Title page for ETD etd-08152008-163945


Document Type Master's Dissertation
Author Breytenbach, Petrus Albertus
Email albus@mweb.co.za
URN etd-08152008-163945
Document Title “The triumph of life over the well of tears” : history and the past in selected novels of Virginia Woolf
Degree Master of Arts
Department English
Supervisor
Advisor Name Title
Prof D Medalie Supervisor
Keywords
  • novels
  • First World War
  • history
Date 2008-04-09
Availability unrestricted
Abstract

As a modernist, Virginia Woolf aimed at the modernisation of existing forms of artistic expression. However, she was also a very historically aware author. Thus the main issues and questions that this dissertation aims at investigating are Woolf’s views on, approach to and use of history and the past in three major novels: Mrs Dalloway (1925), To the Lighthouse (1927) and Between the Acts (1941). After a brief exposition of some of Woolf’s general views on history and inherited cultural constructions and how these contrast with traditional nineteenth and early twentieth century approaches to history, the argument progresses to explore history and the past in each of the three novels respectively. The choice of novels aims at reflecting something of the scope and range of her concerns with history and the past. The chapter on Mrs Dalloway is mainly concerned with the manner in which Woolf deals with a profound historical event like the First World War and her dual vision of history as both a source of tragedy and as a form of assurance for the continuation of life. In the chapter dealing with To the Lighthouse as its main focus, Woolf’s response to her personal past and the preceding cultural era will be explored, as well as her attempt to achieve a form of balance between the present and the past through artistic portrayal. In the discussion of the last novel Woolf wrote, Between the Acts, her response to history in the making and her views on how the course of history can be altered will be dealt with. Finally, the conclusion considers the implications of this study in the contexts of Woolf as a modernist and an experimental novelist and in the light of the critical views that perceive Woolf as inadequately responsive to history and social issues.

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