Glass Roof: Virginia Woolf as Novelist

Glass Roof: Virginia Woolf as Novelist

Glass Roof: Virginia Woolf as Novelist

Glass Roof: Virginia Woolf as Novelist

Excerpt

AS THE NUMBER of books and essays concerning the novels of Virginia Woolf increases, so also does the number of conflicting opinions concerning those novels. But perhaps at the basis of -- and more important than -- the critics' other disagreements is their lack of agreement simply as to what Virginia Woolf's novels are about. Thus, for example, Joan Bennett finds no metaphysical system in the novels, but only Virginia Woolf's own "sense of values"; Bernard Blackstone speaks of Chinese quietism, mysticism, romanticism, and "an enquiry which is strictly metaphysical"; David Daiches notices the influence of Bergson, Proust, Joyce, and Freud; Floris Delattre too sees the influence of Bergson and Proust, but no important influence of Joyce or Freud; F. C. Frierson recognizes impressionism, but no real thought at all; Winifred Holtby says that Virginia Woolf was not significantly influenced by Bergson, Joyce, and Proust, but that she was "a good Platonist"; Maxime Chastaing discovers traditional British empiricism; Deborah Newton can find no consistently reasoned philosophy; Joseph Warren Beach and Rebecca West agree that "Virginia Woolf is a philosopher writing fiction. . . . In short, she is a poet"; J. Isaacs finds "a very profound effect" of Pater, and William James' influence; Ruth Gruber, a typical "melancholy English" philosophy. These distinguished critics -- and many others -- have written about Virginia Woolf with real insight and valuable discernment; yet it is only natural that their divergent findings should result in equally divergent interpretations and assessments of her novels.

This study, then, is an attempt to explicate Virginia Woolf's novels, through a general, factual examination of the development of her ideas as they are given definition by her technique.

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