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Woolf and Joyce Comparison

By nikolays Feb 11, 2011 3481 Words
"I have read 200 pages [of Ulysses] so far," Virginia Woolf writes in her diary for 16 August 1922, and reports that she has been "amused, stimulated, charmed[,] interested ... to the end of the Cemetery scene." As "Hades" gives way to "Aeolus," however, and the novel of character and private sensibility yields to a farrago of styles, she is "puzzled, bored, irritated, & disillusioned"--by no grand master of language, in her characterization, but "by a queasy undergraduate scratching his pimples." No artifact of elite difficulty, Ulysses becomes for Woolf the "illiterate, underbred book ... of a self taught working man," a class-spectacle on which she summons the proper company: "we all know how distressing they are, how egotistic, insistent, raw, striking, & ultimately nauseating" (emphases added).

Obviously, Ms. Woolf was piqued, or shall we say provoked by Joyce's masterwork. It is interesting that even within the span that she enjoyed, there is sufficient evidence of "underbred"-ness to put off a great many people. But how such an astute and formidable critic as Ms. Woolf could find Ulysses illiterate is puzzling and provoking (in a quite different way) in itself.

Regardless of a hasty opinion recounted in a diary (often seen as snobbish, but more likely simply piqued, provoked, and annoyed) Ms. Woolf certainly seems to have employed some of the devices and methods that Joyce introduced in Ulysses. Contrary to the normal course of a novel, both Ulysses and Mrs. Dalloway take place in the course of a single day. In both works we dart in and out of the consciousness of many characters, but reside primarily within two in each. In Ulysses these are Stephen Dedalus and Leopold Bloom and in Mrs. Dalloway they are Clarissa Dalloway and Septimus Smith. But the main borrowing I'd like to focus on for a moment is structural. Because it is her adaptation of one of Joyce's innovations in structure that shows one of the marvelous strengths of Mrs. Dalloway and Virginia Woolf as a writer and innovator herself.

The "Wandering Rocks" episode of Ulysses (please note that while Joyce certainly had these designations in mind and shared them with close friends and interpreters of Ulysses [most notably Stuart Gilbert*], they do not show up anywhere in the print editions of Ulysses) Joyce charts the voyages of nineteen (or more) sets of characters in their travels at about the lunch hour in Dublin. Sometimes the paths overlap, other times there are jumps between characters in distant parts of the City. Interestingly, Joyce keeps you firmly grounded in Dublin, with clear and concise descriptions of where you are. Also of interest is that this section--at the midpoint of numbered sections (though not at the midpoint of the bulk of the novel) is more likely extracted from the Argonautica than it is from Joyce's model The Odyssey. The clashing rocks were one of the tests set for Jason, not for Odysseus. Some sources said that Joyce wrote this section with a map of Dublin and a stopwatch to time the actual sections of the walk. I haven't been able to verify this, but if so, it is a remarkable case of creating verisimilitude, not equivalent to, but certainly reminiscent of Gustave Flaubert.

So, in this remarkable chapter we follow groups of characters, some of whom we've encountered before and will encounter again, others of whom we may not have met or may only have glimpsed and whom we may not see again in the course of the work. (I haven't combed through to check this statement--but I'm certain if you're interested one Joyce Scholar or another has tracked all of these people down and can give a blow by blow indication of where and when they appear.) The structure is sometimes overlapping and sometimes leaping.

It is this device, this structure that Virginia Woolf so deftly lifts, refines, and reuses in Mrs. Dalloway. Or perhaps that is overstating the case. Perhaps one could argue that the same notion occurred to both writers at different times and was employed to different ends, for after all I can't prove that Virginia Woolf had "Wandering Rocks" in mind when she began composition of Mrs. Dalloway. Perhaps traces of it, wisps of memory, as it were, shaped the structure of Mrs. Dalloway. However it happened, Woolf elaborated upon this structure and turned it into the graceful and sometimes startling turns and runs of Mrs. Dalloway. To see how deftly she employs the device of allowing crossing paths or shared incidents to lead to the exchange of narrative consciousnesses, go to the Dalloway link below and search for "The violent explosion which made Mrs. Dalloway jump. . . ." Read the section immediately prior to it and immediately following, and you'll have a sense of how Virginia Woolf handles the transfer of consciousness.

That she was able to take this one mechanism and turn it into the entire stream of Mrs. Dalloway (I'm sure there are some narrative diversions I'm not taking into account, but for the most part, it is this type of shared incident that allows the consciousnesses to overlap and the story flow to take over) is a demonstration of her strength and her deft handling of difficult material. Is it the outcome of the struggle of genius against genius? I can't say for certain. But I can say that if Ulysses was an influence, it was one that effected another powerful transformation of narrative. The use of the narrative techniques of Ulysses in other works may have had more ultimate influence on literature than the direct application of Ulysses itself. And I say this as a profound admirer of Joyce and of Ulysses. But the truth of the matter is that Ulysses is so crammed full of all sorts of invention that it would be hard to imitate the whole work rather than discrete parts. Moreover, Ulysses is so overwhlemed with narrative devices and games that it serves almost as a sourcebook of influence, because even in the robust world that is Ulysses not all of the inventions could come anywhere near to being played out.

EDITOR'S INTRODUCTION | Virginia Woolf famously dismissed Joyce's Ulysses as evoking the image of a queasy undergraduate scratching his pimples. Yet Woolf proceeded to employ techniques and styles influenced by the same work, most notably in her novel Mrs Dalloway. Vincent Sherry of Villanova University, Pennsylvania, seeks the motivation behind the latter work and assesses its achievement when compared with Joyce's efforts.

Virginia Woolf thought Ulysses to be an "illiterate, underbred book."

n a diary entry of 1941, Virginia Woolf reports an earlier conversation with T. S. Eliot, who has invoked the difficulty--indeed the impossibility--of writing in the wake of Ulysses. For Eliot the final episode of the book represents a tour-de-force that renders silence the only possible imaginative response. While these remarks may betray the anxiety of Joyce's influence on The Waste Land, which followed the model of Ulysses in shifting several characters-in-voice around a central underlying myth, the predicament the poet expresses here must be sensed with far greater gravity and acuteness by a novelist. Already in 1923, Eliot can look back at the history of the genre and, from the perspective afforded him by Joyce's inventions, announce that the novel has already ended with Flaubert and James.

Mimetic reliability, verbal transparency, serial plot, linear development of themes usually congruent with the middle-class mores of its reading public, psychological insight into characters who change in ways that do not threaten their credibility, and the moral authority of a superior narrator: these are the features of the novel at its climacteric, in the classic age of realism in the second half of the nineteenth century, but they cannot survive the colossal novelty of Ulysses. How to extend work in a genre that no longer exists--at least as a productive basis for imitation and variation--is the challenge Ulysses poses to those writing after it. This dilemma is the finer point of "P.S.U.," the little cryptoglyph Ezra Pound used to designate the post-1922 era of the novel: efforts in the old genre appear to be only post-scripts to Ulysses--second thoughts, negligible remainders.

Joyce's example

It is nonetheless impossible to discuss the fiction of the last seventy years without reference to the central, ramifying influence of Joyce's example. A list of minor works unaffected by Ulysses might well be shorter than one naming the major novels obviously indebted to Joyce's opus. It is not the fact but the quality of influence that merits critical consideration--and discernment. Discrimination needs to be made in particular between works that merely imitate the surface mannerisms of Ulysses and those that master the challenge framed by Eliot and Pound; that extend the tradition of the new. For the imaginative possibilities Joyce opened in Ulysses are not necessarily advanced by the mere replication of techniques like "stream of consciousness" and "multiple perspective," the catch-phrases that conjure the standard examples of post-Joycean work in the usual narratives of literary history. These techniques are all too easily assimilated to work that affirms the social and aesthetic standards of the traditional novel, which--speaking in the language of ideal forms--asserts a middle-class morality and the attendant sense of individualism as a non-disruptive variation; that is, as a force held in private.

The social totality to which Joyce's individuals are reconciled is of course a thing made, an imaginative construct, indeed as idiosyncratic as those radical subjects Bloom and Stephen. Its language--in the stylistic exercises of the second half of the novel--is humane but antic, as uncivil by any standard definition as Molly's monologue, which reads as its consummation. That Joyce ceased to call Ulysses a "novel" in mid-1918, moreover, just as the work was shifting its center of gravity from a narrative of character and incident to an exercise in styles, suggests that the forces driving his work past the standards (both social and artistic) of the traditional genre find their realization in the handling of language. Fiction that extends the Joycean project will participate in this energy.

Class distinctions

"I have read 200 pages [of Ulysses] so far," Virginia Woolf writes in her diary for 16 August 1922, and reports that she has been "amused, stimulated, charmed[,] interested ... to the end of the Cemetery scene." As "Hades" gives way to "Aeolus," however, and the novel of character and private sensibility yields to a farrago of styles, she is "puzzled, bored, irritated, & disillusioned"--by no grand master of language, in her characterization, but "by a queasy undergraduate scratching his pimples." No artifact of elite difficulty, Ulysses becomes for Woolf the "illiterate, underbred book ... of a self taught working man," a class-spectacle on which she summons the proper company: "we all know how distressing they are, how egotistic, insistent, raw, striking, & ultimately nauseating" (emphases added).

Tellingly, Woolf's disaffection begins in the chapter that witnesses the erosion of the private individual's verbal sensibility, where Joyce has relocated the center of linguistic energy in the public realm of the newspaper. This fact lends a measure of rightness to the class identification she fixes on Ulysses--at least from the perspective of one disturbed by the force Joyce unleashes in that episode and amplifies through the rest of the book: the immanent anarchy (to Woolf) of a public (an underclass) given the power of speech, the custody of the tongue.

Here indeed is the peril Ulysses poses to the social compact written into the history of the novel: the individuality privileged by the middle- or upper-middle-class situation of many early readers in the genre (reading, unlike speaking or listening, is solitary) suffers its demise from this point in Ulysses. This enterprise certainly threatens the social privilege into which Virginia Stephen was born; as a woman writer, whose models of literary authority are far fewer than Joyce's, she is, perhaps understandably, unwilling to forgo that privilege. In any case, she will not extend the work of Ulysses in ways that share in its essential energies. Her achievements are considerable but they are not Joycean.

Mrs Dalloway

It is a testament equally to the influence of Ulysses and Woolf's own intellectual complexity that she tries to write a novel in the manner of the one she has just condemned. Virtually concurrently with those remarks of August 1922 she has begun to compose Mrs Dalloway (1925). Here her practices of multiple perspective and stream of consciousness, her compression of fictional events into a single day (in the middle of June) all show the immediate and local presence of Ulysses. But her novel is perhaps most interesting (in this critical context) in the way it fails to present an experience manifestly at odds with the social conventions and mental demeanor of its namesake heroine, and controlling consciousness.

Clarissa Dalloway, wife of a highly placed member of the government, never meets Septimus Warren Smith, veteran and psychic casualty of the Great War. Their joint presences in the novel are balanced and made possible by the technique of simultaneous narration or multiple perspective that Ulysses has recently exemplified for Woolf. Septimus's non-entry into Mrs. Dalloway's social sphere may be designed by Woolf as a symptom of the avoidances and vacuities of high society, but his distress exerts no great pressure on the language Woolf crafts as his monologue--a usage all too consonant with the balances and decorum of Mrs. Dalloway's, a high dialect not unlike the one into which the author was born. Whether this is a failure of imaginative nerve on Woolf's part, or her conscious refusal to enter the alternate dimension of his psyche, there is a restraint that sets the whole effort identifiably to the side of Joyce's main initiatives in Ulysses, a model otherwise so manifestly present in her novel.

The contours of the following passage merit scrutiny, especially where the voice of Septimus's incipient madness appears to enter Woolf's narrative. The modulation between his inward monologue and the narrative is exquisitely textured, but the difference between the two disappears into the tonic consciousness of Woolf the artist. She composes the passage aesthetically and recomposes the character psychologically--subduing the distress to a verbal music that finishes into a healing closure, a settling repetition:

Look the unseen bade him, the voice which now communicated with him who was the greatest of mankind, Septimus, lately taken from life to death, the Lord who had come to renew society, who lay like a coverlet, a snow blanket smitten only by the sun, for ever unwasted, suffering for ever, the scapegoat, the eternal sufferer, but he did not want it, he moaned, putting from him with a wave of his hand that eternal suffering, that eternal loneliness.

Joyce's verbal experiments are compelled by the psychology of necessary avoidance, at least in Bloom's confrontation with his private anxiety, but the author of Ulysses presents such avoidance strategically, consciously, as an aspect of dramatic character, not as the aim and function of narrative intervention.

The pressure of consensus in Mrs Dalloway is at once a social theme that Woolf displays and a force she succumbs to. This normative perspective gives the narrator some moral jurisdiction over the plight of Septimus, but it also cancels the full presence and ultimate validity of that experience in the novel. This compromise finds its most telling sign in the narrative voice-over during his last moment before suicide:

There remained only the window, the large Bloomsbury-lodging house window, the tiresome, the troublesome, and rather melodramatic business of opening the window and throwing himself out. It was their idea of tragedy, not his or Rezia's (for she was with him).

Whether this action follows a high "idea of tragedy," or is merely a "rather melodramatic business," the theatrical tropes fit like generic characterizations around the otherwise poor, bare, unaccommodated animal of his psyche. Those phrases do not emanate from Mrs. Dalloway's sensibility, for she sees nothing of the scene, but from Woolf's narrator. They read like a reflex action, a self-protective gesture on Woolf's part (she would take her own life in 1941); they exercise the kind of labeling and stabilizing force that may add to the pathos of his uncontrol, but surely not to the reality of his death. Her method here, holding the individual against the type, shares in that sense of "proportion"--the lack of this, according to Septimus' psychiatrist, is his gravest danger--that is the essential social faculty, one that adjusts self to other and relates the individual to the larger social res.

In setting her novel on a single day in a city in June in a city through which various characters walk while we listen in on their thought, Woolf is obviously alluding to Joyce’s Ulysses, which had been published in 1922 and which she was reading that summer that Mrs. Dalloway began to take shape. Ulysses is set on June 16, 1904, in Dublin, and is told primarily through the thoughts of two main characters, Leopold Bloom and Stephen Daedalus, whose lives intersect in complicated ways. Daedalus is a young man much like Joyce himself, and Bloom may be seen as a father figure for him. Woolf didn’t much like Ulysses, or at least didn’t appreciate what Joyce was after (see her diary entries for August 26 and September 3 and 6, 1922), perhaps because it is such a “masculinist” novel in which women are seen primarily as sexual, reproductive beings about whom the male characters obsess. (Woolf doesn’t say this in her diary that summer. She just says it’s “pretentious,” “very obscure, “tricky,” and that a good writer doesn’t get so into “doing stunts.” I’m inferring the feminist critique from my own prejudices!) But something about the structure must have struck a chord with her, perhaps somehow giving her license to indulge her gift for detail. Or perhaps she (unconsciously?) decided to show him how a great writer would address major themes in a novel set on a single day and following several characters’ peregrinations around a city. Ulysses is written on a grand scale, a huge book that indulges Joyce’s love of word play and multiple levels of literary allusion, the primary one being to Homer’s Odyssey. Mrs. Dalloway is a short book (under 200 pages), but a very rich one, a book in which small incidents reverberate (and sometimes recur) with meaning. Parts of it may test our understanding on a first reading (who is the Septimus Warren Smith and what is he doing in this book??), but it is not obscure. Once you grasp that Septimus is a doppelganger or double for Clarissa, then things begin to open up as you look at them in comparison to each other. Most of what can be learned from this novel can be learned directly from what is one the page, requiring little or no recourse to literary allusion to narratives outside the novel, unlike Ulysses, which cannot fully be understood without a key. This is not to say that scholars haven’t dug out some pretty obscure allusions in Mrs. Dalloway, including the source of the song sung by the old woman begging in the street (“ee um fah um so,” MD 82; see Hillis Miller, “Repetition as the Raising of the Dead”). But the novel is not deliberately obscure, but rather in some respects may at first appear deceptively simple. Вулф: те, кого принято называть реалистами – не реалисты, т. к. они описывают «объективную» реальность с внешней точки зрения. А такая не может дать ничего кроме поверхностного взгляда. Университет Талсы, Оклахома – Квартальный Джойс. Статья Вильямса Дженкинса Jenkins, William D., “Virginia Woolf and the Belittling of Ulysses,” vol. 25, no. 4 (Summer 1988), pp. 513-519. [Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway, and Woolf’s dislike of U.] Миссис-деллоуэй – мини улисс. Спор о том, пародия ли это или синхронное развитие темы. Mrs Dalloway была и в Voyage Out. Диссертация Гордона Эллиота Сола (университет Алабамы). Миссис Деллоуэй – Блуждающие скалы (миф об Аргонавтах), эпизод 10 (19 разных героев!!!).

!!! Злого зноя не страшись
И зимы свирепой бурь – шекспир, Цимбелин. Предвосхищение смерти… Вулф: «Надо писать из самых глубин чувства». 1) Поток сознания
James Joyce goes further than Virginia Woolf in the sense that his aim was to represent only interior monologue, which is not the case in Mrs Dalloway. You could see Mrs Dalloway as a movie. You see a person, then you perceive his/her thought. when this person meets with another person, the focalization switches from the first to the second person. This is why the novel seems to be so confused. Hence we could there is an extradiegetic narrator but a multi-internal focalization. 2) Один день в середине июня (Улисс – 16 июня) 3) Места и адреса. Джойсу важнее общая картина, а Вулф – индивидуальность. 4) Кавалькада вице-короля и машина премьера – британская власть и отношение к ней 5) В обеих книгах – две несвязанные сюжетные линии с общими впечатлениями и идеями героев (Кларисса и Септимус, Стивен Дедал и Леопольд Блум) 6) Цифры – у Улисса 16 глав (16 июня), Септимусу отведено 7 сцен. 7) Рихтер (критик). Первоначально Септимуса звали Стивен. 8) Герои С. Читают Шекспира, пишут стихи, интровертны. Преследуемы призраками. 9) Шутка по поводу Улисса в Литтл Ревью. «Десять лет назад о таком и не помышляли: взять и тиснуть статью о ватерклозетах в солидной газете» 10) Сон Питера Уолша (эпизод 4) – Сон Блума в конце Итака. Мореход одинокий странник. Блум-Уолш-Одиссей. Известно, 11) Септимус Смит – падает сквозь огонь. = ИКАР 12) Pseudo-Homeric world – мифы против символов 13) Modernism

14) Omitting quotation marks – like Joyce in Ulysses, French Manner 15) ?? Clarissa feels her role is to be a meeting-point for others. – the purpose of the person in life 16) Думают о былом


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