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Title: Virginia Woolf : a language of looking.
Author: Donovan, Anna Gay.
ISNI:       0000 0001 3429 1668
Awarding Body: University of Exeter
Current Institution: University of Exeter
Date of Award: 2000
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The aim of this thesis is to trace a 'language of looking' in some of Virginia Woolfs texts. I have taken Woolfs short story entitled 'The Lady in the Looking-Glass: A Reflection' as a point of departure and principle theme. This story provides models for a serious questioning of the ways we look at women and how that looking deten»ines their representation. In turn that representation is shown to structure and inform our ways of looking. Each paragraph of the story is taken as a starting point for a chapter of the thesis. Thus, each of the ten paragraphs of the story becomes, as it were, the epigraph of the chapter that follows. Each chapter moves out from the specific problematics offered by 'The Lady in the Looking-Glass: A Reflection' to other works by Woolf, and beyond. My readings of 'The Lady in the Looking-Glass: A Reflection' show Woolf to be exploring different ways of getting to 'know' the Lady, to ascertain her 'truth'. The aptness and inadequacy of description, the giving of facts and the detail of imaginings, the insights of perception and the blindness of rhetoric, are all revealed as the story and the thesis unfold. The ways in which a woman can be regarded, spoken of, but never 'truly' represented, is examined. Each chapter focuses upon how, in consecutive paragraphs, Woolf attempts to create a convincing character that can be caught and turned to words. The very difficulties of representation are seen to be written into Woolfs text as the narrative moves from one speculative moment to another. In order to explore the issues raised in the short story I engage with other of Woolfs writings. Using close readings of her work, psychoanalytic concepts, critical writings, Surrealist thought and photographic model, I work to show just how vital are the 'signs' of looking in Woolf's texts.Finally the failures of language are realised as I look at how Woolfs awareness of the complexities and nuances of the visual demonstrates a negative, self-destructive impulse as well as a positive, life-enhancing moment of becoming. Woolfs search for the best words with which to portray the Lady of her story is echoed by my own struggle to find the right words with which to reveal the intricate network of 'looks' that adds yet another dimension to the enigmatic and challenging works of the Lady we know as Virginia Woolf.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Literary criticism; Visual theory; Women