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Durham e-Theses
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UnQuantum Woolf: The Many Intellectual Contexts of To the Lighthouse's Metaphorical Wave-Particle Binary

COUSIN, XAVIER,ROSS,ALEXANDRE (2022) UnQuantum Woolf: The Many Intellectual Contexts of To the Lighthouse's Metaphorical Wave-Particle Binary. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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This thesis is a sceptical investigation into the notion that the metaphorical wave-particle binary of Virginia Woolf's To the Lighthouse is related to quantum physics. Indeed, the field of literature and science has employed conceptual similarities as the main means of connecting quantum concepts to novels, however, this has led to a host of scholarly difficulties, prompting the need for a re-examination of analogical linkages. Woolf is the model candidate for such a re-examination, given her historical and philosophical proximity with the developments of quantum mechanics. To the Lighthouse, in particular, was written between 1925 and 1927: precisely when quantum physicists were attempting to resolve the wave-particle duality, leading to Niels Bohr's complementarity. This parallel has been noted by researchers as relevant to the novel, as it too displays a general binary that can be read as wave-particle-like, which the author also attempts to resolve along similar philosophical lines. Nevertheless, other than proximity and similarity, there are no reasons to affirm that the science is related to the novel; hence, it is an ideal case study to examine in order to ascertain the value of conceptual similarities in literature and science. To do so, To the Lighthouse's binary and its resolution are interpreted in a thesis-long close reading, in order to compare aspects of it firstly to Woolf's personal thought, and secondly to various non-quantum intellectual contexts that preceded and surrounded her. In doing so, it becomes clear not only that invoking quantum physics serves no clear purpose in better understanding the novel, but also that the notion of resolving wave- particle-like binaries was a widespread philosophical procedure at the turn of the century, decades before Bohr's concept. This negative conclusion interrogates what the scholarly value of interpreting similarities is, though a hypothetical solution can be found in conceptual metaphor theory.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Quantum, Woolf, To the Lighthouse, complementarity, wave, particle, physics, literature and science, analogy, metaphor, sceptical, philosophy, modernism, Bohr, binary, influence, concept, literature
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > English Studies, Department of
Thesis Date:2022
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:10 Aug 2022 15:27

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