Virginia Woolf

Topics: Virginia Woolf / Pages: 7 (1656 words) / Published: Mar 23rd, 2015
Topic 2. What makes Woolf’s fiction experimental? Discuss Virginia Woolf’s aims as a literary modernist writer. Your discussion may focus on EITHER or BOTH To the
Lighthouse and Orlando. Your discussion should refer to at least one of the following essays by Woolf:

‘Modern Novels,’ ‘Mr Bennett and Mrs Brown;’ (in

reference to To The Lighthouse) and ‘The Art of Biography’ (in reference to
Orlando). Your discussion should include appropriate engagement with at least one independently sourced critical reference.
In Virginia Woolf’s 1919 essay Modern Novels, she sums up the modernist movement and its resistance to the realist literature that came before it. While realism strived to present the world in a way that was objective and paid close attention to observable detail, Woolf contends that fiction should be something else entirely:
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The mind, exposed to the ordinary course of life, receives upon its surface a myriad

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impressions - trivial, fantastic, evanescent, or engraved with the sharpness of steel.

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From all sides they come, an incessant shower of innumerable atoms, composing in

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their sum what we might venture to call life itself… It is not perhaps the chief task of

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the novelist to convey this…? We are not pleading merely for courage and

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sincerity; but suggesting that the proper stuff for fiction is a little other than custom

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would have us believe. (Woolf, 1919, pp 3)

In reference to her novels To The Lighthouse and Orlando, Woolf is thoroughly a modernist writer. She focusses on the microcosms of life, these ‘myriad impressions’ and the internal events of the consciousness. Woolf also plays with the idea of time. However,
Woolf’s writing is experimental in more than just style. She subverts the usual rules of writing biography in Orlando, writing a veiled account of her lover Vita Sackville. Woolf also explores in her work the theme of lesbianism, a controversial and radical topic to be writing on in 1928.
Virginia Woolf discusses in

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