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Chapitre D'ouvrage Année : 2018

“Reading the two things at the same time”: Victorian modernism in to the lighthouse


As a modernist ars poetica coming to terms with the ghosts of a Victorian past, and '‘inhabiting two worlds at once’' (E.M. Forster), To the Lighthouse is of paramount importance in any attempt to reassess the continuities between Victorianism and Modernism. Indeed, Virginia Woolf’s greatest formal innovation in To the Lighthouse is that she did not try to reduce the tension between modernism and more traditional narrative structures, but turned this tension into a structuring device, which enabled her to summon the past and suggest the process of its vanishing. The enduring significance of Woolf’s novel seems to lie in her ability to turn Victorian subtexts into '‘intertextual tropes,” signs pointing simultaneously to a meaning or set of values and to its absence, metaphors evoking '‘two things at the same time.” Leslie Stephen’s nautical imagery of shipwrecks and drowning from '‘An Agnostic’s Apology’' becomes part of a meditation on memory and the attempt to salvage the past. Ruskin’s Pharos from Sesame and Lilies, casting its gentle domestic light, '‘creating drawing-room and kitchen,” '‘set[ting] them all aglow,” is turned into a new semaphore, the secret signifier of reminiscence itself. While re-examining Victorian subtexts in To the Lighthouse and suggesting new lines of filiation with the writings of Alfred Tennyson, John Ruskin and Leslie Stephen, this chapter aims to highlight the semiotics of literary recollection in Woolf’s novel and reaffirm the centrality of her '‘Victorian modernism.”. © 2018 Taylor & Francis.


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hal-03690474 , version 1 (08-06-2022)


  • HAL Id : hal-03690474 , version 1


Marie Laniel. “Reading the two things at the same time”: Victorian modernism in to the lighthouse. Beyond the Victorian/ Modernist Divide, Taylor and Francis, 2018, 978-1-351-33324-5. ⟨hal-03690474⟩
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