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Visuality and Spatiality in Virginia Woolf’s Fiction


Savina Stevanato

This book offers an interpretative key to Virginia Woolf’s visual and spatial strategies by investigating their nature, role and function. The author examines long-debated theoretical and critical issues with their philosophical implications, as well as Woolf’s commitment to contemporary aesthetic theories and practices. The analytical core of the book is introduced by a historical survey of the interart relationship and significant critical theories, with a focus on the context of Modernism. The author makes use of three investigative tools: descriptive visuality, the widely debated notion of spatial form, and cognitive visuality. The cognitive and remedial value of Woolf’s visual and spatial strategies is demonstrated through an inter-textual analysis of To the Lighthouse, The Waves and Between the Acts (with cross-references to Woolf’s short stories and Jacob’s Room). The development of Woolf’s literary output is read in the light of a quest for unity, a formal attempt to restore parts to wholeness and to rescue Being from Nothingness.


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Chapter 1An Approach to Interart Investigation 1


Chapter 1 An Approach to Interart Investigation […] it is impossible that the same thing should be both the Sign and the Thing signified, or that any thing should be a sign of it self. — G. Psalmanaazaar, An Historical and Geographical Description of Formosa The Relationship between Verbal and Visual Codes The relationship between the arts has been a long-debated issue, and the specific relationship between the verbal and the visual arts has been taken into consideration and discussed in depth since antiquity. In Simonides of Ceos’ words, as reported by Plutarch, poetry is a ‘speaking’ picture and painting is ‘mute’ poetry; Horace’s Ars poetica provided the well-known notion of ut pictura poesis; Plato compared painting with poetry on the basis of their common, mimetic, hence, inauthentic nature; and, in his Poetics, Aristotle compared them by focusing on their distinctive features, finally defining them more as cousins than as sisters. The long-lasting relationship between the two codes has changed according to dif ferent historical and cultural contexts and, consequently, consistently with the relevant criteria and with the set of values through which the world was interpreted and represented. Nonetheless, this rela- tionship seems to have been steadily characterized by a sort of mimetic competition due to the prominence of the visual code and its being more immediate or iconic (in Peirce’s sense of representamen). This involves a visual primacy based on a natural relationship between sign and referent, which makes the visual sign a highly reliable substitute for the subject it...

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