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Essay on To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf

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To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf


When speaking of modernism in the work Virginia Woolf, scholars too readily use her innovations in style and technique as the starting point for critical analysis, focusing largely on the ways in which her prose represents a departure from the conventional novel in both style and content. To simply discuss the extent of her unique style, however, is to overlook the role of tradition in her creation of a new literary identity. In To the Lighthouse, Woolf's invention reveals itself instead as a reinvention, a recasting of the conventional through the use of the traditional. Within the text, this relationship manifests itself in Lily Briscoe's relationship with Mrs. Ramsay and the extent to which the domestic woman influences Lily Briscoe's own reinvention of her feminine identity (Barett 33). But Woolf’s reliance on the traditional as a means of reinvention runs deeper than the prose alone; it extends into the very structure and arrangement of the narrative itself, where Woolf considered To the Lighthouse an elegy to her parents rather than a novel. Such a distinction does more than simply underscore Woolf’s intention in writing To the Lighthouse; the invocation of the classical Greek poetic form demands a reconsideration of the work’s structural and rhetorical influences. As this essay will suggest, a critical analysis of Woolf’s elegiac aims in To the Lighthouse does not merely illuminate its autobiographical nature, but also reveals the extent to which the traditional concept of elegy shapes Woolf’s modernist construction of space-time.

Before examining the effect of the elegiac structure within the text, however, it is necessary to define more specifically the concept...


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... last, the renewal of traditional elegiac form in an innovative way, influenced by the past without becoming its imitation.







Works Cited


Aiken, C. (1927). The Novel A Work of Art. Dial, 83, 4.

Boland, E. (2000). To the Lighthouse (pp. ix-xxv). London, England: Vintage Classics.

Ellmann, M. (2000). To the Lighthouse (pp. xvi-xxvi). London, England: Vintage Classics.

Kelley, A. V. (1973). To the Lighthouse. The Novels of Virginia Woolf: Fact and Vision (pp. 114-143). Chicago, Illinois: The University of Chicago Press.

Woolf, V., & Barrett, M. (1980). Introduction. Virginia Woolf, women and writing (pp. 1-57). New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.

Woolf, V. (1992). To the Lighthouse. London, England: Vintage Classics.

Zwerdling, A. (1986). Virginia Woolf and the real world. Berkeley: University of California Press.


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