«THE UNIVERSITY OF HULL A Sense of Freedom: A Study of Virginia Woolf's Short Fiction being a Thesis submitted for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy ...»
THE UNIVERSITY OF HULL
"A Sense of Freedom": A Study of Virginia Woolf's Short Fiction
being a Thesis submitted for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy
in the University of Hull
Nena Skrbic·, BA
Chapter 1 17
Virginia Woolf and the Short Story: An Overview
Chapter 2 58 Through the Realist Frame: "Phyllis and Rosamond" (1906), "Memoirs of a Novelist" (1909) and "The Journal of Mistress Joan Martyn" (1906) Chapter 3 95 "Sudden intensities": Surrealistic Aspects of Woolf's Early and Late Short Fiction Chapter 4 129 "Across the border": Ghostly Motifs in Woolf's Early Short Fiction, "Kew Gardens" (1919) and "A Haunted House" (1921 ) Chapter 5 158 "Reflecting what passes": Reflections and Mirrors in "The New Dress" (1925), "The Lady in the Looking-Glass" (1929) and "The Fascination of the Pool" (1929) Chapter 6 191 "Wild outbursts of freedom": "Monday or Tuesday" (1921) and "Blue and Green" (1921) Conclusion 214 Appendices 216 Appendix A [The Manchester Zoo. Apr. 1906]. 3 pp ts. (A 24 a.) 219 AppendixB Sunday up the River. 1 p ms (A.23 a) 223 AppendixC [The Penny Steamer]. 3 pp ms (A.23 b) 226 Down the river to Greenwich. 6th July'08. 1p ms (A.23 d) AppendixD 229 AppendixE Fantasy upon a gentleman who converted his impressions of a private house into cash. 2 pp ts. (A.19) 234 AppendixF Victor Brauner L 'etrange cas de Monsieur K (fragment) (1934) 237 AppendixG 238 Umberto Boccioni States ofMind II: Those who Go (1911 ) AppendixH Umberto Boccioni States ofMind II: Those who Stay (1911) 239 Bibliography For Dusan and SofIja Skrbicf' Acknowledgments This work was made possible by a University of Hull Scholarship. Work on the Monks House Papers at Sussex University was facilitated by the support of the Carl Baron Memorial Fund and I would like to express my gratitude to the trustees.
The section on "Phyllis and Rosamond" in Chapter Two appears in the Virginia Woolf Bulletin, No.5 (September 2000). Chapter Four will appear, with slight variations, in Trespassing Boundaries: A Collection of Critical Essays on Virginia Woolf's Short Fiction (forthcoming): to the editors of these publications, Kathryn Benzel, Stuart N.
Clarke and Professor Ruth Hoberman, my thanks.
For permission to print transcriptions of the manuscripts of "Sunday up the River" (c.1906), "The Penny Steamer" (c.1906), "The Manchester Zoo" (1906) and "Down the river to Greenwich" (1908) I wish to thank the Monks House Papers, Sussex University Library, Sussex University, Brighton who kindly made these previously unpublished stories from Virginia Woolf available and the Society of Authors as the Literary Representative of the Estate of Virginia Woolf who have kindly permitted them to be printed. The generous assistance of Mrs Elizabeth Ingles at the Monks House Papers is also gratefully acknowledged.
During work on this thesis I have consulted a number of people about the topic, each of whom have made valuable comments and suggestions. First and foremost I would like to extend my warmest appreciation to Professor Angela Leighton whose unwavering support, guidance and supervision throughout this study has been essential. I also gratefully acknowledge Dr Helen Baron whose editorial assistance on the Monks House Papers was invaluable and the advice and comments made by Kathryn Benzel, Dr James Booth, Stuart N. Clarke, Professor Ruth Hoberman, Dr Owen Knowles and Dr Patsy Stoneman.
This thesis is dedicated to my parents, Dusan and Sofija Skrbic~ whose support
Virginia Woolf's short fiction fOIms a large part of her output (forty-five of her stories are collected in Susan Dick's 1985 collection The Complete Shorter Fiction o/Virginia Woolf), but they are routinely sidelined in favour of her novels which remain her pre-eminent literary legacy.l Consequently, her short fiction is a rather ill-defmed area and, apart from Dean Baldwin's briefhistory Virginia Woolf: A Study o/the Short Fiction (1989), there is as yet no systematic treatment of it. Even though the forthcoming American study Trespassing Boundaries: A Collection o/Critical Essays on Virginia Woolf's Short Fiction suggests renewed interest, Woolf's short fiction is underpromoted to the extent that some of it remains unpublished to this day. 2 Woolf is excluded from most histories of the short story fOIm. In The Modem Short Story: A Critical Survey (1972) H.E. Bates concentrates on the short fiction of D.H.
Lawrence and James Joyce, but ignores Woolf, placing her alongside Aldous Huxley and claiming that "beside their novels" their short stories are "negligible" (196). Bates also excludes Woolf from his list of post-war women short story writers who "brought distinction to the modem short story" (208-09). Apart from Elizabeth Bowen, Kay Boyle, Katherine Mansfield, Katherirte Ann Porter and Pauline Smith, some of the women who feature on this list, for example, Malachi Whitaker, Mary Arden, Dorothy Edwards,
Winifred Williams and Ruth Suckow, are relatively unknown today. In The Short Story:
Although Sandra Kemp collects fifteen short stories in Virginia Woolf: Selected Short Stories. (London:
I Penguin, 1993; repro 2000) and a number of stories were translated into French in 1993 in Kew Gardens and Other Short Stories. Trans. Pierre Norden. (Paris: Livre de Poche, Les Langues Modernes, 1993), a collected edition of Woolf's stories have not been reissued in English since the second edition of Susan Dick's collection appeared in 1989. Five of Woolf's stories: "Kew Gardens" (1919), "Solid Objects" (1920), "The Duchess and the Jeweller" (1938), "Lappin and Lapinova" (1939) and "The Legacy" (1944) are issued as Virginia Woolf. Five Short Stories (1999) - Audiotapes read by Douglas and Thomas Verrall. Individual stories have appeared in anthologies, however. "A Haunted House" (1921) can be found in The Omnibus of Twentieth Century Ghost Stories. Ed Robert Phillips. (London: Robinson, 1992), 279-80; "The New Dress" (1925) is in That Kind of Woman: Stories from the Left Bank and Beyond. Edited and Introduced by Bronte Adams and Trudi Tate. (London: Virago, 1997), 50-59; "The Legacy" appears in The Chatto Book of Love Stories. (London: Chatto & Windus, 1997); and ''Solid Objects" is included in The Oxford Book of English Short Stories. Ed. A.S. Byatt. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), 204-09. For a review of Kew Gardens and Other Short Stories (1993). see Mary Ann Caws, "Hauntings: French Translations of Woolfs Short Stories"". Virginia WooJfMisceilany. No. 54 (Fall 1999), 2-3.
2 These unpublished stories are: "The Manchester Zoo" (1906), ""The Penny Steamer"" (c. 1906), "Sunday up the River" (c. 1906) and "Do\\TI the river to Greenwich" (1908) and first appear in an Appendix to this study.
Henry James to Elizabeth Bowen (1988) John Bayley makes no mention of Woolf, or any other female short story writer, in his list of "the great masters of the form" (viii) which comprises Anton Chekhov, James Joyce, Henry James, Franz Kafka, Rudyard Kipling and D.H. Lawrence. Similarly, Ian Reid does not mention Woolf at all in his study The Short Story (1977) and Heather McClave's collection of essays, Women Writers of the Short Story (1980) omits her entirely. Bernard Blackstone reiterates a commonly held
misconception about Woolf's relationship with the short story, when he asserts:
I don't think Virginia Woolf was ever very successful in the short story form. She needed space to develop her impressionistic technique and her analysis of character, to build up her special atmosphere, and she didn't find this in the short
Similarly, John Bayley considers that Woolf "of all writers, is least by nature a composer of short stories" (124) and Joanne Trautmann Banks also underestimates her affinity with the form when she maintains that "it was as a novelist that Woolf found her deepest pleasure" (1985: 63). My thesis addresses this misconception about Woolf's apparently noncommittal relationship with the short story and affIrms that, contrary to these opinions, Woolf's instinct from the very beginning of her career was for brevity.
The reasons behind the disregard of Woolf s short fiction may stem from critical unease about the short story genre itself, particularly its ideological distinction from the novel. In his article "The Short Story: An Underrated Art" (1964) Thomas Gullason points out that, despite its longevity, the short story remains "underrated" in favour of the noveL This neglect of the short story - a criticism that is still relevant today - is due to the fact that it has neither the commercial potential nor the public appeal of the novel and is mainly "a private art, between writer and reader" (13). 3 Gullason goes on to argue that we rarely get Here Gullason echoes the comment of Frank O'Connor in The Lonely Voice: A Study of the Short Story (1963) that the short story "began, and continues to function, as a private art intended to satisfy the standards of the indi"idual. solitary, critical reader" (14). Also, see Gullason, "Revelation and Eyolution: A Neglected Dimension of the Short Story", Studies in Short Fiction, VoL 10 (1973), 347-56 where Gul1ason notes that one of the reasons why writers of short fiction remain with the form rather than concentrating on novels stems from a notion that the short story can "approximate truth and reality far more persuasively" than the novel (356): and "The Short Story: Revision and Renewal", Studies in Short Fiction. VoL 19 (1982). 221-30 in full-scale studies of writers' shorter fiction and, even if critics do refer to short stories, they often view them as "miniature pieces echoing the novels to come, or pieces left over from novels already published". This is despite the fact that the short story might be a novelist's "earliest and best medium" (l4, 22). Through Gullason's comments, insights emerge into Woolf's own short fiction. In particular, the notion that the short story is "a private art" foregrounds one of the issues of this study, which is that Woolf's short story writing can be explained as a private rather than a public pursuit. What is most striking about Woolf's short fiction is the manner in which many of her stories were written. It was characteristic of Woolf to write short stories peripherally, displacing her energies into "side stories" (Diary 3: 106) whilst working on her novels or essays. Her short story writing might be seen as a private writing, a largely liminal activity that freed her from the anxiety of writing for a public and put her out of the view of the "official eye" (Letters I: 178) of editors and publishers. For example, "Phyllis and Rosamond" (1906), "The Journal of Mistress Joan Martyn" (1906) and "Memoirs of a Novelist" (1909), examined in Chapter 2, can be traced to a particular impulse to thwart the official censor and answer a desperate need for secrecy, concealment and anonymity. These stories helped her to identify, develop and nurture her own voice before she had even begun to write novels, enabling her to gain confidence as a writer. But, perhaps the most interesting aspect of these stories is their female voice. In them, we fmd Woolf questioning the realist frame of traditional male storytelling which she inherited from the Victorians.
which GuJlason expands upon his article "The Short Story: An Underrated Art" (1964) by arguing that, if the short stol)' is to gain credibility, it needs to cast off "the ghost of Poe" (223) and his delimitive ideas of singleness of effect: "Great stories provide more questions than answers. They provide more effects than one effect. They hayc more than one story to tell: and they teU their stories in more than one way" (229).
Short story theorists argue that there is a link between the short story's frontier status and the position of the woman writer writing on the edges of patriarchal tradition.
Clare Hanson claims that the short story "has been from its inception a particularly
appropriate vehicle for the expression of the ex-centric, alienated vision of women" (1989:
3). Hermione Lee substantiates this view by conceding "some distinctive angles of vision" (1995: x) to the female short story writer. One of these is the conflict between the private and the public self or "secret visions and unwelcome realities" (xi). Certainly, for Woolf, the short story is particularly suited to articulating the silent female voice. In A Room of One's Own (1929) Woolf points to the unsuitability of the novel for the woman writer, questioning whether it is "rightly shaped" for women's use and explicitly addresses the relationship of the female writer to shorter fiction, stating that women's literary works should be "shorter, more concentrated, than those of men, and framed so that they do not need long hours of steady and uninterrupted work" (77, 78). This idea of the different, female frame underpins most of her short fiction which resists the masculine, realist frame in favour of a move towards the nebulous margins of the feminine. "Phyllis and Rosamond" (1906), "The Journal of Mistress Joan Martyn" (1906) and "Memoirs of a Novelist" (1909) reveal an intriguing chasm between the public image and the private woman who is socially withdrawn and removed from society. Whereas the masculine frame of representation strives for integration, the women in Woolf's short fiction move towards the periphery and
pose a silent threat to the stable frame. As Bonnie Heather Hall observes:
Much of Woolf s short fiction can be seen as patterned on a search for the subjectivity of the female consciousness. She continually engages with the question of how one constructs a female subject in the face of both the idealized and prosaic images of women which are pervasive in literature (51).
"The Journal of Mistress Joan Martyn", for example, through its diary format, challenges the narrative sequence which pushes female characters towards marriage and domesticity.
According to Carolyn Heilbrun, Woolf "early realized, deeply if unconsciously, that the narratives provided for women were insufficient for her needs" (120) and it is in her early stories in particular that Woolf begins to resist the masculine frame, seeking an authentic voice that might faithfully articulate female experience.