Dying in other words : the writing subject in Virginia Woolf's fiction.
This thesis examines Virginia Woolf's fiction in light of structuralist and
psychoanalytic theories of the subject, with particular reference to the works of
Barthes, Bakhtin, Lacan, Kristeva, and Cixous. The orientation of my reading 'bridges'
the gap between biographical and text-centred approaches to her fiction. Woolfs
novels as the trace of a practice in which the subject is set in a continuous process of
enunciation, is constantly questioned, 'put on trial', 'put to death', in pursuit of the
'new': new articulation of the subject with the writing of each novel, experimentation
with new modes of writing the subject, with new formal decisions and enunciative
strategies, and with a new writing of death and characterisation. The thesis attempts to
provide a reading of 'death', not simply as a personal obsession for Woolf and as a
thematic construct, but as a writing process which involves the writer's own 'death' in
Chapter one explores The Voyage Out, a novel which marks Woolf's laborious
entree to the literary world. Woolf's aggressivity offers a cul-de-sac narrative solution
with the death of twenty-four-year-old Rachel Vinrace; a formal decision which
illustrates the subject's initial difficulties with narrative.
Chapter two deals with Mrs Dal/oway, another novelistic attempt to write into the
text a 'violent' death, with Septimus's suicide. The chapter pays close attention to the
sequence of Septimus Smith's narrative appearances, characterisation, and his
Chapter three explores the autobiographical claims of To the Lighthouse in terms
of the factual and fictional representation of the mother. Through the artist-in-process
Lily Briscoe, Woolf tries to construct a modernist outlook in writing about her own
childhood and family.
Chapter four examines the unfamiliar formal strategies Woolf experimented with
in writing The Waves, using speaking voices as characters and working towards a kind
of narrative 'murder' of the conventional omniscient narrator.
Chapter five provides an intertextual reading of Woolf's 'Anon', the carnivalesque
character of La Trobe's pageant, Kristeva's 'semiotic' language, and the heteroglossia
which composes the enunciation of Between the Acts.