The Paradox of Containment in Virginia Woolf's Narratives
Like her experimental contemporaries James Joyce and D. H. Lawrence, Virginia Woolf saw art as the material with which she might help remake the world. Indeed, her radical secular faith in Art led her to suggest in Three Guineas that it was the very enterprise that could displace war 1 But Woolf's is an explicitly gendered, frankly political "solution" to the aesthetic challenges of that multifarious early-twentieth-century moment we have retrospectively come to call modernism. Her feminist aesthetic, with its unabashedly antimasculinist, pacifist ideological underpinnings, is set out most clearly in her famous works A Room of One's Own and Three Guineas.
As a writer situated productively between an almost religious devotion to form and a passionate instinct for deconstruction, Woolf's work illustrates some of the ways in which a gendered point of view informs and reforms "universal" narratological categories and how, in turn, such categories can help illuminate her "difficult" narratives. Woolf's modernist aesthetic was shaped by an ongoing conversation not simply between tradition and innovation but, more specific, between her modern narrative poetics and her feminist politics as well. So it is within the context of a broader, and more current, version of that conversation--between the "feminist" and the "narratology" in feminist narratology--that I read the three novels in which Virginia Woolf came into her own as a novelist. Woolf's vision of a newly formed modern novel relies on the voice of the female novelist. How that voice might sound and what it would speak of intersect in Woolf's postulation in A Room of One's Own of a "female sen-