Virginia Woolf: Feminism, Creativity, and the Unconscious

Virginia Woolf: Feminism, Creativity, and the Unconscious

Virginia Woolf: Feminism, Creativity, and the Unconscious

Virginia Woolf: Feminism, Creativity, and the Unconscious

Synopsis

John R. Maze provides a radical psychoanalytic reading of the life-historical and psychopathological themes underlying the intellectual and emotional force of Virginia Woolf's novels. Her repeated, progressive attempts at literary self-analysis yielded many years of original, insightful, and influential creativity, but were subverted in the end by intractable unconscious self-destructive impulses.

Excerpt

Interdisciplinary works are sometimes greeted with suspicion from both disciplines. This is an unfortunate bit of intellectual xenophobia, because it is quite possible for each side to derive specific benefits. In Woolf's novels, for example, there are mysterious passages that cannot be explained rationally by anything else in the text, and about which orthodox literary criticism can say nothing informative. That limitation derives from the currently fashionable principle forbidding interpretation of anything in the text by reference to anything not in it. Such passages can be illuminated by reference to the author's life history and unconscious mental life, insofar as that can be inferred from other, independent, evidence. Psychoanalysis, for its part, can benefit because the mental mechanisms involved in creativity are laid out for inspection on the printed page, rather than glimpsed in the analysis of confused associations to a dream.

Finally, this book offers to the general reader, those already fascinated by Woolf's novels or those who are just approaching them, a sympathetic, appreciative and revealing access to some of their hidden depths, which enriches one's understanding of their overt content. It most positively does not "reduce the work to the level of a neurotic symptom."

I am grateful to all those colleagues and friends whose kindly interest and unsettling criticisms have supported or impelled me through the long preparation of this work. I think especially of Olga Katchan, Nigel Mackay, Terry McMullen, Agnes Petocz, and Phil Sutcliffe, and above all of Rachael Henry, my wife, whose expert comments and suggestions enlarged and transformed my approach to the whole enterprise.

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