will follow the typical plot structure or not.   

I feel that there is an introduction, and Giles certainly is acting like there may be some conflict on the horizon as he sits about so tensely I picture him to be white-knuckling.  He mentions something (unfortunately I didn't mark it) about how can these people gad about so gayly (the 1930's definition, not the current definition -- "not that there's anything wrong with that") when there is such tension between the countries.  His homophobia certainly could rise to a head (no pun intended).  Before I leave this whole issue of plot behind me, I must, oh, yes, I must refer to page 63:  "Did the plot matter?... The plot was only there to beget emotion...  There was no need to puzzle out the plot... Don't bother about the plot: the plot's nothing."  Is she telling us the reader not to bother looking for a plot because if it's there, it's nothing?  Woolf doesn't really tell a story; does she?  She relates impressions, attitudes, beliefs, opinions, and images.  We see not into the character's mind, but hers.

Sometimes when I write these things I'm afraid to say what I would really like to say for all the same old reasons that people don't say or do what they really want.  Fear.  Alienation - negative thoughts: vulnerability will do that do you.  And plus, this should be scholarly right.  And another thing, who wants to be wrong and feel like you walked into school naked (egads, I always hated that dream).  But, so far, I think the book is about women because it appears to present so many types of women: the old matronly, widowed sister; the foreign(ish), creative woman; the doting wife; and the cougar.  Because doesn't Manresa strike you as being a cougar?  Do you think she realizes that William is gay (our definition, not the 1930's definition)?  I suppose all the stereotypical men are represented also:  the staunch, old patriarch; the up-and-coming, oldest son; the misfit or homosexual who was bullied in school.

And another thing that I've noticed, and maybe this has been mentioned before in class.  See, that's another problem I have.  I sometimes think that I have a light-bulb moment, only to realize later that the thought was already embedded in my brain by someone else's previous, this may not be new stuff.  What I'm saying is this, "This probably isn't an epiphany, just an old thought, disinterred, and regurgitated."  Conversation as Woolf writes it is clipped.  If someone talked to me, like these characters talked to each other, I'd think that they had flipped, like -- gone crazy man (sorry, I dropped into 60's speech).  It's in between the conversations that the poetry of her words shine.  Melba Cuddy-Keane comments that Woolf writes in a hybrid style that mixes prose and verse.  I have come to see this with this novel.

If I come up with any other ideas after reading the rest of the book, I'll put it here, because this has been more of a diarrhea of the mind, everything coming out without any filter...will I be brave enough to let it stand, or will I filter it later.  In time, we'll have that answer.

Work Cited:

Woolf, Virginia.  Between the Acts.  Ed. Mark Hussey.  Orlando:  Harcourt, Inc., 2008.  Print. 

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Three Guineas Blog

Three Guineas is an essay written in novel form in which Virginia Woolf suggests what to do with three guineas.  With the first guinea, she believes that it should go to the women’s colleges; however, they should be destroyed and then rebuilt after the model of men’s colleges.  She tells the man who is asking for this dollar to put a note on it:  ‘Take this guinea and with it burn the college to the ground. Set fire to the old hypocrisies” (45).   Women need to be educated for peace to reign.  The second guinea she states should go to “a society to help the daughters of educated men to obtain employment in the professions” (51).  Woolf quotes a Mr. C. E. M. Joad in this chapter.  He appears to be the stalwart leader of the he-man-woman-hater’s club, especially being that a woman adds nothing to a conversation unless it’s a little bit of cleverness.  So he believes that women cannot be astute, just witty.  He believes that women should quit prying and putting in their two-cents into public affairs and return to the household duties (53).   The third guinea she freely gives to the person who sent her the request for a guinea, and that person requested it to protect culture and intellectual liberty. 

While eating breakfast this morning, I read an online article by Katherine Marshall in The Huffington Post entitled “Where Are Women’s Voices for Peace?  A Conversation with Sister Joan Chittister.”  It was interesting that an article written about 70 years after Three Guineas still questions where women’s voices are in peace.  Sister Joan believes that until women quit being a token member of any movement or institution that there will never be peace.  It’s pathetic that after 70 years from Woolf’s writing to now that women still don’t have equal influence upon society.  Sister Joan’s ideas appear to be an echo of Three Guineas. 

Concerning “Thoughts on Peace in an Air Raid,” I wondered if it was plea for Americans to join the war because at the time that this was written, America was still wearing blinders and playing tiddlywinks at home, or is she admonishing Americans to take all her suggestions and make them “into something serviceable” and embrace peace?  Even in her essays, Woolf has the ability to create a vast array of images in my head.  One can see the search-lights flittering back and forth in the night’s sky, or hornets the size of planes flying over the home.  She talks how we are prisoners and enslaved.  That men should be freed from these ideas of war by searching for more honorable activities and access their creative feelings.  I suppose if you create, you are less likely to destroy.  But the irony is that if they save the Englishmen, the Germans and Italian men will still be enslaved.  There was a line that gave me chills, “Let us try to drag up into consciousness the subconscious Hitlerism that holds us down” (2).  I wondered what she specifically meant by this statement.  The basis of the articles and books were addressing how women can assist in keeping peace.

I enjoyed reading Leonard Woolf’s article “Fear and Politics at the Zoo.”  It didn’t have the anger in it that the two aforementioned works of V. Woolf did.  He seasoned his article with more humor.

Works cited:
Marshall, Katherine.  “Where Are Women’s Voices for Peace?  A conversation with Sister Joan Chittister.”  The Huffington Post.  13 November 2010.  Web.  13 November 2010.

Woolf, Virginia.  “Thoughts on Peace in an Air Raid.”  eBooks@Adelaide.  26 July 2010.  Web.  11 November  2010.

Woolf, Virginia.  Three Guineas.  1938.  Ed. Mark Hussey.  Orlando, Florida: Harcourt, Inc., 2006.  Print.     

Friday, November 12, 2010

Hoffman Espouses Mythic Correlations; CR #13

Neptune in the Trevi Fountain in Rome (Trident broke off). 

In her article “Demeter and Poseidon:  Fusion and Distance in To the Lighthouse” Anne Golomb Hoffman tries to cover a lot of material.  She begins her essay with stating that the novel has a tension between form and chaos, and she carries this forth into the realm of the mythical tales of Poseidon and Demeter and Persephone.   She contends that Mrs. Ramsay is Demeter while Prue is Persephone.    Mrs. Ramsay seeks form with her tendency of match-making; she wants everyone paired.  Perhaps we could associate her better with Noah.  Augustus Carmichael’s separateness is momentarily pulled in by the connection with Mrs. Ramsay in the admiring of the beauty of the fruit arrangement.  Lily pulls him in with her needs in finishing her painting.  She contends that Mr. C. was originally only in section one in the original manuscript.  She contends that one of his roles in the novel is “to articulate the theme of the survival of culture amid the ravages of time and war” (184). 
I think Hoffman stretches the novel to fit her belief that Mrs. Ramsay represents Demeter, especially when it is widely known that Mrs. Ramsay represents Virginia Woolf’s mother.  Hoffman claims that the “identification with Demeter underscores the ritual function of woman in marriage and maternity” (185).  Demeter is the bountiful goddess of the grain and is associated with wheat, corn, and poppies (Tatlock).  The growing of grain is indeed propagation, but it is neither maternal nor matrimonial.  Demeter, as far as I can remember, had an extremely close relationship with her daughter, Persephone.  In contrast, Mrs. Ramsay was closest to her youngest son, James.  If Demeter is associated with the bounty of grain food, it appears to me that that is of a cyclic nature.  Hoffman quotes Julia Stephen’s directly that she prefers the sick to the well (187), so that doesn’t seem to represent the cyclic nature of rebirth. 
I didn’t necessarily see a thread that ran through the paper; I felt as if she went into too many directions.  The title of the article leads one to believe that the paper is also about Mr. Carmichael as Poseidon, and although she does mention it, it is a very small portion of the essay.  She does a good job of explaining how she believes that Mrs. Ramsay is the aspect of fusion with the characters and with that I agree. 
Although I think the title misleading, I believe the bit of information about Mr. Carmichael will help me with my paper.  Ironically, it led me to the idea that Mr. Carmichael may be more related to Neptune than Poseidon (although Poseidon is the Greek version of Neptune the Roman god (Tatlock)).
Works Cited
Hoffman, Anne Golomb.  “Demeter and Poseidon:  Fusion and Distance in To the Lighthouse.”  Studies in the Novel  16 (1984): 182-196.
Tatlock, Jessie May.  Greek and Roman Mythology.  New York:  The Century Company, 1917.  Google Book Search.  Web.  8 November 2010.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Later Essays

My favorite of the essays assigned for this week’s reading was “Walter Sickert:  A Conversation.”  The first line that hauled me in was “how statues and mosaics removed from their old stations and confined to the insides of churches and private houses lose the qualities proper to them in the open air” (187).  This reminds me of Michelangelo’s David which was once displayed outside in the Piazza della Signoria but is now enclosed in a building (on the other side of Florence).  The statue can still entice strong emotions to the surface, but how beautiful he would be outside with the sun shining on his marbled physique.  It took me longer to read this essay because of the visuals that kept coming from the essay made me scribble little drawings in the margins where I usually make notes.  Also, the essay encouraged me to investigate his paintings, so Google again comes to the rescue.  I wanted to see how Sickert’s paintings made him “among the best of biographers” (191).  He does indeed capture more of the person’s personality in his paintings; all sterility is erased.  Whereas Woolf’s writings create a picture, his paintings create a story.  She comments that he’s a realist and prefers to paint the lower middle-class.  I’m not sure what the time frame is between this essay and whether or not Sickert painted his Camden Nudes all at once or just later made a collection of them, but they consisted of mostly prostitutes with some being very derogatory to women in my estimation which makes her statement on page 196 “he never sinks below a certain level in the social scale” a bit – hmmm, what word am I looking for?—ironic or just not fully informed?  Whatever the case may be, I loved that I got to know a new artist.

I feel “The Death of the Moth” and “Evening Over Sussex:  Reflections in a Motor Car” were both about death.  The poor moth struggled to get out of the boundaries set for it and couldn’t succeed so it dies.  I believe with “Evening over Sussex” that Woolf is comparing the sunset to aging or fading beauty, but it also looks forward to the future, because the star represents the future.  She disassembles into four different selves to contemplate the sunset:  1. “eager and dissatisfied,”  2. “stern and philosophical” (1), 3. simple pleasure, and 4.  the ADD self.  I found the ADD self a bit hilarious: “a self which lies in ambush, apparently dormant, and jumps upon one unawares” (2).  It reminded me of the t-shirt, “They don’t know, I don’t have A….OH, look a bunny!”

“Craftsmanship” was rather crafty.  I loved the play on words, but could have gone without the imagery of the chicken with its head cut off.  It appears that words like her novels and stories can have different interpretations.  She comments that words are not useful because they can be interpreted different ways; however, some have come up with signs.  One, two, or three gables for good places to stay; stars to denote a good painting, “So with a handful of stars and daggers the whole art criticism, the whole literary criticism could be reduced to the size of a sixpenny bit (2).  Her wit shone through when she inferred that the English language was a bit of a naughty girl by having “gone a-roving” with several other different languages.  I think the basis of this essay was to demonstrate the flux of words, or how they can change and signify different things for the variety of people. 

One last comment about Sickert:  did you know that Patricia Cornwell wrote a book claiming that Sickert was Jack the Ripper? 

Works cited:

Woolf, Virginia.  "Craftsmanship."  eBooks@Adelaide.  26 July 2010.  Web.  27 October 2010.

---.  "Death of the Moth."  eBooks@Adelaide.  26 July 2010.  Web.  27 October 2010.

---.  "Evening Over Sussex:  Reflections in a Motor Car."  eBooks@Adelaide.  26 July 2010.  Web.  27 October 2010.

---.  "Walter Sickert:  A Conversation."  The Captain's Death Bed.  New York:  Harcourt, Brace, and Company, 1950.  Print.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Ann Levine’s Take on “The Legacy”—Critical Critique #12

Anne Levine begins her essay in giving the reader an example of how she taught Virginia Woolf’s short story “The Legacy”; she was a high school teacher.  She divided her class up into two sections and told one group to sympathize with Gilbert and argue that Angela was the villain; the other group was to argue the reverse.  Levine tells us that she thought Woolf’s writings an excellent example of how there can be different interpretations from readings.  She reminds us that Woolf herself stated that “our task as readers is not to look simply for symmetrically arranged gig-lamps” (74).  The meaning and significance isn’t all laid out for you the reader; we must search for the meaning.  Of course, everyone brings their own identity to interpreting readings; therefore, people will interpret readings to their own perspective. 

Levine helps us to realize her interpretation, which I believe is more in line with what Woolf would have intended.  Gilbert represents the Victorian, domineering patriarchal husband that Woolf rebelled against.  Levine puzzles out the meaning of “The Legacy” by using quotes from A Room of One’s Own.  Angela is an excellent mirror for enlarging and reflecting her husband’s humongous ego, but yet his mirror of Angela only reflects a woman whose day exists of little trifles, low intelligence, and childlike behaviour. 

Before she died she wouldn’t allow him to read her diary, but after her death, he was free to read them.  The part of herself that she kept from him, she allowed him to see after her death.  Did she hope to educate him?  Levine relates other interpretations by different scholars, and here is one that I found to be very pertinent:  “The crux of the tale is the husband’s realization that his wife—the one person he supposedly knows through and through, a woman he thinks belongs to him—is capable of a life . . . that he cannot share” (Kiely 88). 

I haven’t read the short story yet, but this article was so straightforward that I believe it will be helpful in assisting me to understand the story.  With that said, I must admit that in my head while began I reading this, I was shouting, “Woolf wouldn’t make Angela the demon!  I know that one school of thought is that a reader shouldn’t bring the writer into the reading.  But how can you not in a Woolf story?”   Of course as I continued reading, I saw that Levine was giving this a more feminist reading.

And one last thought, I kept thinking of Ibsen’s play A Doll’s House while I read this.

Work Cited:

Kiely, Robert.  Beyond Egotism:  The Fiction of James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, and D. H. Lawrence.  Cambridge:   Harvard University Press, 1980.  (her citation)

Levine, Ann.  "Virginia Woolf's 'The Legacy.'"  The English Journal 75.2 (1986):  74-78.  Web.  6 November 2010.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Mr. Carmichael will be playing the part of Proteus in this paper....#11

I first began reading Jean Elliott’s article “The Protean Image:  The Role of Mr. Carmichael in To the Lighthouse” with a sense of incredulity.  Basing her argument mainly from the last scene where Lily Briscoe works through her emotions and tries to finish her painting while Augustus Carmichael basks in the sun dozing, she claims that she can prove that Carmichael symbolically represents the Greek god Proteus.  He was the god of prophecy and who once captured, would answer questions; however, he disliked answering questions so he would change shapes.  If one holds him tight until Proteus tires of his ruse of shape changer, he will answer your questions.  I agreed with the ocean god motif, but I couldn’t quite agree with the shape changing; however, Elliot supports her argument and is convincing. 

The shape changing is explained with the phrases “cat eyes,” “his paws,” “padding softly,” and “like some sea monster” (294).  And Lily does indeed question him while he is captured by sleep as he lies near her while she paints.  In further proving her point, Elliot points out that Carmichael never answers one of Mrs. Ramsay’s questions.  The following quote she uses from Dryden’s translation of the Proteus tale illuminates her argument:  “But first the wily Wizard must be caught, / For unconstrain’d he nothing tells for naught: / Nor is with Pray’rs, or Bribes, or Flatt,ry bought” (11.571-573).  Another godlike quality is that Lily believes he reads her mind in that last scene. 
The other aspect of her paper that I found pertinent (also because I had already had the thought, but she gave me the phrases that support the hypothesis) was that Mr. Carmichael adds a stable element to the story.  Both Lily and Mrs. Ramsay comment that Mr. Carmichael is the same.  Of course, this is contradictive to the argument that he is Proteus. 

Elliot convinced me that Carmichael could be representative of Proteus, and she also believes that he was based off of Leslie Stephen’s old friend Professor Wolstenholme.  She gave me insight to the character of Augustus Carmichael.  She does make one comment that she never explained; I am supposing that her readers would know why it was significant without having to explain it.  She comments that the name Augustus is pertinent to the writings of Virgil which leads me to believe that a mythology class should be a requirement for English majors.    

Works Cited:

Elliott, Jean.  "The Protean Image:  The Role of Mr. Carmichael in To the Lighthouse."  Studies in the Novel 12.4 (1980):  359-368.  Web.

Woolf, Virginia.  To the Lighthouse.  1927.  Ed. Mark Hussey.  Orlando, Florida: Harcourt, Inc., 2005.  Print.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Let the Sun Shine In... CR #10

Finally!  I can understand and assimilate a critical essay on Virginia Woolf.  I am referring to Jeanne-Marie Zeck’s article “’Shining in the Dark’:  Jinny’s Reign as Sun Goddess.”  Zeck wrote this article to argue her point that Jinny is at the very least as important as the other characters, if not more important.  After reading her essay, Jinny arises as the most important character.  I haven’t finished the book yet, so I still keep the right to change my opinion, but Zeck lays out her argument in a logical and methodical way. 

She begins her article by giving the reader some other critics’ opinions of Jinny; promiscuous, self-indulgent, one-dimensional, unimportant.    Historically speaking, women who enjoy sex and seek it eagerly have been tagged with many a derogatory term.  Ironically, in the margins as I read this article I wrote, “Virginia Woolf was a flirt, but I don’t believe she enjoyed sex.  Maybe these characters – or the women – all personify an aspect of Woolf’s own character.  Jinny has the sexuality that Woolf may have wanted, or at least a bit more of.”  Why is that ironic?   It’s ironic because in one of her endnotes, Zeck makes a similar statement. 

Returning back to the topic of this blog, Zeck purpose in this essay is to assert that Jinny is the Sun Goddess, and Zeck tries to wrangle Jinny out of her usual classification. In that Jinny connects with other people and “relishes communion with others” (126).  I just realized by using the word “communion” Zeck brings forth the idea of gods and worship.  She contends that Woolf consistently uses sun imagery to describe Jinny and also uses sun colors when describing her.  When Jinny attends a party, she always searching for the gilt chair so that she can “both illuminate others and be admired by them” (127).  Not all want to be illuminated however.  Rhoda yearns for darkness, and illumination reveals Susan’s shabby dress.

Zeck believes that by Woolf putting Jinny on the throne as the sun goddess, she has aligned Jinny with a more powerful position.  Women are usually associated with the moon.  The most interesting part of this article for me was that by elevating Jinny to the status of a sun goddess, Woolf also elevates woman to a maternal god (129). 

Jinny lives in the moment, and when Percival dies, Bernard thinks of suicide.  It’s Jinny who teaches him how to continue, to move past death and to live in the moment.  Woolf has tied Jinny and Bernard together also in that each is referenced with a motif of circles; they are a union. 

And I’ll close this with my favorite line from this essay:  "The answer, Woolf suggests, is to replace the sun god with the sun goddess who illuminates a world without illusions, a world made up of drop after drop of heavy, delicate but substantial moments"(130).  --- moments of being ---

Work cited:
Zeck, Jeanne-Marie.  “’Shining in the Dark’:  Jinny’s Reign as Sun Goddess.”  Virginia Woolf:  Emerging Perspectives.  Selected Papers from the 3rd Annual Conference on Virginia Woolf.  Eds. Mark Hussey and Vara Neverow.  Pace Up, 1994. pp. 126-131. PDF.

Another Critical Reading for TTL, no. 9

In his article “The Rhythm of Creativity in To the Lighthouse,” J. Hillis Miller makes some fairly far-fetched conclusions.  From the title and from the first paragraphs, the reader knows that Miller addresses the rhythmic creativity of Mrs. Ramsay, Mr. Ramsay, Lily Briscoe, and Augustus Carmichael.  He reminds us that Virginia Woolf writes with a rhythm; she creates “a rhythmical groundswell which is comforting and sustaining” (168).  He claims that four characters display creativity:  Mrs. Ramsay with her dinner-party, Lily Briscoe with her painting, Augustus Carmichael with his poetry, and Mr. Ramsay with reciting poetry.  And here I have do argue that simply reciting poetry loudly and obtrusively is not creative but attention grabbing.  He then describes the nature of Mr. Carmichael’s creativeness a little more fully, but oddly considers that the novel presents it obscurely (171).  Odd, as I see it as being definitively stated because he was acknowledged later in the novel as an accomplished and published poet.  The family and the readers might see Mr. Carmichael’s character as being obscure, but it’s a pretty clear-cut case on the topic of his creativity. 

Miller next addresses the question of who is the narrator.  His description of the narrator reminds me of a spirit that invades a body and then has complete knowledge of the one whom it possesses, but at the time of possession, only knows what the character knows about the other people.  He uses several different terms for this type of narrator:  “indirect discourse, erlebte rede, or style indirect libre,” stating that each includes an essence of the type of narrator Woolf employed (no pun intended) for this novel.  He describes how the reader learns nothing of the narrator, but in my opinion, knowing the narrator would detract from the tone of the story.  He also explains how Woolf’s narrator in To the Lighthouse is vastly different from the omniscient narrator of the Victorian writing style.  I see it as Woolf’s narrator pin-pointing onto one character, or perhaps, focusing in like a microscope would be a better analogy because as Miller states the narrator occupies the character “from within, down to every crevice” (175). 

Miller then puts his microscope on Augustus Carmichael.  He seems to equate Carmichael with the narrator; he surmises that from these two quotes:  Carmichael “give(s) no inkling of any inner thoughts or emotion whatsoever,” and Mr. Carmichael cannot respond to Mrs. Ramsay because he was “sunk … a grey-green somnolence which embraced them all … in a vast and benevolent lethargy of well-wishing” (TTL 19), (178).  That is not the description of a narrator who invades and searches into every crevice of the character’s soul; that’s a description of someone on a drug-induced high.  Perhaps that is why the narrator cannot get into Carmichael’s mind; he’s in a constant drug fog.  If the narrator tries to invade his person, she/he/it gets a contact high and starts reciting poetry with Carmichael.  Although I think that I made a funny assessment, I believe it to actually be more reasonable than Miller’s.   I do agree with him when he states that the narrator depends on the minds of the characters for its existence, but then again that’s a bit like saying that the river is dependent on water for its existence.

Miller moves onto discussing the “trope of prosopopoeia” which basically means the personification of the house in the “Time Passes” chapter.   He also delves a little bit into philosophy in that he touches on the conversation between Andrew and Lily about whether or not the chair exists when they aren’t there (unfortunately dust is proof that things exist when “we” aren’t there).   Finally, he closes out his article in discussing the differences between writing like a woman or riding like a man. 

I thought his article made some good arguments and at times went off the reservation.  There were instances where it became another one of those articles that made me question my intelligence.  I read this mainly to hunt for information on Augustus Carmichael; Miller did make me realize why we may not get much information on Carmichael – the invasive narrator cannot penetrate the fogged mind of the opium addict; however, that’s not his opinion.  Also, he seemed to veer off of what I thought his topic to be – Lily and Augustus’s creativity. 

Works Cited:
Miller, J. Hillis.  “Mr. Carmichael and Lily Briscoe; The Rhythm of Creativity in To the Lighthouse.”  Modernism Reconsidered.  Ed. Robert Kiely.  Cambridge:  Harvard University Press, 1983.  Print.

Woolf, Virginia.  To the Lighthouse.  1927.  (They didn’t give me the page of citations, so I don’t know which version Hillis used.) 

Monday, October 25, 2010

My Impressions of "The Waves" by Viriginia Woolf

North York Moors National Park

Virginia Woolf wrote The Waves after her two very successful modernist novels Mrs. Dalloway and To the Lighthouse, but this novel ventures further into the new found land of modern writing.  Her experiment into the stream-of-consciousness succeeded with the preceding novels, that she extended the experiment into trying to not even have characters.  In some ways she did succeed.  I had a difficult time in keeping characters straight, especially with the men.  I then wondered if she purposefully wrote the men to be more generic, but then I remembered Neville is a homosexual, Louis is an Aussie, and then Bernard becomes the typical family man.  Then again, I would stop and wonder as I was reading, "Is this the gay one, or is it the other."  Then I realized that I could be bringing too much of myself into the reading; being a woman I would of course relate to the women more than to the men.  I too remember my younger days when I felt like the sun shone on me, or the exact opposite when I had such little confidence or self-worth, I wondered if i really existed.  At times I felt like Jinny and others just like Rhoda.  So I could relate to them.  And Susan, what about her?

Like Susan, I feel it sometimes, that hard tumorous knot in my side.  That seed that they planted oh-so-many years ago that has grown into a hard-shelled mass.  Susan has it.  The knot that "they" have created by making you think "their" way, dress like "they" dress, act like "them," color inside the lines, drive "this" car, live in a house size of an aircraft carrier.  The knot that is the cancer created from them making "you" conform.  Driving into work this morning with my windows down letting the air "style" my hair, I saw others sealed into their cans on wheels breathing the closed-in air of manufactured vehicles.  Susan needs a walk on the moors, her squirrels, her doves, and her father to clean this cancer from her body.  At the going away dinner for Percival, she dresses shabbily.  She fits in better than Rhoda, but she can’t adjust to the city and fashion.

And just like Susan, I too love and hate.  Just minutes ago, I hated, and hated, and hated one more time for shits and giggles.  I hated that those people were talking so loudly as I was trying to read a critical article; I hated that I forgot to bring my Wheat Thins, but most of all I hate, from the tips of my hair down to the bottom of my toes, Apple computers.  Steve Jobs is the anti-Christ.  Last night, I loved the strong winds trying to push me about, and I loved seeing the leaves dance on the road as I was coming home.  I loved coming into my home where my heart resides.  My whole body sighs with relief when I get out of my car and come home.  I felt just as Susan did when she arrived home.  Home cures us.

Again like Susan, I had all these ideas of how my life would be. Although, I never had the maternal instincts she did.  When the book passes mid-day and all the characters are past their primes, Susan gives the impression that her life didn't quite go as she planned; not that she really had any plans.  It seems as if she is a bit disillusioned and settles for her current way of life.  She no longer speaks of country living as passionately as she once did.  Life does tend to bring reality to one's plans and youthful ideals.

But what is the book about overall?  In a different venue, Woolf brings reality to us.  Just as her novel uses the time of day and the position of the sun to parallel the life span of a group of characters, she uses this story to relate reality.  We all have plans of what we want to do in youth; dreams that sometimes come to fruition and sometimes not.  Death knocks on doors; sometimes he’s invited, and other times he shows up unannounced and unexpected.  Other times, we realize that what we wanted wasn’t as great as we expected it to be.  I think this happened to Susan.  A couple of statements in the last chapter assure the reader of this:  Susan says to Bernard, "My ruined life, my wasted life"; she had loved Bernard, and Percival loved her.  Now, she completely admits that her life wasn't what she wanted it to be (168).  Later (I think at a dinner party), she says, "Still I gape ... like a young bird, unsatisfied, for something that has escaped me" (171).  In thinking of Susan some lyrics to a John Lennon song pop in my head, "Life is what happens to you when you're busy making other plans."  It's what she thought she wanted, but still something escaped, the essence of her true desire.  Youth says, "I want this, I'm going to be that, My life is going to be wonderful!"  Then age and reality catch up, and then you wonder, "This is what the fuck I got out of bed for?"

And I keep forgetting to mention this.  Drew said that she thought the character's were each representative of some aspect of Woolf's personality.  I had a similar thought.  At one point it dawned on me (maybe we've mentioned this in class, I hope not as I sure would like to seem astute) that Rhoda represents the hurt side of Woolf.  The piece that was tainted by George and Gerald's touch.  The bit that always wants to hide for fear "it's" still out there wanting to hurt you.  "It" that thing that is more powerful than you, that you can't escape.  It's why she tried to hide from sight; why she had no face. 

Anyway, this REALLY is my second to the last thought -- the woman who writes assiduously is Woolf.  I hope my epiphanies aren't echoes from lecture; I now see why you want the blogs before class discussion.

And with my last comment, I have this to say about Percival.  He’s very similar to Augustus Carmichael.  The strange narration style never visits Percival; we only see him through the eye-thoughts of the others.  We are never allowed to invade Percival’s mind.  Perhaps his thoughts were dull because I envisioned him as what we now refer to as “a jock,” all muscle, good looks, good connections, but undeserving except by birth.  Would Carmichael’s thoughts be any more interesting?   --- Okay, I should save all that and the rest of what I was about to type for my paper; therefore, end here I shall!

Work Cited:
Lennon, John.  "Beautiful Boy."  memory.
Woolf, Virginia.  The Waves.  1931.  Ed. Mark Hussey.  Orlando, Florida:  2006.  Print.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Digging up the True Dirt on Mr. Carmichael (CR# 8)

Will the real Mr. Augustus Carmichael / Joseph Wolstenholme please stand up?

Ellen Tremper begins her critical article stating that Virginia Woolf, just like her character Clarissa from Mrs. Dalloway, enjoyed reading memoirs, but in about the third paragraph the reader discovers what Tremper’s argument really is.  In 1987 John Ferguson wrote an article for the Journal of Modern Literature arguing that Augustus Carmichael was modeled after Thomas De Quincey.  Woolf wrote an essay on his autobiography titled “De Quincey’s Autobiography,” so she does know the man.   (It can be found in The Common Reader:  Second Series.)   Tremper claims that the person Carmichael was modeled after was a man who stayed at Talland House with the family to get away from his wife.  I decided to make a chart of the similarities of the characters, so perhaps you, dear reader, can have a stab at deducing.

Loved Thoby/Andrew
Math Man
Bad Marriage
Opium Habit
Augustus Carmichael
Oh yes
Mr. Wolstenholme
perhaps, gave him a gold crown
Fat cheeks
No, just grumpy read below
Thomas De Quincey
Did he even know him?
Skinny as a rail filed to a needle's width
Well, married beneath his status but loved her.

In making a simple chart, we find that Mr. Wolstenholme is the clear winner with De Quincey and Carmichael only having the opium use in common.  If by winning you mean a reclusive, opium using, portly poet; then yes, he is the winner.  Tremper does not use a simple chart to argue her point; she employs lines from the holograph manuscript of the novel.  Ferguson uses the opium and marriage as the strongest arguments; however, De Quincey introduced his wife to the Wordsworths who were devastated to hear of her death (165).  Now, if he was ashamed of her, would he have introduced to her to the Wordsworths?
I just bumbled onto something in the web.  As you know, I like to have an image that represents my blog in some way, so I googled Augustus Wolstenholme in images.  Amazingly, I actually found one, but there was also information.  Tremper thought that the real “Woolly One” was not an opium user, but read on:

"Leslie Stephen, the father of the author Virginia Woolf, studied mathematics at Cambridge and held a fellowship at Cambridge from 1854 till 1864. During that period he became friends with Wolstenholme. Several years after Wolstenholme's death, Stephen wrote down details of his own life for his children and in these he refers to Wolstenholme (Conner, Fergusion):-

I think especially of poor old Wolstenholme, called 'the woolly' by you irreverent children, a man whom I had first known as a brilliant mathematician at Cambridge, whose Bohemian tastes and heterodox opinions had made a Cambridge career inadvisable, who tried to become a hermit at Wastdale. He had emerged, married an uncongenial and rather vulgar Swiss girl, and obtained a professorship at Cooper's Hill. His four sons were badly brought up: he was despondent and dissatisfied and consoled himself with mathematics and opium. I liked him or rather was very fond of him, partly from old association and partly because feeble and faulty as he was, he was thoroughly amiable and clung to my friendship pathetically. His friends were few and his home life wretched. ... [We] had him stay every summer with us in the country. There at least he could be without his wife (Gow)." (I emphasized "opium.")

(I am rather excited that I further proved Wolstenholme’s likeness to Carmichael.  Okay, back to our regularly scheduled blogging.)

The other aspect of Ferguson’s article that Tremper takes umbrage at is that he also equates Woolf to Carmichael and De Quincey.  He believes that the opium use of the two men is the same as Woolf’s “inner ocean of depression” (169).  I believe anyone stating that her illness had no effect on her writing would be remiss, because any aspect of the whole as some effect on a person’s life, job, and creativity.  Tremper uses the argument that Woolf used her past to help construct characters in her creations, but that her bouts with mental illness do not equate to the same a De Quincey and Carmichael’s voluntary use of opium.

All-in-all, Tremper makes an attempt to disclaim Fergurson's arguments.  I think she proved her argument well, even without my assist. 

Works Cited:
Gow, R. "Joseph Wolstenholme, Leslie Stephen and 'To the Lighthouse.'" Irish Math. Soc. 34 (1995), 40-46.  (This was cited from O'Connor and Robertson below.  I didn't know how to cite a citation within a webpage.)

O'Connor, J.J.  and E. F. Robertson.  “Joseph Wolstenholme Biography.”  The MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive.  24 October 2010.  Web.   June 1998.

Tremper, Ellen.  “’The Earth of our Earliest Life’:  Mr. Carmichael in To the Lighthouse.”  Journal of Modern Literature, XIX, I, Summer, 1994.  pp. 163-171.  Print.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Testing the waters with short stories (CR #7)

We’ve all heard the line, “She gets me,” but how is that pertinent in reading a critical article?  After reading one critical article recently, I had doubts that I understood the English language; but with Teresa Prudente’s paper on Virginia Woolf’s use of short stories, “’To Slip Easily From One Thing To Another’: Experimentalism And Perceptions in Woolf’s Short Stories,” I get her; she’s talking my language.  Prudente asserts that Woolf uses the medium of the short story to test the waters, or experiment, with her modernist style of writing.  She uses an article by Edgar Allan Poe, “The Philosophy of Composition,” extensively to assist her in defining the short story genre, and of course, she uses Virginia Woolf’s own words.

Prudente poses that perhaps the most important aspect of Woolf’s experimentation of using the short story is with using the time aspect, delving into the mind, and letting go of concrete.  Woolf tries to “convey the essence of these moments,” the moments of being (3).  Prudente uses “The Mark on the Wall” as her first example of how Woolf uses the consciousness to tell a story through a “series of meditations” (3).  She insists that Woolf does not portray the mind as fixed, but dynamic, changing, and contrasting.  Prudente also discusses the spiraling progression in the story; how the narrator or main character keeps returning to the mark on the wall.  Most importantly though, she believes that “The Mark on the Wall: reveals two major Woolfian aspects:  “the close connection and interactions between external and internal reality” and “the treatment of narrative time not only as depicting, but rather as reproducing the time of consciousness” (4).  Woolf succeeds in doing this in a meditative short story.  It is in the abstract, the thought, the mind in which Woolf is testing the waters.  Prudente states that Woolf confronts the dualities of existence: the real versus the unreal, the visible versus the invisible. 

Prudente then moves on to how Woolf describes character.  For an example, she employs my favorite Woolf essay, “Mr. Bennett and Mrs. Brown.”  She believes that Woolf thinks the self can never be fully defined and is unlimited.  Referring back to how Mr. Bennett describes his characters, he describes their house, clothes, job, etc. but ignores the mind; “human beings escape rigid definition” (6).  We should explore human nature, the mind, not the fabric.

Next Prudente deals with the experimentation with narrator.  She tells us that Woolf explored the “I-centered narration” in her short stories; whereas the novels usually employ the use of third-person narration (8).  The voice in the short-stories is abstract and reveals one of Woolf’s innovations; she does not give us reality.  The reader does not get bricks and mortar but play-doh, something malleable.  Prudente relates to us that Woolf wants to express the ordinary and the flights of the mind.  She wants to “reproduce (the) human experience fully,” and to do so, we must include the corporeal and the metaphysical.  And then how all that relates to each other in time.

Work cited:
Prudente, Teresa.  "'To Slip Easily From One Thing To Another':  Experimentalism And Perception in Woolf's Short Stories."  Journal of the Short Story in English 50 Spring 2008: 2-10.  Web.