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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 5The Remedial Implications of Spatial Form 197


Chapter 5 The Remedial Implications of Spatial Form Words move, music moves Only in time; but that which is only living Can only die. Words, after speech, reach Into the silence. Only by the form, the pattern, Can words or music reach The stillness, as a Chinese jar still Moves perpetually in its stillness. — T. S. Eliot, Four Quartets The Spatial Form of the Novels After examining thematized visuality and spatiality, we now turn to Woolf ’s own spatiality. According to Quentin Bell, in the early 1920s, the author was ‘already claiming for herself the ability, or at least the intention, to see events out of time, to apprehend processes of thought and feeling as though they were pictorial shapes’.1 Woolf ’s concern with spatial intercon- nectedness continued. She was still writing to Clive Bell in 1938: ‘like all painters, your sense of words is plastic, not linear, and I am on the side of the plastic myself ’ (L VI, 302). By shifting the focus onto the author’s stance and her own formal strategies, this chapter explores the way in which spatial form works com- pared with the thematized formal strategies previously considered. The 1 Q. Bell, Virginia Woolf: A Biography (New York: Harcourt, 1972), 338. A similar emphasis is put on the fact that Mrs Dalloway also expresses Woolf ’s ‘desire to make literature “radial” rather than “linear”’ (ibid.). 198 Chapter 5 comparison is carried out through several heterogeneous textual samples from the main constituent levels of...

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