Mrs. Dalloway is a novel written by Virginia Woolf in the early 20th century, after the first World War, detailing one day in the life of Clarissa Dalloway, in which she prepares for a party. We also learn of the struggles of Septimus Smith, a war veteran struggling with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, an infliction that eventually causes his suicide. This subject matter is especially heady, since Woolf’s own death was a suicide, and her struggles with bi-polar disorder and depression is as researched and looked at as her work. Deborah Kuhlmann, a literary critic, makes the argument that Septimus Smith and Clarissa Dalloway are leading parallel lives. Their personalities contrast each other’s. Clarissa is full of life and light, while Septimus is drowning. Both, however, are struggling to find meaning in their lives. Both Clarissa Dalloway and Septimus Smith seem to be parts of Woolf. Clarissa is an artist, in the that she revels in the world around her, almost sensually. She has a tepid relationship with her husband and feel sexual feelings for Sally, a woman who attends the party. She connects with the world as she cannot connect with the people around her. Septimus is the darker side of that. He is unable to connect with much of anything in the real world, instead remaining in his head and speaking to those already dead. There are imperative similarities between them, though, which connect them and drive home the resolution of the novel, in Clarissa’s feeling of connection with Sepitmus. Continue reading
For my Big Project, I’m looking at Mrs. Dalloway, a work by Virginia Woolf (but you probably already knew that). I ended up choosing Virginia Woolf because she is a feminist author whose personal life is just as thrilling as her works (more-so, really). Plus, it gave me a great excuse to watch The Hours and shudder at Nicole Kidman’s prosthetic nose (that was a joke. I realize it has nothing to do with my post.) Ms. Woolf’s personal life is both well-researched and well-documented, since she kept a diary which has since been published. (Why is it brilliant artists with mental problems always keep equally brilliant journals? Sylvia Plath, Virginia Woolf, Vincent van Gogh…if you haven’t read van Gogh’s collection of letter and journal entries, you really should. They’re beautiful.)
The way that I kinda wanted to go into this project is to research how Virginia Woolf’s more unconventional traits affected the writing of Mrs. Dalloway, a work that deals with depression, suicide, feminism, marriage, and lesbian feelings. (Of course, unlike Clarissa, Woolf did a bit more than just feel her lesbian feelings. She felt other things. I’m very sorry for that joke.) Clarissa’s feelings towards Sally aren’t dealt with with a heavy hand in the story, but it still made me think of how we perceive Virginia Woolf differently because of her mental illness, her extramarital affairs, and her androgynous thinking. It relates to the Differences chapter in the Theory Toolbox. If we were to read Mrs. Dalloway without knowing of her history with mental illness, how would it affect our reading of it? It makes me think of (goddammit) Tompkins, and how our readings and interpretations of a work can completely change it in a way that makes the original different. I wonder how Mrs. Dalloway was read when it first was published, seeing as I’m not well versed on how much everyone knew of her social life. While I doubt it was a secret that Virginia Woolf was sleeping with other prominent authors, and I know that her female lover criticized Three Guineas openly, but did that change the way that critics at the time reviewed her work?
Maybe this is a path I can take in my research?
I’m listening to a George Carlin bit about phrases that we use everyday, but don’t really comprehend the meaning. This makes me think of postmodernism. If you ask someone what postmodern means, you’ll probably get a weird look from them, a scoff, and then the word “meta” thrown in a couple times (meta being another one of those words that we all assume we know without really looking it up and studying it). This chapter was especially funny for me to read, because they ask the very poignant question, “When did the modern period begin, much less end? Why weren’t we informed?” (Something that sounds like it could have been coming out of Carlin’s mouth, by the way.) In a way, as time goes on, we’re going to feel really silly for naming a period the “modernist” period. What can we name the period after the “postmodernist”? My money’s on the “hoverboard period,” because it’s 2011 and I was promised a hoverboard by now.
I also enjoyed the idea that “postmodern artwork foregrounds the complexity of our epoch, thereby remaining an elitists diversion for a leisure class of overeducated white folks who ‘get the joke.’” (Seriously, did Carlin help edit and spruce up this chapter?) In a way, it’s almost irritating to be apart of this postmodern world, where we are all so damn clever and funny and if you don’t understand the complexity of our references and symbolism, you need to study the list of awesome pop-culture (which consists of Doctor Who, Stephen Fry, Zooey Deschanel, anything by Joss Whedon, Kurt Vonnegut, etc). I feel like postmodernism today, with shows like Community and Arrested Development, is turning into what happened when Rent first came out. It was overblown and overexposed and all the white, yuppy people who were criticized by the play were seeing it, and making it into a big sensation. It’s no longer a cool club. It’s hipster culture.
I’m going to end this, because it’s turned into a clusterfuck of words and ideas. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go watch A Very Potter Musical and laugh at all the subtle little jokes no one else will get.
I love the quote by Howard Zinn in the back of hour history chapter, where he states what history can do to us. It’s almost disparaging to think that even our own past can subjective instead of clear cut. There was a woman, Meredith Maran, years ago, who accused her father of molesting her while she was a child. She was a reporter at the time who had been doing news stories about molestations, and figured somehow then that she must have also been a victim. She had nightmares about it, divorced her husband to marry a woman who was also an incest survivor.
She eventually realized that she falsely accused her father or molestation in the exact same way as she accused him. She saw stories about fathers being released from jail, and realized she falsely accused her father. This idea has always bothered me. My father’s always been a shit-head to me, so it’s scary think that someone can completely mistake their own history and falsely accuse people.
It’s even more terrifying on a bigger scale, with entire countries could have completely skewed views on their own history. We tell our kids about how we defeated those British bastards, when in fact it isn’t so black and white. The conflict between Israel and Pakistan still is mind-boggling today. I couldn’t fully explain it myself, but even the idea that one nation is unable to recognize the other, and disregard all of the history that has happened in that nation.
It’s interesting that one of the working questions in the ideology section is about conflicting roommates just are unable to see eye to eye. In my Hinduism class, I recently wrote a paper on a personal and political situation, and how Hindu concepts apply to them. For the personal, I wrote about my crazy-ass roommate from freshman year. Long story short, she had admitted anger problems and somehow managed to convince herself that bringing in a random guy to our room at 2 in the morning when I’m sleeping is not only okay, but it’s rude of me to ask them to be quiet. It still boggles my mind why she would think that, and the only explanation I can come up with is that she was using a defense mechanism because she was embarrassed…
Back to Hinduism. There is a concept, “maya”, that says that everyone has a separate illusion of the world, and that illusion is our projection of our personal selves. Essentially, nothing that we see in the world is actual truth, but projections that we create. Before reading the ideology section, I had always thought that is was a concept that I couldn’t really apply to my life, since it mostly is an obstacle that one has to overcome in Hinduism, and that seems ridiculous to me. But when reading about ideologies, it popped back into my head that we are essentially looking at an illusionary concept. Everyone has a different ideology, and everyone has a different illusion that is projected on the world. It’d just be interesting if someone could give us a straight answer as to how we could see past it, because it seems to be the root of most conflict and contempt in the world.
I also would like to point out that, despite us recognizing ideology, it’s still what we think before we think. It’s
When it was first brought up in class that we would be looking at a work from the Marxist point of view, I had to try to not roll my eyes. I haven’t really had good experiences with Marxist analysis. A friend of mine wrote a Marxist essay about Pokemon for an English class sophomore year of high school, which was awesome and hilarious to us at first. Then, once my friend started analyzing everything from a Marxist perspective, it made me start to throw up a little every time anyone mentioned Marxism. I’m not sure whether or not it was the mixture of Marxism and feminism, but I actually enjoyed her analysis of The Wife of Bath.
It really tripped me out with a completely new interpretations of events and of Alisoun herself. It’s interesting to think of her as a capitalist entrepreneur instead of someone just seeking power in the relationship. Now that I think of it, it’s helpful to put my mind in a certain type of study when analyzing. I might want to attempt to do a purely Marxist or formalist analysis on a work that I don’t fully understand as an exercise in forcing myself to look at a work differently, though doing a Marxist interpretation seems like a daunting task, seeing as I am not someone who thinks in terms of how the economy or government is reflecting in something.
I did find this interesting, though somewhat hard to understand, just because I could probably count on one hand the number of times I’ve heard the word “feudal,” today included. Overall, I thought it was a good introduction to Marxist point of view that doesn’t make me want to punch someone.
I have chosen “Mrs Dalloway” by Virginia Woolf for my research project. The novel was first published in 1925. “Mrs Dalloway”, as well as many other works by Virginia Woolf, are considered to be firmly in the canon, and Woolf herself is recognized to be one of the most prominent female authors in the canon. Woolf’s notoriety is a big reason why I have chosen this work to study. The text delves into many themes, including feminism and mental illness, the latter of these themes was very prominent in Woolf’s own personal life, with her struggle with bi-polar disorder. The parallels between her own life and her works are fascinating, and I hope to explore it in my paper.
I have not studied this text formally, or done any research on it before, so I am looking forward to looking up the background of the text alongside a re-reading of the text. “Mrs Dalloway” famously describes one day in the life of the middle aged Mrs. Dalloway as she prepares to host a party that night. I would describe it as being more of a character study, looking at the protagonist’s life, as well as those around her (including those she never actually meets) in this post-war era of mis-treated mental illnesses and middle-age.
This was not my first choice of novel to study (my first choice being The Bell Jar, by Sylvia Plath) but upon trying to research my first choice, I was unable to come up with enough information dealing more strictly with the original text. While there are plenty of texts to read concerning Virginia Woolf, many of which will come in handy while trying to fully understand the text itself, there are many sources to be found concerning mainly “Mrs Dalloway”.
Reading the Wife of Bath’s tale is a weird experience. I really love the story, since it’s so complex in the layering of the tale. You can look at the story three ways: it’s a story on its own, it’s a story that the wife is telling, and it’s a story that Chaucer is making the wife tell. One way, it seems almost like a fairy tale. Someone who is noble (a knight) but flawed (that whole raping deal) gets a happy ending after a quest. A woman is his guide, and helps him learn a moral and everything ends up awesome. I really don’t like this interpretation, just because it sums everything thing up too easily. It’s a tale of redemption, one that we’ve seen many times. Yeah, at the time of it being written it must have been really original, but now it plays out like a romantic comedy.
My favorite reading of the tale is that the Wife of Bath is to remember who is telling it while it is being told. The wife is such a strong character in her prologue. She manages to control her husbands, even the ones who physically and emotionally abused her (the last two). She’s even still looking for a husband! If this were a 90’s sitcom, I’d give her a high five, say “you go girl!” and do a saucy snap to emphasize my point. But with the wife’s tale, I see someone who is a sympathetic character. Suddenly it becomes a Tuesday night drama. (Sorry, I haven’t watched TV in weeks and I miss it.) The Wife is no longer an old woman with spunk. She seems tired and sad. The old woman in the story is loud and loves to lecture (just like the Wife in the prologue. Jesus, that woman can’t keep it concise). She’s powerful and wise (just like how the Wife sees herself. She quotes Scripture to prove her points that a woman should have power). And the old woman says that what women want is dominance. We know that the Wife loves dominance, as seen through her marriages. The way I see it, the Wife wants to rescue a spunky, ungrateful young man and to tame him, like she tamed her last husband. Except this time, she could prolong that bliss she had by turning young and faithful, and thus she could live out the remainder of her life with him by her.
Of course, this is easily argued with the fact that she outlived her last husband. However, I still think that she killed him when she pushed him in the fire because he got pushed into a GODDAMN FIRE. The whole deal with them making up is bullshit. It resembles what happens in the tale too closely. I feel that this is the Wife trying to give them a happy ending.
This is all my opinion, fueled by the fact that I love a good tragedy. There are probably a ton of holes in my theory, but I enjoy the dramatic and the tortured so I’ll stick with it.
I’m writing this as I’m watching updates on the Troy Davis execution, so excuse me if I seem angry.
What I find most interesting about the Wife of Bath is how she is seen as a feminist leader by many. Yes, she is a strong woman in a time where women are practically considered less than human, but does that strength alone make her a feminist? It seems sometimes that the Wife of Bath is the horrible archetype of a feminist. She wants women to have power over men instead of equality. Most feminists would agree that we don’t want to have power over men. I would hope that most feminist wouldn’t agree, in all seriousness, with the abuse that the Wife of Bath doles on her first four husbands. She manipulates men using her sexuality. Does that mean that she is independent, or does that mean that she is simply using one of the powers that she has realized against men for her own benefits?
After she takes such pride in her strength, she does not fight against her fifth husband, who abuses her. She says that she loves her husband, and it seems to be true since she blesses his soul and she stays with him despite the fact that he is penniless and station-less and a generally a abusive jerk. He is just a clerk, and one that doesn’t seem to appreciate or respect women too much, even though he’s being provided for by the Wife of Bath.
That one goddamn book that he keeps reading is just about the most offensive book a husband can read to his wife. How long does it take before the Wife of Bath actually does something against her husband? She’s illiterate, but is able to recite tales from the Books of Wicked Wives. That makes me think that she’s heard these stories many many times before, enough to memorize them. Even the way that she responds is so destructive and abusive. This shouldn’t be what we consider a feminist; this is what we should consider a woman scorned against society, or, as we find out, a woman taught by her mother to manipulate. I really question her motives as to why she fights and tries to abuse her husbands. She seems really hedonistic in general. Is it just because she doesn’t allow a man to abuse and mistreat her that we say that she’s a feminist? How do her actions and motivations support that notion? In my opinion, they don’t seem to. I wouldn’t say she’s an anti-feminist, but this isn’t a case of “either-or”.
I really enjoyed reading Bressler’s essay this week. In the way it was structured, I had immediate answers to the questions he proposed (of course a text can have more than one goddamn valid interpretation!) but those quickly turned into questions where I wasn’t so sure (no, you don’t have to be a literary critic…except sometimes, when you do). I appreciated that he went into the more specific definitions of the different houses of literary criticism, and even the psychology of it, where he delves into how our preconceived notions would change how we receive a text.
We discussed a little bit of this in class, which helped me understand what he meant a little more, though I still don’t understand how our preconceived notions really come into play when studying texts in college classes. In most of the books I read for fun, I can definitely see how books I’ve read before affect my reading. When I read The Hunger Games, I was predicting which characters would die and how it would all play out. But when I first read The Stranger, my first brush into existentialism, I was completely clueless as to how the book would turn out. It’s possible that the bit about preconceived notions was less about being able to tell how a book would turn out and more about how we respond to a book, but it just struck me as an unfair generalization to new experiences.
Literary criticism is almost described as a curse. The text states that a “well-articulated literary theory” doesn’t believe in casual readings like I don’t believe in Santa Clause. Other might believe in them, but they’re just young or stupid. Suddenly, when I read a book and get pissed off, I have to look at why I was pissed off instead of just getting mad that the author decided to kill off main characters for no reason (screw you, Mockingjay!) Instead of just feeling our feelings, regardless of the genre of reading, it’s expected to look at the underlying feelings.