Virginia Woolf — To the Lighthouse
One does not have to read very much of To the Lighthouse before one realizes that Woolf has chosen here a very particular style, a way of telling the story which exerts a strange and compelling effect upon the reader. In this lecture I wish to focus upon some aspects of this style in order to consider some of the ways in which a few very important aspects of what this novel has to reveal are directly linked to the author’s decisions about point of view and language.
One of my major purposes in this lecture is to offer some suggestions about why we might consider Woolf a major modernist writer and link her to other modernist artists we have been considering in Liberal Studies, even to those who, at first glance perhaps, don’t seem to share quite the same style: Kafka, Eliot, and certain modern painters.
I shall be trying to establish as my major point the idea that what does link Woolf to these other modernists is the way in which her style compels us to recognize a fundamental problem of modern life: the deep and apparently unbridgeable dichotomy between the fragmented inner world of the self and any sense of coherent order to the world beyond the self, that is, the world of human relationships, of nature, of society as a totality.