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From Individual to Collective

Virginia Woolf’s Developing Concept of Consciousness


Masako Nasu

This book argues that a profound shift can be found in the works of Virginia Woolf, from an early «pursuit of the individual» to a late «pursuit of the collective». Evidence for this shift is found both in the narrative modes she employed and the methods by which thought is represented in the works themselves, and in ideas and ruminations found in Woolf’s diaries and essays. The stylistic analysis covers works from The Voyage Out (1915) to the posthumously published Between the Acts (1941), and shows how several of the shorter pieces can be considered to be experiments with techniques that were fully employed in Woolf’s longer, major fictions. This shift arises from changes in Woolf’s concept of the conscious and unconscious over time, and the argument shows how she took deliberate steps to reflect these changes in her fiction. This framework provides key insights for new interpretations of her works.

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4. The Bridge Between To the Lighthouse (1927) and The Waves (1931)


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4.   The Bridge Between To the Lighthouse and The Waves

Woolfian internal realism with its stylistic characteristics developed in the group of works from The Voyage Out (1915) to To the Lighthouse (1927). In the period ranging from the completion of To the Lighthouse to the draft writing of The Waves (1931), the three short works, ‘Moments of Being: Slater’s Pins Have No Points’ (1927), ‘The Lady in the Looking-Glass: A Reflection’ (1929) and ‘The Fascination of the Pool’ (1929) were produced. This period seems to mark a turning point in Woolf’s experimental style. Woolf’s interest noted in Woolf’s diary and her essays in this period shifts from ‘individual’ consciousness to ‘collective’ unconsciousness.

4.1  The limits of internal realism

Virginia Woolf’s short fiction, ‘Moments of Being: Slater’s Pins Have No Points’, was written just after the completion of To the Lighthouse. This short work is worth closely analysing for two reasons. First, it offers several completed methods exploited in her earlier writings, from The Voyage Out to To the Lighthouse, such as the techniques of vividly representing the state of individual minds. Second, this writing marks a turning point in her career as a novelist: although the story is ‘a well-developed version’ of her writing, it reveals some technical problems. Just after publishing this work, she discards her established devices and makes a drastic change in the form of her writing. Close investigation of this story will elucidate the traces...

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