Gesamtkunstwerk as an aesthetic pre-occupation in the novels of Virginia Woolf
This thesis aims to show that Wagner's theories of Gesamtkunstwerk were a pre-occupation in Woolf's work throughout her career. The introduction explores Gesamtkunstwerk theory, tracing its development in theories concerning the combination of art forms, I go on to show how Woolf uses the Voyage Out to explore what the modern novel can learn from musical arts, while Jacob's Room adds painting to music as a significant field of interest for Woolf Mrs Dalloway adds to the complexity of combination, for I will demonstrate that in this novel a Nietzschean interpretation of Wagner's ideas found in The Birth of Tragedy is detectable, allowing Woolf to compare the motivation of more extreme avant-garde groups. The chapter on To the Lighthouse will consider Woolf's evaluation of her parents' cultural background and the influence of Roger Fry on her developing aesthetic theory of combination. I shall argue that understanding of these areas allows Woolf to begin to experiment with her own form of Gesamtkunstwerk. It is in The Waves that the connection with Wagner is most obvious. Here, I believe Woolf shifts the focus of attention from Wagnerian theories of Gesamtkunstwerk to the Modernists' development of such ideas, demonstrating her knowledge of Diaghilev's Ballets Russes. Looking closely at the 1915 Raid Scene in The Years, I intend to show that Woolf's thinking on the concept of combination is equally radical in this novel which is often considered to be more conventional. I will go on to suggest that Between the Acts, widely acknowledged to indicate a crisis in Woolf's confidence in Modernism, marks a turning point in her thinking about the possibilities of combining the arts to achieve Gesamtkunstwerk. I will argue that in this piece Woolf provides us with all the elements used to create unity in the previous works and yet they are never wholly united. Woolf, however, is not suggesting that Gesamtkunstwerk is an impossibility, she is rather indicating that the audience lacks the ability to provide the stage for such a piece to exist.