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Virginia Woolf: A mosaic of nonverbal arts

Abbs, Carolyn (2001) Virginia Woolf: A mosaic of nonverbal arts. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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My thesis recognizes Virginia Woolf's writing to be composed of a mosaic of multiple art forms such as painting, film, dance, clothes and textiles accentuating the nonverbal in writing. I argue throughout that the nonverbal was of great importance to Woolf in order to create the subject and the feelings and sensations of corporeality. While the depiction of the subject as opposed to the directly delineated character is part of the modernist project in general, Woolf s feminist agenda is incorporated into her aestheticism and forms her very specific modernism. I regard her writing to be a political creative practice that renders a bodily closeness, a corporeality, that is accrued by the accentuation of multiple senses through writing. In addition, I argue how women as subjects in Woolf's political creative practice are portrayed as movement as opposed to mere spatiality.

This does not mean that the subject does not have a space but rather, that she operates as an unrestricted body and mobile spatiality. Taking into account a certain historicity and Woolf s social milieu, in particular members of the Bloomsbury group, various artistic connections and none the least her sister Vanessa Bell, I suggest that Woolf while remaining faithful to her profession of writing was fascinated with other art forms. She was forever intrigued how nonverbal arts could convey meaning and these traits became part of her experimentation. Painting enables an initial potential spatiality for the subject but a spatiality that can be extended beyond. Simultaneously, there is the experience of viewing a painting in that this is not merely a visual experience but rather, it is involved with other senses; in particular the tactile. The fluidity of cinema causes an emotion of the subject that is mobile while movement is extended by the kinaesthetic qualities of dance to convey the sensuality and rhythm of bodily movement. Clothes and textiles in many ways incorporate the previous art forms but clothes and textiles are especially significant in creating closeness. It seems that via clothes and textiles, and in particular the memory of her mother, Woolf was able to fictionalize memory as perception and re-create the feelings and sensations of closeness of/to the body.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Division of Social Sciences, Humanities and Education
Notes: Note to the author: If you would like to make your thesis openly available on Murdoch University Library's Research Repository, please contact: Thank you.
Supervisor(s): Ruthrof, Horst
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