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Title: Life is in the manuscript : Virginia Woolf, historiography, and the 'mythical method'
Author: Stalla, Heidi
ISNI:       0000 0004 6062 5360
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2015
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Virginia Woolf's writing is aesthetically complex, politically engaged, and remains relevant today - an astonishing achievement. This thesis begins by asking how and why this is the case, and thinks through Woolf's relationship to history as a means of suggesting some answers. References to the past abound in Woolf's fiction in the form of meaningful names, stories, myths, and national histories. I am especially interested in allusions that are not immediately obvious, but still work to convey something about human nature. These were sometimes inspired by artifacts in museums, or by articles in magazines or newspapers, or literature she owned, or borrowed, or was being written by her contemporaries - sources that a careful researcher can track down. Other references are more difficult to prove; for example, they may have come from travel experiences related by friends, or personal experiences not recorded in her diary. In this case we need to balance circumstantial evidence, common sense, and an understanding of the spirit and concerns of the age. In the first chapter I highlight Woolf's early interest in the tension between fact and fiction as it is expressed in her 1906 short story, "The Journal of Mistress Joan Martyn". The chapter serves as way of demonstrating my process. I point out the interplay between form, content, and autobiography that is in her other work. In short, a good deal of what is imagined may have been inspired by personal experience and real historical material. The next three chapters reveal new character types and source material for Jacob's Room, To the Lighthouse, and The Waves - the novels in which Woolf worked out what I have called her "mythical method". I end by inviting scholars to reconsider tensions in her work such as fact and fiction, self and other, art and politics from a new angle: not only as thematic preoccupations but also as crucial to thinking of - to borrow from Gertrude Stein - composition as a form of explanation. Woolf's project in fiction was to figure out what modernism can and should do. Although it is not necessary for all readers to do the kind of research demonstrated here in order to understand the novels, having an awareness of this work is important. This new way of looking at how and why Woolf wrote both in and outside of time as part of the process of composition makes us think again about the reasons that we should care so much about "Mrs. Brown". It helps us appreciate that the project of conveying both the ephemeral and temporal qualities of human experience is what makes the study of literary modernism (and its current global, transnational forms) a dynamic, political, and expanding phenomenon today.
Supervisor: Whitworth, Michael ; Bradshaw, David Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Modernism (Literature) ; English literature--20th century--History and criticism