Tuesday, September 07, 2004

"Solid Objects"

A short essay I published years ago in the Virginia Woolf Miscellany will be reprinted this spring in the journal Short Story Critricism. The essay is about Woolf's story "Solid Objects," which involves a politician--a distracted politician. He becomes so caught up with other things that he gives up politics.

My interpretation suggested that this move was not entirely a bad thing. At the time, such a reading ran against the grain of Woolf scholarship. The feminist scholarship of Woolf so emphasized her politics that was hard to imagine that Woolf herself was not critical of her character for giving it up.

Becoming a politician was not even remotely on my mind when I wrote this piece. Now, as a new season of Town Council activity gets under way, Woolf's understanding of the wisdom of Thomas Browne seems well worth recalling.

As Woolf refashioned her early empirical realism into a modernist practice, her work began to reflect a deeper engagement with the Renaissance, including the works of an old friend, Sir Thomas Browne. While she was finishing Night and Day (1919), she embarked on a new direction in short fiction. "The Mark on the Wall" and other stories collected in Monday or Tuesday (1921) reflect, in their impressionistic fragmentation, her new position that "inconclusive stories are legitimate." Although that statement comes from a review of a collection by Chekhov, it is a conclusion she was also gleaning from Browne.

More . . .

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