In my Bachelor Thesis I concentrate on a small selection from the impressionist works by Virginia Woolf , chosen to illustrate the impact of the to philosophical and psychological effects of the stream of consciousness technique and the influence of Impressionism and Postimpressionism in painting. I selected, from the extensive works of Virginia Woolf, her early short stories “The Mark on the Wall” (1917) and “Kew Gardens” (1919) and the novel To the Lighthouse (1927) as the examples of her art which most merit our consideration in this regard. The chapter entitled Outlining the Method is grounded in the primary sources, specifically the essays “Modern Fiction” (1923) and “Mr Bennett and Mrs Brown” (1924). In addition to these, I include a discussion of a short story “An Unwritten Novel” (1920), which constitutes one of the earlier versions of ideas advanced in the essay “Mr Bennett and Mrs Brown.” The chapter on the philosophical and psychological background deals with such issues as the perception of time and the process of thinking from the perspective of Henri Bergson (Pohyb a myšlení) 1 and William James (The Principles of Psychology). The chapter concerned with the influence of Russian literary realism on the works of Virginia Woolf is based on Woolf’s essay “The Russian Point of View” (1925). One chapter is solely devoted to impressionist and postimpressionist painting, to prepare the ground for the following chapter in which I look for links between the painter’s and the writer’s manner of portrayal of an evanescent perception. In this chapter I also include some extracts from Woolf’s novels, to illustrate certain specific stylistic features of her indirect interior monologue.
I realize that my position on the topic as a whole does not cover the matter in all its complexities. Having this viewpoint in mind I attempted to seek an answer to the question of the depiction of true characters which Woolf elaborated in her essay “Mr Bennett and Mrs
Brown.” In other words, the answer to the question of whether the method of literary
Impressionism truly assisted Virginia Woolf in achieving her aim of bringing her characters as close to real life as possible, and freed her experience from her own self to allow it to become our experience also.
1 Translated from the French original La pensée et le mouvant.
2. Virginia Woolf in the Modernist Context of the Period
The whole period between 1890 and 1920 is marked by the quest for the correct manner of literary portrayal of the truth, sense and beauty of life, for a completely new way, which would not be only a product of its time and would not merely imitate what had already been written. The works of the most prominent of British Modernists, James Joyce, T.S. Eliot, E. M. Forster, Virginia Woolf and D. H. Lawrence are original expressions of how a human being, as an individual, perceives his own self and the world around him. The artistic techniques by means of which these writers strove to achieve their aim were different, however, in each of them, completely original and distinctive.
Virginia Woolf entered into long-running animadversions against her contemporaries, Bennett, Wells and Galsworthy, the most popular British novelists of the period, frequently reciprocated.1 The purpose of this argument was to point out the fact that traditional realistic fiction by whose conventions these authors were bound, was very different from the reality of the 1920s. The novels written in the spirit of these conventions still reflected Victorian morals; thus plot patterns remained public, and anything significant that occurred to a character was symbolized by a change in fortune or status. 2 The necessity of looking differently at life arose, according to Woolf, from the change in relationships between people in society and within families, and from a changing approach to these relationships. The Victorian veneration of the family, based on patriarchal relationships, was superseded by a critical view of the family as a system endorsing the relationships of superiority and subordination between masters and servants, husbands and wives, parents and children. Woolf pinpoints the year of 1910 as a precise moment of this change and she sees the first signs of it in the novel by Samuel Butler, The Way of All Flesh and in the plays of G. B. Shaw. 3 Woolf singled out 1910 as the borderline of modern era because in December of that year Roger
Eliot Fry, the English art critic and painter, organized the first exhibition of postimpressionist painters in London. 4 This exhibition and the aesthetic principles of Roger Fry, stressing primarily the autonomy of art, and the freedom and vision of the artist, greatly influenced Virginia Woolf’s works. Woolf sees freedom as one of the main preconditions of literary work of enduring quality. Woolf praises the fact that the uniformity typical of the nineteenth century literature was, in her own time, succeeded by literary experiments using sensory perception and the innate sense for understanding the depth and complexity of human being. Writers, in order to create literature which will last for centuries, have to believe that the things they feel and perceive apply to others as well. 5
1 “Modern Fiction” in The Common Reader, No.1. pp. 184-195.
See also “Mrs Bennett and Mrs Brown” in Collected Essays, vol.1. pp. 319-337.
2David Daiches, The Novel and the Modern World, p. 4.
3See “Mr Bennett and Mrs Brown” in Collected Essays, vol.1. p. 320.
4Martin Hilský, Modernisté, p. 158.
5 “How it Strikes a Contemporary” in The Common Reader, No. 1. pp. 301-302.
3. The Philosophical and Psychological Background – Henri Bergson and William James
The roots of the literary impressionism of Virginia Woolf must be sought in a wider context of modernistic culture roughly covering the period from 1890 to 1930. Bergson’s metaphysics of duration and intuition was for a whole generation of literary modernism a great source of inspiration. The central issues in this metaphysics are the experience of the passage of time and James’s theory of human consciousness, called stream of consciousness in modernist aesthetics.
Bergson views time independently of space, as a continuous duration which is not fixed but flows between the edges of time intervals. 1 We can actually feel this duration while we are living in it. Nevertheless, it is very difficult to convey in words, for the words allow us to learn about the world only indirectly. The absolute knowledge as Bergson sees it, is direct and has its roots in inner personal experience and intuition, which is able to grasp reality in its flow, in its inner duration. Intuition in this conception means immediate consciousness which identifies with the object under examination, touching it, as it were, in its uniqueness and inexpressibility.2 Virginia Woolf accepts and makes use of Bergson’s conception of human personality in her prose, which is not fixed but is a continuous flow of change, a succession of states which contain lingering residue of the previous state as well as an anticipation of the one which follows.
For an understanding of the experience of the passage of time as perceived by an individual human mind, one book, The Principles of Psychology by William James, was of immense importance, particularly the chapters “The Stream of Thought” and “The Perception of Time.” The book helps us to understand how James’s view of the process of thinking influenced the works of modernist writers, and we can also find in it one of the basic pillars of Woolf’s literary technique. For Woolf, the foundation of true creation of a fictional character resides in the depiction of reality as seen through the eyes of this character. The world, which all people perceive with the same qualities of sense, is different for every individual. As William James aptly argues, we cannot say that “feelings and thoughts exist”, but “I think and I feel”. In this way he explains his assertion that “every thought tends to be part of a personal consciousness” (The Principles of Psychology, pp. 146-147).
James’s expression “thinking” conveys the fact that thinking is in constant flow, that it goes on and tends to acquire the form of personal consciousness, which is in turn the basis of personal self. This flow of thinking means constant change, in the sense that “no state once gone can recur and be identical with what it was before” (ibid., p. 149). The fact is that we do not receive sensations in isolation, but rather they are always combined, and these combinations can never be entirely the same again. Every thought on a particular fact is unique, which means that it merely bears a resemblance of a kind to our other thoughts of the same fact. James does not see these thoughts as isolated “ideas” in the sense of Locke and Hume, but as a continuous stream in which even the “time-gaps” are not sensed by the consciousness as an interruption. That is why James describes the notion of consciousness through the metaphor of a “river” or a “stream” and in this sense he talks of “the stream of thought, or consciousness, or of subjective life” (ibid., p. 155). James believes that the total idea is present not only before and after uttering the whole sentence but also after the utterance of each and every word. “It is the overtone, halo or fringe of the word,” (ibid., p. 182) which is apparent throughout the entire segment of the stream. In each word we feel a chiming echo of a preceding word or a foretaste of the following one. From this perspective, the fragmentary thoughts, even cut into individual words, as we know them in the works of modernist writers, are not just isolated, bald words but words ‘suffused with the whole idea’, which is a part of the unity of consciousness.
According to James, continuity of consciousness is made possible by retrospective and perspective perception of time, through which the continuity of sensations not long passed with the ones coming right now is kept. The content of the constant flux is a perpetual change from “not yet” or “not quite yet” to “just gone” or “gone” (ibid, p. 413). The short duration which is immediately and incessantly sensible, James calls “the specious present”. Each of the sensations passed retains the power of being reproduced but this reproduction of the sensation immediately passed is an entirely different psychic fact from its direct perception in the specious present (ibid., p. 413).
1 Henri Bergson, Myšlení a pohyb, p. 13.
2Henri Bergson, Myšlení a pohyb, pp. 176-177.
4.1 Russian Literary Realism
When discussing the influences which played a role in shaping Woolf’s writing, we have to take into account Russian realist literature of the nineteenth century. The author’s admiration for the great Russian realists, particularly A. P. Tchekov, F. M. Dostoevsky and L. N. Tolstoy was grounded not only in her thorough knowledge of their works but also in her knowledge of the Russian language. In her essay “The Russian Point of View” (1925) she points out that a bad translation caused by misinterpreting the structure of Russian sentence can lead to a shift in meaning, sometimes an entire distortion even and putting emphasis on places which are not stressed in the Russian original.
In Chekov’s stories, in particular, it is not at first sight very obvious where the author sought to lay the emphasis. Woolf also deals with this problem in her essay “Modern Fiction” in connection with the matter of the form of a literary work, and the author’s prerogative to express himself in such a way as best conveys that part of reality in which he is interested. The need for new, unconventional forms of expression arises with clear urgency especially in the matter of stressing things neglected to date. 1 Our determined ignorance of certain issues has its source in the fact that we find it impossible to answer the questions which they raise. Still, it is worth writing about them and offering them to readers to for consideration.
Chekov was probably closest to Woolf’s tendency towards the use of experimental methods in literature. She admired his stories not only for their profound depth but also for the form which seemingly disregards logical connections and intentionally prefers casual and inconclusive rambling, jumping from one thing to another. Through this completely original method, Chekov arrives at the intended meaning which lies in the emphasis on the soul and its relation to goodness. It is not a simple relation and the conclusion that there is something wrong with the soul is not unequivocal. That is why Chekov’s stories lack the conventional ending and are left open-ended because, in all honesty, there may be no answer to some questions.
Woolf shares the insight into human soul with Russian novelists. When she compares the “nature” of the soul in the works of Chekov and Dostoevsky, she finds that the soul in Chekov is delicate and subtle while the soul in Dostoevsky has more depth and volume, replete with confusion, and is liable to violent diseases and raging fevers. 2 All Dostoevsky’s novels give evidence that human soul is the sole concern of the writer; everything outside this is immaterial to him. In this context, Woolf’s assertion is particularly fitting when she says that “it is the soul that is the chief character in Russian fiction” (“The Russian Point of View”, p. 242).
Woolf saw a sense of a literary work in life itself and its true depiction. Out of the three aforementioned Russian writers L. N. Tolstoy, the greatest Russian novelist, embodied this idea to the ultimate extent. Woolf looked on him as one of the finest minds in world literature, an aristocratic spirit with a proud and unique outlook on life. No side of reality was alien to him. He was best, however, in capturing the psychological state of mind of people in moments of intense happiness when an element of fear or feelings of finality and transience impose themselves on this perfect bliss and make them reflect on the meaning of life.
1 “Modern Fiction” in The Common Reader, No.1. p.192.
2 “The Russian Point of View” in Collected Essays, vol.1. p. 242.
4.2 Impressionism and Postimpressionism in Painting
Impressionism and Postimpressionism significantly influenced the development of modernist literature. Impressionism presaged a revolution in painting. A painter who began to get out of a rut by looking at objects depicted under the influence of ideas of how they should look like rather than how they really look was Eduard Manet. He was not one of the Impressionists but his pictures, which are ablaze with bright, pure colours in full sunlight which flattens shapes into mere colour stains, evoke an impression that the viewer stands face to face with the vision the painter saw when painting. 1 This impression of immediacy is even more apparent in the depiction of movement. Manet made a lithography of galloping horses called “The Races at Longchamp” which provides an illusion of light, speed and movement by a mere indication of shapes. None of the depicted horses has four legs as far as we can see in such a quick movement. Nor can we perceive the spectators in any detail. Manet strove to capture the impression of a fleeting moment, and it is obvious that he succeeded. When we compare this Manet’s lithography with the picture “Derby Day” by the English Victorian painter, W. P. Frith, we can see in the latter a wide shot with a plethora of details which we are unable to take in all at once. We feel that this is not reality we could perceive at a particular moment. It is a picture of how would things look if perceived individually. Perhaps, we could, without reservation, compare it to what Woolf in her essay Modern Fiction described as an illusion of reality, when she had in mind the extensive novels by Bennett and Galsworthy.
The impressionists, in the literal sense, C. Monet, C. Pissarro, A. Renoir and A. Sisley undoubtedly achieved a miracle by their accomplishment in transferring an immediate visual experience from the painter to the viewer. Influenced by the example of English landscape painters, W. Turner and J. Constable, they rejected local colours, black, grey value and contours. In place of these they started to use pure spectral colours applied in separate stains which only in the viewer’s eye, when he steps back from the picture, create an impression of reality. W. Turner, in a style precursive to Impressionism, managed to capture a magical effect caused by the connection of light and colour in the atmosphere (e.g. the pictures “Rain, Steam and Speed” and “Snow Storm”). Monet learnt from him that recording these fleeting impressions from everyday life is more important than the motif per se of the picture. A beautiful example of this is the picture “The Saint-Lazare Station,” in which Monet depicted what he found fascinating at that moment – the effect of light, penetrating through a glass roof, clouds of steam and shapes of the emerging engine.
The liberation of technique and motifs from conventions of academic painting gave painters a sense of freedom, as the whole world abounded with suitable motifs for painting. There was nothing to constrain the painter any more, for there was no one to whom he would be responsible, except his own sensitivity. 2
The approach of the Impressionists to the depiction of reality was different from the technique of Postimpressionists. Among the Postimpressionist painters, mainly Cezanne and his emphasis on the composition of a picture, some pictures made modernist writers ponder over the form of their works written in stream of consciousness technique. Cezanne admired the mastery of the Impressionists, Monet in particular, with which they managed to transfer to canvas the fleeting colour and light impressions, but he would not settle for a mere impression. The separated stains of pure spectral colours were only in the eye of a viewer to create an impression of a “white” light to make the objects look real. The Impressionists, however, did not view reality as reproduction of the so called “local colour,” isolated from all surrounding influences, but a colour changed by the play of light. However brilliant this impression was, Cezanne considered it shallow, and felt that it tended to disorganization, which was unacceptable to him. 3 In Cezanne’s view, a painter should not depict external reality mediated merely by senses but make an effort to reach below the surface. It was almost an insoluble task not to betray the impressions of his senses, at the same time as impressing them on canvas with order and durability. Cezanne achieved this by connecting colour and form and by replacing light with colour since, according to him, light “cannot be reproduced, but must be represented by something else – by colour”. 4
Colour, as the only means of expression, creates shapes in Cezanne’s pictures, composition and the resulting impression of three-dimensionality. The best piece of evidence of his painstaking effort is the picture “Mont Saint-Victorie.” Not only in the picture itself but also in the painter’s notes5 in which he comments on his method of painting, one can see a connection of feeling with logical thinking. The mountain which Cezanne painted has its past, presence and future. In a sense, we can say that the hill has its story, a story of its existence in time. The transcendence of the boundary of one art is here, and as in Virginia Woolf’s prose it is plainly apparent.
1Ernst Hans Gombrich, Příběh umění, p. 416.
2Ibid., p. 428.
3Ibid., p. 441.
4Martin Hilský, Modernisté, p. 174.
5Petra Pleskotová, Svět barev, p. 125.
5. Theory and Practice of Woolf’s Literary Method
5.1 Outlining the Method
Virginia Woolf’s pondering over the method which would enable her to grasp reality in her novels has its roots in her being perpetually at odds with her contemporaries, the great British novelists Wells, Bennett and Galsworthy. This argument prodded her into writing two significant essays, “Modern Fiction” and “Mr Bennett and Mrs Brown,” in which she explained which values were close to her heart and hinted at the way she would later take in her future works. Her essay “Modern Fiction” (1923) is more theoretical than “Mr Bennett and Mrs Brown” (1924). Woolf expresses there her concern about the state of modern British literature which, as far as she is concerned, has not made any progress since the time of Fielding and Austen, but rather lost something of its “strange air of simplicity” in which their works were steeped.
The heart of Woolf’s argument with the three aforementioned writers lies in their opposing views on reality and, by extension, its depiction in their novels. Woolf calls Wells, Bennett and Galsworthy materialists as “they are concerned not with the spirit but with the body” (“Modern Fiction” in The Common Reader, p. 185). What she means by this is that they write of unimportant, trivial things, thus wasting their effort and immense skill which she by no means fails to recognize. She is simply disappointed that their efforts do not result in the depiction of real life but only its illusion. She rejects the idea of her subjugation to conventional views dictating the exact number of chapters a novel has to have, the presence of plot, the motif of love or tragedy and projecting an overall flawless image. Such a novel evokes an idea in her that its characters are dressed in formal suits sewn by the Bond Street tailors.
Life, as she sees it, is completely different. Its true nature lies in its inner dimension. A human being lives because he thinks and perceives and in every moment his “mind receives a myriad impressions – trivial, fantastic, evanescent, or engraved with the sharpness of steel” (ibid. p. 189). This is life in its mundane Monday or Tuesday, everyday life, not its imitation in the conventional style of a novel full of fabricated plots and exciting denouements. Because Woolf feels herself to be a free human being, she wants to bring her work as close as possible to what she deems to be life, whose mystical, yet tangible, omnipresence Woolf aptly conveys in the metaphor of “a luminous halo, a semitransparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end” (ibid. p. 189).
This is the reason for her fascination with Joyce’s literary method which she believes, preserves a true, if fragmentary, picture of human consciousness, human personality. This picture is upstanding in its utmost honesty with which it uncovers the innermost nuances of the soul. This spiritual quality of Joyce’s literary experiment, which is sharply in contrast with the materialistic perspective of life inherent in the novels of Wells, Bennett and Galsworthy, is particularly dear to her heart, as it points to the depths of the human soul, which the Russian realists so masterfully depicted in their works.
To achieve this aim, to get as close as possible to what the author feels to be real life, it is necessary that he is free to write about anything he sees fit, finds of interest or, to use the proper psychological terminology of William James, attaches to one’s own half of the world. 1 If the author has the courage to separate the subject of his interest from all that surrounds it, and which is, in his view, of no consequence, he must also have the courage to experiment, in order to develop a method which would enable him to articulate anything he wishes to convey. Woolf believes that “no method, no experiment, even of the wildest is forbidden, but only falsity and pretence” (ibid., p. 194).
As with the first, the latter essay, “Mr Bennett and Mrs Brown,” can likewise be called Woolf’s literary programme. The persistent disagreement with Arnold Bennett concerns nothing less significant than a fictional character. 2 Woolf has no intention of disputing the sincerity of Bennett’s call for convincing fictional characters; she is, however, uncertain what he means by “convincing” and who, if anyone, has the right to judge this. She herself sees the question of the characters’ plausibility in confrontation with reality itself. This reality is not somehow pre-created from the outside using a fabricated plot and action and cannot be grasped rationally. It is an inner reality seen through the eyes of a character whose plausibility consists in the fact that it makes us think not only about the character itself but also about a whole range of things which make up life, day-to-day, yet unique and unrepeatable.
Woolf is convinced that it is absolutely imperative that the author is interested in “character in itself” as did Laurence Sterne and Jane Austen whose novels she values as “complete” and “self-contained”. In contrast with these two authors, Wells, Bennett and Galsworthy take no interest in “character in itself” but they focus on everything external to such. Instead of describing a character, they describe houses in the hope that the readers “may be able to deduce the human beings who live there” (Collected Essays,. 332). They hold to conventions, stand over characters in their omniscient position instead of trying to approach them, stand face to face with them and empathize with them.
Woolf attempts to bring the character closer to readers and erase the dividing line between them and the writer. She illustrates this in her essay “Mr Bennett and Mrs Brown” where she tells a story of an inconspicuous elderly woman she met by accident in a train compartment and named her Mrs Brown. Woolf could sense, from the constrained look on this woman’s face and her tone of voice, a tense conversation had been going on between her and some man right before Woolf entered the compartment. Based on their later conduct, taciturnity and some sporadic conversation, the author constructed the whole sad story of Mrs Brown. Wherever she goes, Woolf comes across a character which instigates her to write a novel about it.
The prototypical character of Mrs Brown can be found in Woolf’s short story “An Unwritten Novel” which was written as early as 1920. 3 The subject of her interest was again a woman in a train compartment who attracted the author’s attention by being the least successful of all her fellow passengers in hiding herself under the guise of anonymity. From the very little the woman’s face betrayed, involuntary fidgeting and emotional sighs, Woolf inferred that the woman was dissatisfied with her own life, a feeling probably each and every one of us knows so well, often springing from an idea that we are to blame for something, that we have done something wrong. Are these the feelings of the fictional character or do they belong to Virginia Woolf? It truly seems that we have stumbled upon an unintentional paradox of Virginia Woolf sitting in the train compartment opposite Virginia Woolf. 4 Every fictional character constitutes some part of the author’s personality. William James, who was concerned with the psychological aspects of looking at world from the perspective of the individual, says:
“The altogether unique kind of interest which each human mind feels in those parts of creation which it can call ‘me’ or ‘mine’ may be a moral riddle, but it is a fundamental psychological fact. No mind can take the same interest in his neighbor’s ‘me’ as in his own” (James, p.187).
Also the character from this story is unwittingly part and parcel of the author’s consciousness.
“Hang still, then, quiver, life, soul, spirit, whatever you are of Minnie Marsh–I, too, on my flower–the hawk over the dawn–alone, or what were the worth of life? To rise; hang still in the evening, in the midday; hang still over the down. […] The eyes of others our prisons; their thoughts our cages. Air above, air below. And the moon and immortality. … Oh, but I drop to the turf! Are you down too, you in the corner, what’s your name– woman– Minnie Marsh; some such name as that?” (“An Unwritten Novel” in A Haunted House, p.18)
In spite of the fact that this short story cannot in any way match the exquisite style of Woolf’s later works, it is not only a rough sketch but it can also serve as a preparatory material for the future discussion of modern fiction in the essay “Mr Bennett and Mrs Brown.” The outline of an approach to the depiction of a fictional character in this short story does not lose anything of its plausibility, even though the author eventually comes to the conclusion that she was mistaken in regard to Minnie Marsh. The final passage, which is, in Adrian Velicu’s opinion, a “quasi-lyrical and abrupt outburst,” is an early indication of a lyrical slant present in her best works. As I see it, the conclusion of this short story is the author’s sincere declaration of her anxiety to understand, catch, hold for a while; simply, to convey life:
“Wherever I go, mysterious figures, I see you, turning the corner, mothers and sons; you, you, you. I hasten, I follow. This, I fancy, must be the see. Grey is the landscape; dim as ashes; the water murmurs and moves. If I fall on my knees, if I go through the ritual, the ancient antics, it’s you, unknown figures, you I adore; if I open my arms, it’s you I embrace, you I draw to me–adorable world!” (“An Unwritten Novel” in A Haunted House, p.23)
1William James, Principles of Psychology. Chicago: Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1952, p. 187.
2 Cf. The Diary of Virginia Woolf, II, p.248. Woolf’s essay Mr Bennett and Mrs Brown was a reply to Arnold Bennett’s article entitled ‘Is the Novel Decaying?’ which appeared in Cassell’s Weekly on 28 March 1923. In this article he argued that he has “seldom read a cleverer book than Virginia Woolf’s Jacob’s Room…. But the characters do not vitally survive in the mind because the author has been obsessed by details of originality and cleverness.”
3Virginia Woolf, A Haunted House and Other Short Stories. London: The Hogarth Press, 1947, pp. 12-23.
Cf. The Diary of Virginia Woolf, II, pp.13-14. The diary entry from January 26, 1920 marks a turning point in Woolf’s way of writing fiction. It occurred to her that the new form she used in a ten-page-long sketch, An Unwritten Novel, could also be used in a novel about two hundred pages long. She became aware of a problem, which would plague her from then on, as to whether this form would enable her to convey the human heart.
4Martin Hilský,et al., Od slavíka k papouškovi. Proměny britské prózy. Brno: Host, 2002, p. 42.
5Velicu, Adrian. Unifying Strategies in Virginia Woolf’s Experimental Fiction. Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, 1985, p. 25.
5.2 The Implementation of Certain Principles of Impressionist and Postimpressionist Painting in the Literary Method of Virginia Woolf
Woolf’s way of looking at reality was influenced by Roger Fry’s aesthetics and the fact that she came to share his enthusiasm for the idea of mixing various types of art. Woolf based her experimental method on aesthetic principles derived from visual art. The two art exhibitions which Roger Fry held in London in 1910 and 1912 acquainted the English public with the works of Impressionist and Postimpressionist painters, enchanted a great number of artists and writers, and significantly influenced the future work of Virginia Woolf.
Even though we cannot justifiably claim Woolf’s fiction as a precise exact parallel of Impressionism and Postimpressionism in painting, we can trace certain similarities between these movements and her work. Woolf shared with the Impressionists the endeavour to capture after a fashion immediate and transitory impressions and endow them with the illusion of a present moment and place. As has already been mentioned in chapter 4.2, the Impressionists dispensed with the conventional means of academic painting, mainly contours, local colours and value as they considered such impediments to truthfully painting the world as they saw it with their own eyes.
In the same way, a number of eminent writers rejected the conventions which prevented them from conveying their own vision in literature. We can draw an analogy between the use of contours in painting and the accurate portrayal of characters for which Woolf sought to substitute by a record of what the characters perceived at a particular moment. Only after these fragmentary feelings, impressions and memories are put together is an image of reality from the perspective of a particular character created; likewise putting blobs of colour together creates the impression of reality in an Impressionist picture. As I see it, the mixing of colours on a palette for the purpose of achieving a particular value can be compared to the Edwardian1 manner of rendering a fictional character which Woolf criticizes in her essay “Mr Bennett and Mrs Brown” (cf. chapter 5.1). The true nature of a character, their inner world, the basis of their personality, all melt away in the description of thousands of thousands of unimportant things mixed in such a way to create a layered picture of intimate acquaintance which neither disconcerts, provokes nor makes us think. Compared with this kind of depiction, Woolf’s method does resemble the optical mixing of colours, which make the reader read more attentively; in other words, to look at the world differently than he used to.
Impressionist painting and its interpretation afforded by Roger Fry had an impact on Woolf’s perception and employment of colour in her fiction. Some of her works, mainly “Kew Gardens” and her novel The Waves, truly resemble an impressionist painting.
Visual images, the use of colour in particular, are neither simple nor straightforward matters in Woolf’s fiction, for a whole spectrum of interference of psychological nature imposes itself on the empty space between our perception of colour (or any other visual image) and the expression of the same in words, together forming the stream-of-consciousness. The human mind reacts in this way to any part of external reality. Woolf was well aware of the limits upon our ability to perceive this reality:
“No one can see it whole, therefore. The best of us catch a glimpse of a nose, a shoulder, something turning away, always in movement. Still, it seems better to me to catch this glimpse, than to sit down with Hugh Walpole, Wells, etc. etc. and make large oil paintings of fabulous fleshy monsters complete from top to toe.” (Letters II, in Velicu, p. 22)
Every person, not excepting the writer, can perceive only one part of the surrounding world, and, thus, a faithful representation of it can only be fragmentary (Velicu, p. 21). The flow of thoughts in a split second can be captured in this way, in a similar manner to what Manet did in his lithography of galloping horses entitled “The Races at Longchamp” (cf. ch 4.2). The frequency of these thoughts in the stream-of-consciousness expressed by the indirect interior monologue is characterized by specific stylistic features, which occur mainly in the domain of syntax and vocabulary (cf. Dahl pp. 42-53).
Among the peculiarities in syntax, the most typical, at least to my mind, is Woolf’s way of joining sentences with one another to evoke an impression of gradual development of thoughts in the speaker’s mind. In spite of the fact that Woolf takes over the Bergsonian conception of the continuity of time, it is apparent that she is not able to grasp this fact directly using her literary technique. This is the reason she divides time into segments of discrete mental associations which then proceeds to reattach one to another. 2 The division of the stream of associations Woolf brings to fruition by means of ‘bridges’, which include the repetition of the same conjunctions, words or even a whole phrase. In this way she divides the stream of associations into independent sections without spoiling the feeling of continuous flow (cf. Dahl p. 49). A good example of such a continuous flow is a stream of thoughts expressed in one long sentence, where the individual associations coming to Clarissa’s mind while shopping for flowers were linked by Woolf, who repeated the conjunction ‘and’ on ten occasions:
“And then, opening her eyes, how fresh,…, the roses looked; and dark and prim the red carnations,…; and all the sweet peas spreading in their bowls,…, pale–as if it were the evening and girls in muslin frocks came out to pick sweet peas and roses after the superb summer’s day,…, was over; and it was the moment between six and seven when every flower…glows…; and how she loved the grey white moths spinning in and out,…,over the evening primroses!” (Mrs Dalloway, p.16)
Similarly, the repetition of the verb ‘feel’ in the expression ‘and she felt’ connects the individual sequences of Clarissa’s interior monologue concerning the meaning of life:
“And she felt quite continuously a sense of their existence; and she felt what a waste; and she felt what a pity; and she felt if only they could be brought together; so she did it.” (Mrs Dalloway, pp.134-135)
Another style of joining, by means of ‘there were’, maintains the portrayal of the flow of memories surfacing in the drowsy mind of Lady Bruton, who is resting in her room in the hot June afternoon. She is reflecting on her childhood in Devonshire:
“And there were the dogs; there were the rats; there were her father and mother on the lawn under the trees,…” (Mrs Dalloway, p.123)
Some special types of word which characterize Woolf’s indirect interior monologue are gerunds and other verbal nouns, which intensify the reader’s vision of a situation. For example, in the middle part of the novel To the Lighthouse they evoke thoughts on the obliviousness of Nature to human suffering:
“Did Nature supplement what man advanced? Did she complete what he began? With equal complacence she saw his misery, his meanness, and his torture. That dream, of sharing, completing, of finding in solitude on the beach an answer, was then but a reflection in a mirror…” (To the Lighthouse, pp.199-200)
Adjectives, especially those of colour, play an important role in Woolf’s indirect interior monologue. In the Woolf’s view, looking at pictures sharpens the writer’s sense of colour and makes it possible to translate the colour perceived into words. Words, however, have to uncover something beneath the surface which the writer sees with his inner eye: 3
“Naturally, if one’s days were passed in this seeing of angular essences, this reducing of lovely evenings, with all their flamingo clouds and blue and silver to a white deal four-legged table (and it was a mark of the finest minds so to do), naturally one could not be judged like an ordinary person.” (To the Lighthouse, p. 38)
Woolf frequently uses the adverbs ending in -ly to convey a particularly emphatic impression. For instance, the monotonous roaring of the waves for the most part seemed to Mrs Ramsay as if it was some old cradle song, “but at other times suddenly and unexpectedly, especially when her mind raised itself slightly from the task actually in hand, had no such kindly meaning, but like a ghostly roll of drums remorselessly beat the measure of life…” (To the Lighthouse, pp.27-28)
Impressionist painting also influenced, to a certain extent, Woolf’s manner of conveying the atmosphere of perceived reality. Postimpressionism, however, mainly Cezanne’s new conception of reality in a picture’s composition, inspired her to seek order and create logical structure in and from her prose. Cezanne’s emphasis on the ‘representation’ instead of ‘reproduction’ meant rejection of the mere lifeless imitation of reality and gave impulse to her new mode of expression. Woolf replaced the conventional ‘reproduction’ of life with her search for a new way of true ‘representation’ of life. The technique of stream of consciousness, which became her means of reporting images and impressions forming the inner lives of her characters, was connected with the danger of chaos, which found its way into Richardson’s fiction (cf.Velicu, p. 7). Woolf’s search for form, which would bring order to chaotic thoughts and pleasure from its discovery, are mentioned in her diary (Diary II, p.13). Woolf gave her prose a new kind of balance and unity by replacement of linear action and plot by the natural cycle, which contains various possibilities for ordering her fiction, of which the idea of anticipation-expectation and the idea of simultaneity are the most significant (cf.Velicu, p. 8).
1Woolf, in her essay “Mr Bennett and Mrs Brown” uses this term for the novelists Wells, Bennett and Galsworthy.
2Hilský, Martin, et al. Modernisté. Praha: Torst, 1995, p. 26.
3Virginia Woolf, “Pictures” in The Moment and Other Essays. London: The Hogarth Press, 1947, pp.140-144.
5.3 A Selection from Woolf’s Impressionist Prose
5.3.1 Early Impressionist Stories
Woolf’s early endeavours at realization of the Impressionist technique of the stream of consciousness were two experimental short stories “The Mark on the Wall” (1917) and “Kew Gardens” (1919). Both stories indicate Woolf’s preoccupation with the genuine portrayal of the workings of the mind, and the shaping of the material into an aesthetic expression (cf.Velicu, p.19). In both these short stories, Woolf is concerned with the relationship between human consciousness and external reality.
“The Mark on the Wall” was the first short story Woolf ever had published, and marked the author’s complete divorce from traditional literary technique. This short story did not narrate an event and had no plot or portrayal of characters. Woolf tried to convey here, her image of the world by concentrating her mind on a part of a familiar reality in order to reveal new significance in the things observed. Her effort to express her images faithfully and meaningfully ran into a problem that the reality which surrounds us cannot be perceived as a whole but only fragmentarily. She realized that human perception can be compared to a glimpse from a window of a quickly rushing train. Velicu believes that ‘reality’, which Woolf in this short story has in mind, is the superficial aspect of the world which we perceive only fleetingly and only by ‘reflection’, in other words, by our subjective image we reveal its deeper and more genuine layers (cf. Velicu pp.21-2). This ‘reflection’ is in fact ‘representation’ in the sense of Cezanne’s conception of a true depiction of reality, not merely a reproduction of its superficial impression (cf. ch4.2 and ch5.2). A precondition for such a ‘reflection’ is a deeper penetration into the perceived reality:
“I want to sink deeper and deeper, away from the surface, with its hard separate facts” (“The Mark on the Wall”, p. 37).
We perceive with our senses only the surface of reality. Our image of the original is similar to glancing in the mirror. When the mirror smashes and the image disappears, only an empty surface is left, a reality airless and shallow. But reality is not only the surface. An infinite number of ‘reflections’ adjoin to the subjective image of things as they are perceived. Authors should first and foremost concentrate on these reflections as:
“those are the depths they will explore, those the phantoms they will pursue, leaving the description of reality more and more out of their stories, taking a knowledge of it for granted, as the Greeks did and Shakespeare perhaps–but these generalizations are very worthless” (“The Mark on the Wall,” A Haunted House p. 39).
What role does this mark on the wall play in these reflections? It belongs to the surface part of reality which time and again brings our thoughts back to the starting point, when in an effort to grasp the world as a whole, these reflections swarm and threaten to sink into chaos. Woolf realizes how important it is to bring our thoughts back to the material world “which is a proof of some existence other than ours” (“The Mark on the Wall,” in A Haunted House p. 42). One needs the safety of some fixed point. No matter if this fixed point is a mark on the wall, a small hole made by a nail, a small rose leaf or a snail. It is a fixed external reality with consciousness circling around it. 1 Woolf never escapes from this, the reality of the material world, rather she inserts her characters into it, and their perception reflects this reality in a way she believes to be faithful and true.
In “Kew Gardens” the idea of “reflection” is implicit in the impressionistic style in which things and people are conveyed (cf.Velicu, p. 23). People and the world around, animate and inanimate, exist in this story independently of each other, each leading their own life. The atmosphere of a hot summer day is captured masterfully here. Woolf’s descriptions of flowers which change in the summer breeze into mere stains of the most intricate colour, the play of light on the brown earth and the shell of a snail, truly resemble the works of an Impressionist painter:
“The light fell either upon the smooth, grey back of a pebble, or, the shell of a snail with its brown, circular veins, or falling into a raindrop, it expanded with such intensity of red, blue and yellow the thin walls of water that one expected them to burst and disappear” (“Kew Gardens” in A Haunted House p. 28).
Her preoccupation with the fragmentary is much more apparent in “Kew Gardens” than in the short story “The Mark on the Wall.” This fragmentary nature is counterbalanced by her brilliant use of words to convey visual images. Everything is only indicated, nothing has clear contours. The brief descriptions of people and their chaotic movement are in sharp contrast to the detailed description of a snail, which steadfastly, as it were, creeps through the flowerbed and goes so far as to ‘consider’ a way of overcoming its difficulties. But the snail plays a much more important role here than in “The Mark on the Wall.” It is not a mere point of external reality, but some kind of chronometer which underlines the impression of the present moment as well as the passing of time. Visual images evoke memories and associations in the minds of people passing the flowerbed. These reflections sometimes resonate in fragments of their conversations or hide in their silence. Their consciousness is, according to Hilský, fixed into the flowerbed. 2
In the final passage, Woolf impressively conveys the impression of the scorching air when colours, shapes and sounds melt away in green blue vapour. E. M. Forster, who was enchanted by this short story characterizes its conclusion as the victory of flowers:
“Their victory is over the eye: they cause us to see men also as petals or coloured blobs that loom and dissolve in the green blue atmosphere of Kew” (E. M. Forster in Virginia Woolf .The Critical Heritage, p. 69).
1Martin Hilský, Modernisté. Praha: Torst, 1995. p. 24.
5.3.2 To the Lighthouse – External Reality and the Inner Life of Characters
Her conception of modern fiction, which she elucidated in her essays Modern Fiction and Mr Bennett and Mrs Brown and demonstrated in her short stories, Woolf realized in full in her major novels. She is not concerned with the events and conflicts of the objective world but rather is immersed in subjective feelings and the thoughts of characters who are the main part of this world, the concrete appearance of which is often depicted only by means of allusions. What is important to her is the depiction of life in its most perfect aspect, that is in a human personality. Her preoccupation is with life, which is unique, ‘a luminous halo’, and necessitates dealing with the characters from which this light emanates. To grasp this light in all its bright luminescence, means to capture those fleeting moments which make up life itself.
In this chapter I would like to concentrate on the question of whether Woolf, using her impressionist method, managed to evolve a truly convincing character. With a view to doing this, I chose the characters of Mrs Ramsay and Lily Briscoe from the novel To the Lighthouse. The reasons for these choices are the following:
Every character carries in itself certain features of the author’s personality, and it therefore seems plausible that female characters convey Woolf’s way of looking at world and dealings between people better than male characters.
The character of Mrs Ramsay manifests certain qualities of Woolf’s own mother, Julia Stephen – charity work, the ability to intuitively guess people’s characters, a tendency to impose her own will on other people and rushing them into foolhardy marriages (Gordon, p.35).
The character of Lily Briscoe has Woolf’s autobiographical features. An evidence of this claim is a sentence: “She went on tunnelling her way into her picture, into the past.” (To the Lighthouse, p. 267 ) Woolf wrote a similar sentence in her diary when she was discussing her method in connection with writing the novel Mrs Dalloway: “my tunnelling process by which I tell the past by instalments.” (Diary II, 272)
The novel is made up of three parts. A unifying device in all of them is time. In the first part, “The Window,” the events unfold from the late afternoon until late in the evening and the third part, “The Lighthouse” contains the morning. The middle part, “Time Passes”, can be considered a bridge between two major segments which are separated from each other by a gap of ten years. In the novel, however, there is also another, subjectively perceived flow of time. Mrs Ramsay’s time is measured by the waves beating off the shore (To the Lighthouse, pp.27-8), the strokes of the Lighthouse (To the Lighthouse, p. 97) or the throbbing of her pulse resembling the ticking of the watch (To the Lighthouse, p. 126).
Mrs Ramsay and Lily Briscoe represent two different worlds, two different outlooks on life. We learn about these two characters not only from what is going on in their minds, but also from the way their personalities are reflected in the minds of others. Despite the absence of the traditional devices typical of realist fiction, the image of characters created by the Impressionist method of indirect interior monologue is extraordinarily flexible and convincing. It enables the reader to empathize with the characters. Short as well as very long interior monologues occur between separate sentences of conversation, while reading a book to James, or are a reaction to visual or auditory sensations.
The image of Mrs Ramsay, composed of her outlook on life and people, shows some distinctive traits of her personality. The feeling of satisfaction with her own life is not spoiled even by her self-perusal in the mirror which reveals signs of fatigue in her face. But she does not regret that she decided to lead this way of life with an egotistic husband who is an academic philosopher, and eight children. Her Victorian approach to life meets with no response from her own daughters. People trust her for her ability to empathize with them and feel sympathy for them. Various thoughts cross her mind while she is performing her routine duties. When she reads a fairy tale to James, she is bombarded by a huge range of sensations, for example when Mr Carmichael passes along the window and casts a shadow on a page in her book, it reminds her of an inadequacy of human relationships. The shadow contains a hidden suspicion that she helps people out of mere self-gratification. When she hears the ominous beating sound of the waves she realizes that there is something wrong in the relationship between her and her husband. He seeks refuge with her, reassurance of his talent and quality of his books and she fears that he might sense that she is not completely honest with him. Among her close friends she is trying to assert her will, she pushes them into marriage which, she believes, will bring happiness into their lives. And so, while reading the fairy tale, she is also thinking about Minta Doyle and Paul Rauley taking a walk to the cliff and that they might perhaps become engaged. But she would also like to find her niche in another sphere of life, the social sphere. She would like to work on promoting the idea of building a hospital, drains and a dairy on the island, 1 but this is all out of question while the children are young. Here, she contradicts herself, for she does not want them to grow up, she wants to preserve for them the happiness of the present moment, and protect them from the destructive effect of time which often brings pain and disappointment. She sees life as hostile because reason, order and justice are not present in it. Her conception of life is purely private, her own property, not even to her husband or her children does she permit access. Because she perceives life as full of cruelty and animosity, full of suffering, death and poverty, she is forever endeavouring to get the upper hand. Her attempts to deal with life are most successful in the moments of total solitude, when she, free of all worries and strife, lets her personality go and her spirit is free and at peace. Virginia Woolf calls this state of mind a ‘wedge-shaped core of darkness’ which is invisible to others. In spite of the fact that life is unpredictable, there are moments of exquisite happiness, whose fleeting quality she is conscious of, when the flashes of the lighthouse tip the rough waves with silver. These illuminations constitute a part of Mrs Ramsay’s character. Mrs Ramsay searches for an element which would create invisible ties between people who have nothing in common, and for the most part she succeeds in finding it. The resultant effect is a feeling of reconciliation, which she finally spots even in Mr Carmichael’s eyes when her guests are taking their leave after dinner.
The illuminations mentioned above survive, though considerably subdued, even posthumously and this small bit of peculiar light filtered through memory, lingers in Lily Briscoe’s subconscious, to emerge unexpectedly as a ray of knowledge ten years after Mrs Ramsay’s death. We learn about Lily Briscoe mainly from her interior monologues in front of canvas on which she strives to transfer the inner sense of what she perceives through her eyes as well as her heart. What is it that Lily wants to paint when she looks at the staring white wall with bright violet jacmanna and Mrs Ramsay sitting with James at the window? She explains to Mr Bankes, whom she permits to peruse her picture, that she, by the scene of a mother with her child reduced to a triangular purple shape, does not intend to pay tribute to the symbol of motherhood. Her main concern is with the balance of the relations of masses, of lights and shadows. What exactly, however, she wishes to convey by this she finds impossible to put into words, since she does not know it herself at the moment. Lily fights a fight which all true artists have to take up in the name of true portrayal of their vision. In her prose, Virginia Woolf would never have been able to convey this fight so brilliantly had not she known it from her own experience. It is also her struggle for truthful conveyance and a balance of form.
Mrs Ramsay does not take Lily’s painting very seriously, which suggests that she does not understand Lily at all. This is not caused solely by the generation gap (Mrs Ramsay is over fifty, Lily is thirty-three) but also by a diametrically opposite outlook on life. Despite all this, Mrs Ramsay likes Lily and thinks highly of her effort to earn her own living. Lily’s way of life as a single, independent woman is completely alien to Mrs Ramsay and she tries to persuade Lily that only married life is meaningful for a woman. Lily, however, considers herself an artist and she sees the world around her through the eyes of a painter. Her perception of the colours and atmosphere of the approaching autumn bears a resemblance to the Impressionist short story Kew Gardens. She repeatedly fails to transfer her vision, in which the character of Mrs Ramsay is of paramount importance, to canvas. In spite of the fact that Lily regards Mrs Ramsay as the best woman she has ever met, she cannot admire her in the same way as Mr Bankes does, who is literally entranced by seeing a beautiful mother with a child. Lily finds out, however, that the real Mrs Ramsay is not entirely consonant with the perfect figure which became the object of her painting. She has no idea what the cause of this disproportion may be but she suspects that Mrs Ramsay hides some kind of knowledge or wisdom in her heart, which she carefully conceals from people, and thus Lily is desperate to uncover it. Lily believes that discovering this secret will enable her to unlock the composition of her picture. She does not know what magical power Mrs Ramsay exercises to change relationships between people.
Even ten years after her death, the late Mrs Ramsay has the ability to trigger a memory from the abyss of time and oblivion. It is a memory of a moment of composure and reconciliation which Lily once experienced, when she was with Mrs Ramsay and Tansley on the beach, and now it illuminates her mind like a flash of light. Lily realizes that it was one of the small miracles of existence and that the memory of it lived on for years and became a permanent part of her values. The transference of this memory to canvas is the manifestation of this miracle, the creation of something durable, despite the fact that life is so short, startling, unexpected and unknown yet never empty. Lily now knows what to fill it with, to create a shape out of this emptiness. As this idea is so clear, plain and straightforward, one stroke of brush suffices, one simple line. Life is ordinary, yet miraculous.
1On page 14 of To the Lighthouse, Woolf mentions the fictional setting of the novel for the first time. It’s the Isle of Skye in the Hebrides. But the place which served as the basis for this fictional setting is St Ives in the north coast of Cornwall where the Stephens spent every summer from 1883 to 1893 (in Gordon, Lyndall. Virginia Woolf: A Writer’s Life. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Revised Edition, 1991, pp. 3-16).
I would like to conclude my thesis by answering the question inferred from the Introduction: Did the method of literary impressionism truly assist Virginia Woolf in bringing her characters as close to real life as possible? Another question logically follows: Did she manage to free her experience from her own self to allow it to become our experience also? In her essay “Mr Bennett and Mrs Brown,” Woolf in reaction to the article of Arnold Bennett, (cf. note no. 2 in ch. 5.1) asks herself what reality is and who the judges thereof are. In her essay “How it Strikes a Contemporary,” she comments on Jane Austen’s skill as a writer:
“The little grain of experience once selected, believed in, and set outside herself, could be put precisely in its place, and she was then free to make it, by a process which never yields its secrets to the analyst, into that complete statement which is literature.” (The Common Reader, p. 302)
In this way, Woolf views and reviews the work of Jane Austen across a gap of more than one hundred years. The time which passed between Woolf’s writing her major novels and the present day is some three quarters of a century. Since then her works have been analysed by a vast number of critics and the results of their research have often been contradictory. The disagreement concerning the portrayal of reality does not seem set to end any time soon.
The way of understanding reality as perceived by the two selected characters from the novel To the Lighthouse, discussed in chapter 5.3.2, gives us an insight into Virginia Woolf’s search for the sense of life and artistic work. In the character of Mrs Ramsay the author managed to convey both the hostile, unpredictable and ruled-by-chaos aspect of life and the knowledge of permanent interrelation, which penetrates the chaotic flow and illuminates and creates the sense of security and happiness. Lily Briscoe embodies the artist who tries to harness the chaotic perceptions with order, give shape to them and fill an empty space with them. In this never-ending struggle she must explore and express her idea of what gives meaning to life, and surprisingly, she reaches the conclusion that the keys are quite ordinary moments of minor miracle such as the miracle of reconciliation. The source of this miracle is the same light which Mrs Ramsay so sensitively felt and which was tucked away in Lily’s subconsciousness for years. When, in this context, I ask myself a question which Woolf expressed in Modern Fiction: “Is life like this?”, and I would venture to say: Yes, life is like this. It is hostile, unpredictable and full of contradictions, but every day brings us some small miracle which make life worth living. This message of Virginia Woolf has truly bridged the abyss of time and become a beacon of hope for us.
Woolf, Virginia. Collected Essays. Vol. I. London: The Hogarth Press, 1980.
Woolf, Virginia. The Common Reader, No. 1. London: The Hogarth Press, 1945.
Woolf, Virginia. The Diary of Virginia Woolf. Vol. II. Ed. Anne Olivier Bell. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1981.
Woolf, Virginia. A Haunted House and Other Short Stories. London: The Hogarth Press, 1947.
Woolf, Virginia. To the Lighthouse. London: Penguin Books, 1996.
Woolf, Virginia. The Moment and Other Essays. London: The Hogarth Press, 1947.
Woolf, Virginia. Mrs Dalloway. London: Penguin Books, 1996.
Bergson, Henri. Pohyb a myšlení. Trans. Jakub Čapek, et al. Praha: Mladá Fronta, 2003.
Dahl, Liisa. Linguistic Features of the Stream-of-consciousness Techniques of James Joyce, Virginia Woolf and Eugene O’Neill. Turku: Turku Yliopisto, 1970.
Daiches, David. The Novel and the Modern World. Chicago: Phoenic Books, 1965.
Gombrich, E. H. Příběh umění. Trans. Miroslava Tůmová. Praha: Odeon, 1989.
Gordon, Lyndall. Virginia Woolf: A Writer’s Life. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Revised Edition, 1991.
Hilský, Martin, et al. Modernisté. Praha: Torst, 1995.
Hilský, Martin. Od slavíka k papouškovi. Proměny britské prózy. Brno: Host, 2002.
James, William. The Principles of Psychology. Chicago: Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1952.
Pleskotová, Petra. Svět barev. Praha: Albatros, 1987.
Velicu, Adrian. Unifying Strategies in Virginia Woolf’s Experimental Fiction. Uppsala:
Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, 1985.
Virginia Woolf: The Critical Heritage. Ed. Robin Majumdar and Allen McLaurin. London and Boston: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1975.