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Mrs Dalloway

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Kym Brindle

on 23 October 2017

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Transcript of Mrs Dalloway

Psychological Realism
Modernist Narrative
For Woolf the best narrative means of capturing the realities of post war life are modes of

psychological realism:
• Free indirect discourse
• Interior monologue

Aimed at capturing the flickering of messages to the brain – flashes of illumination. Myriad impressions.

Septimus Warren Smith
Septimus's death is the result of his inability to communicate his experiences to others and thereby give those experiences meaning and purpose. Septimus's war trauma, however, is perpetuated and its psychological damage aggravated by a culturally prescribed process of postwar reintegration that silences and marginalizes war veterans. To comprehend fully Septimus Smith's tragedy, one must understand the psychological effects of trauma and the process of recovery.
Mrs Dalloway

Modernist literature is a literature of trauma: in the 1920s.

It gave form and representation to a psychological condition that psychiatrists would not understand for another fifty years.

Virginia Woolf's characterisation of Septimus Smith in
Mrs. Dalloway
illustrates not only the psychological injuries suffered by victims of severe trauma such as war but also the need for them to give meaning to their suffering in order to recover from the trauma.

By bringing light to the 'dark places' of Septimus's psychology with care and sensitivity
Mrs Dalloway
honors those who suffer mental illness and condemns the social conditions and institutions that cause and mistreat it.
Mrs Dalloway
(1925) and Joyce’s
(1922) illustrate these principles by capturing their protagonists’ thoughts, which are non-teleological, and sometimes incoherent. In the process, the modernist novel demonstrates a correspondence of form and content when Woolf declares that the agenda of the modernist writers is to develop a method to capture this transformed understanding of reality’

Nishevita J. Murthy, H
istoriciaing Fiction/Fictionalizing History: Representations in Representation in Select Novels of Umberto Eco and Orhan Pamuk
(Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars, 2014), p.7

‘Chronological time is, quite clearly, represented in the fiction by the striking of Big Ben and the other bells and clocks, as they ring out the hours. What is important is not this reminder of the hour, striking at the same time for everyone, however, but the relation that the various protagonists establish with these marks of time. The variations in this relation, depending on the character and the occasion, themselves constitute the fictive temporal experience that the narrative constructs with such extreme care in order to be convincing to the reader’. P. 105 Paul Riccoeur
Time and Narrative,
Volume 2
‘From The Waste Land’s ‘HURRY UP PLEASE IT’S TIME’ to the striking image of ‘nibbling’ clocks from Mrs Dalloway (originally entitled ‘The Hours’) – ‘shredding and slicing, dividing and subdividing, the clocks of Harley Street nibbled at the June day’ – modernist literature has long been recognised for its preoccupation with time. Joyce’s ‘epiphanies’, Woolf’s moments of being’ and Pound’s Imagism – which defines an ‘Image’ as that which presents an intellectual and emotional complex in an instance of time’ – all depend […] on arresting and/or escaping from time in order to preserve the moment, the fragment, [...]'
R. Hawkes,
Ford Madox Ford and the Misfit Moderns
Edwardian Fiction and the First World War (
Basingstoke, Palgrave, 2012), n. p.
Big Ben represents objective time – also rather ominous “leaden circles dissolved in the air” (p.4)
Symbolises ‘official’ time – attached to parliament and Richard D’s world
Used as structural device – e.g. 12 noon is the midpoint of the day, and the novel – as if novel is unravelling in real time: see p. 80

'The time of man works with strangeness upon the body of time. An hour, once it lodges in the queer elements of the human spirit, may be stretched to fifty or a hundred times its clock length; on the other hand, an hour may be accurately represented by the timepiece of the mind by one second. This extraordinary discrepancy between time on the clock and time in the mind is less known than it should be and deserves fuller investigation'.

, p.95

'Other methods such as temporal reordering of the chronological story with time shifts, flashbacks and juxtapositions of events in what might be termed mosaic narratives all serve to intensify the psychological emphases with fiction'.

Peter Childs,
(London: Routledge, 2007), n.p.

Two different types of time :

Clock and human mind

• Clock governs progress of life and orders events in a chronological linear sequence.
• Temporal experience in the human mind – is flexible.
• Psychological time by thinkers like Henri Bergson who asks if there can be an individual time system.
• A philosophy of interest to Modernist writers.

‘Septimus’s worldview expresses the agony of a soul for whom monumental time is unbearable’.

Riccoeur p. 109-10
‘Her interior world is one of constant transformation, for experience is never static. Even the prose rhythms reflect the flux and flow of certain emotional patterns. As the reader becomes caught up in the shifting world of time and motion, of sense and sensibility, in which personality itself is in a constant stage of change, she achieves the illusion of the character’s very growth and development'.

Harvena Richter,
Virginia Woof: The Inward Page
, p. ix.
the dark places of psychology
hidden depths of the psyche
'myriad impressions'
Virginia Woolf - life and times

As a Modernist novelist

As a critic and thinker

Narrative technique
Psychological realism
Free Indirect Discourse

Time and Consciousness in
Mrs Dalloway
The Voyage Out
Night and Day
Jacob’s Room
Mrs Dalloway
To the Lighthouse
The Waves
Flush: A Biography
Between the Acts

Mental Illness
 First breakdown following death of mother, 1895
 Second following death of father, 1904
 Attempted suicide
 Institutionalised
 Is this relevant?

Another Victorian
Daughter of Leslie Stephen
Educated at home
Bloomsbury Group
'Life is not a series of gig lamps symmetrically arranged; life is a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end. Is it not the task of the novelist to convey this varying, this unknown and uncircumscribed spirit, whatever aberration or complexity it may display, with as little mixture of the alien and external as possible?'
'life as a luminous halo'
Post Impressionism
'Examine for a moment an ordinary mind on an ordinary day. The mind receives a myriad impressions-trivial, fantastic, evanescent, or engraved with the sharpness of steel. From all sides they come, an incessant shower of innumerable atoms; and as they fall, as they shape themselves into the life of Monday or Tuesday, the accent falls differently from of old'.

myriad impressions
Woolf's writing presenting new kind of perspective

Mirroring experimental art

Elements of post-impressionist art and Cubism

Stories more painterly - shifting impressions

Fragmented methods to create new represention of life
The Voyage Out (1915)
Night and Day (1919)
Jacob’s Room (1922)
Mrs Dalloway (1925)
To the Lighthouse (1927)
Orlando (1928)
The Waves (1930)
Flush: A Biography (1933)
Between the Acts (1941)
Woolf's Development
Literary meetings with Leonard Woolf, Clive Bell, Vanessa Bell, Lytton Strachey etc
Bloomsbury Group begins to coalesce around 1906
Woolf writes for TLS and other journals –
Launched Hogarth Press in 1917

“…on or about December, 1910, human character changed. I am not saying that one went out, as one might into a garden, and there saw that a rose had flowered, or that a hen had laid an egg. The change was not sudden and definite like that. But a change there was, nevertheless; and, since one must be arbitrary, let us date it about the year 1910.

• Key features:
• Takes place on one day
• Central figure of the title is Mrs Clarissa Dalloway - but narrative does not centre solely on her

• Focus on apparently trivial - preparation for a party - but takes in matters of broader importance - (e.g. aftermath of war, the empire, social class)

Mrs Dalloway
So how is
Mrs Dalloway
Lack of linearity – novel is based on succession of images; visual aspect very important

 Fragmentation – novel represents a world undergoing change; social and spiritual disintegration

 Competing narratives – interplay of Septimus’s fractured world and the ordered world of CD

Moments of epiphany

Characters' impressions

Interior monologue technique

"on or about December 1910, human character changed"
For Woolf, the best narrative means of capturing the realities of post-war life are modes of:
Psychological realism
Free indirect discourse
Interior monologue

aimed at capturing the flickerings of messages to the brain - flashes of illumination - myriad impressions
Full transcript