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Durham e-Theses
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Virginia Woolf’s views of consciousness in relation to art and life

Bunyan, David (1970) Virginia Woolf’s views of consciousness in relation to art and life. Masters thesis, Durham University.

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Abstract

Virginia Woolf is most often treated by critics as a "stream of consciousness" writer, whose main concern was to represent the varying shades of consciousness in its response to changing impressions and experience. Otherwise, her contribution is seen to lie in her experiments affecting the outward form of the novel: for example, the use of the interludes in The Waves. These presuppositions have caused critics to find many things obscure or unintelligible in her novels. Even sympathetic commentators have accused her of "haziness, vague in definability of meaning: precisely the kind of uninterpretable symbolism which is also to be encountered in other forms of art of the same period.” The purpose of this thesis is to demonstrate that the real basis of Virginia Woolf's novels lies in her own theories about the nature of man and his relationship to his universe: her books are intended to express her personal notions of consciousness, identity, immortality, society, the world of solid things, and of the relationship between art and life. Also, through her novels, her thought may be seen to form a coherent and developing whole. Thus the aim of this study is to show that Mrs. Woolf is a philosophical novelist, and that her works of art are essentially novels of ideas. A recognition of the structure and unity of each of her works does in fact depend on a knowledge of these ideas. Consequently, the body of this thesis is devoted to a close analysis of her novels and other writings in order to discover the nature of her important notions, and then to determine the way in which they affect the content and literary technique of the novels. Attention has been paid tox the part played by her circle of friends, the Bloomsbury Group, in forming her ideas, and reference has also been made to relevant aspects of the literary and social atmosphere of the times, and to the prominent figures - such as G.E. Moore, Bergson, Bradley, and William James - who contributed mast to the current climate of ideas. The results of this study have enabled definite conclusions to be drawn, and, I believe, have proved this approach to be successful. On the basis of this study's findings, the majority of what has been thought difficult and confusing in the novels has here been clarified, her symbols have been explained, and a new and accurate understanding of Mrs. Woolf's meaning has been made possible. Thus, in addition to its purpose of establishing its main thesis, this study may largely be considered a complete study of Virginia Woolf. The thesis has been organized according to the separate novels, partly for the sake of clarity, and partly due to the coincidence that there are nine novels, and nine separate sections in the life-cycle of The Waves. It was hoped that the thesis itself Would thus provide an additional illustration af "significant form".1. Auerbach, Eric, Ittmesis, Princeton: University Press, 1953, 551.

Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Award:Master of Letters
Thesis Date:1970
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:14 Mar 2014 16:28

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