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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 4To the Lighthouse, The Waves, Between the Acts: An Analysis 125


Chapter 4 To the Lighthouse, The Waves, Between the Acts: An Analysis The first phase of apprehension is a bounding line drawn about the object to be apprehended […]. But, temporal or spatial, the esthetic image is first luminously apprehended as selfbounded and selfcontained upon the immeasurable background of space or time which is not it. You apprehend it as one thing. You see it as one whole. You apprehend its wholeness. That is integritas. — J. Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man To the Lighthouse, The Waves and Between the Acts are a prime example of the very close relationship between Woolf ’s quest for truth and investiga- tion into the role of art, as well as of her use of visual and spatial strategies. They also give explicit prominence to meta-literary discourse by specifically thematizing ‘artisticity’. Against the background of some common thematic areas, the following novel-by-novel analysis will be carried out in the light of the three criteria previously mentioned, and by singling out their rel- evant features. This will allow us both to explore synchronic similarities and dif ferences, and to delineate the complex interplay and decreasing correspondence between content and form: the former discrediting the latter and the latter refuting the former. As regards spatial form, a note needs to be made: in this chapter analy- sis will be restricted to the thematized level alone. The formal level will be focused on in the following chapter. To the Lighthouse represents the first complete...

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