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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The logical imagination: the novels of Virginia Woolf Baillargeon, Gerald Victor


Beginning with the premise that Virginia Woolf's novels exhibit a dual perspective of psychological mimesis and apocalyptic allegory, this dissertation formulates a critical theory of vision which operates on literary principles extracted, with a number of modifications, from two studies of Romantic transcendence: Thomas Weiskel's The Romantic Sublime: Studies in the Structure and Psychology of Transcendence, and the Second Essay of Northrop Frye's Anatomy of Criticism. The narrative role of the Woolfian "moment of being" is explored in her nine novels as a fictional analogue of Weiskel's "sublime moment," a metaphorical subplot in which the harmonious relation between the self and nature breaks down. When the moment of being does not merely collapse into a cycle of nature worship, it follows an Oepidal path of reactive identification in which the character identifies with the prevailing cultural pattern, or "father." Thus the fictional character experiences the moment of being as a failed psychological transcendence. From the perspective of apocalyptic allegory, these novels engage the imagination of the reader by means of the "logical imagination": that is, the poetic Logos becomes-, the anagogic Word. This revolutionary concept of apocalypse is adapted from the theory of symbols that Frye discusses in Anatomy of Criticism, where the "anagogic symbol" is identified with the divine Word. In Woolf's allegory, "there is no God; we are the words" (Moments of Being, 72). The view of Woolf's vision as a dual perspective implies that Woolf advocated, and developed, fictional forms that juxtapose realistic and mythopoeic constructs. Her characters, plots, and settings represent life in this world as a failed transcendence, while her mythical and metaphorical structures define for the reader an imaginative apocalyptic quest having five identifiable stages: 1) the presentation of an inner psychological realm where the imaginary and the real seem inextricable, 2) the discovery of the "out there" as a solid basis for imaginative identity, 3) the exploration of a crisis of vacancy out of which the imaginative self becomes reborn, 4) the establishment of an imaginative pattern as a prelude to the rejection of the "fatherhood" influence of history and society, and 5) the apocalyptic awakening of "ourselves" from the dream of history and of selfhood. From the investigation of these developments in Woolf's vision emerges a distinct novelistic canon. This study, as a whole, documents Virginia Woolf's "own particular search--not after morality or beauty or reality--no ; but after literature itself" (The Diary of Virginia Woolf, I, 214).

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