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Rhythm: Breaking the Illusion

  • Lyndsey Stonebridge
Part of the Language, Discourse, Society book series (LDS)

Abstract

Where Fry distinguishes the rhythms of life from those of art, in Woolf’s writing the ebb and flow of rhythm seems to pull life into the order of art. In her ‘Letter to a Young Poet’ Woolf champions an elegiac and lyrical rhythmical instinct that has the power to transcend disunity, to make a ‘whole’ out of the ‘separate fragments’ of contemporary experience. Woolf had given a voice to such a young poet in the character of Bernard in The Waves:

But it is a mistake, this extreme precision, this orderly and military progress; a convenience, a lie. There is always deep below it, even when we arrive punctually at the appointed time with our white waistcoats and polite formalities, a rushing stream of broken dreams, nursery rhymes, street cries, half-finished sentences and sights — elm trees, willow trees, gardeners sweeping, women writing — that rise and sink even as we hand a lady down to dinner.3

Keywords

Literary History Figurative Language Collective Identification Poetic Language Psychic Life 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    Virginia Woolf, ‘A Letter to a Young Poet’ (1932), The Moment and Other Essays ed. Leonard Woolf, London: Hogarth Press, 1947, p. 141.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Virginia Woolf, The Years (1937), London: Hogarth Press, 1974, p. 464.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Virginia Woolf, The Waves (1931), London: Grafton, 1989, p. 171–3.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Jane Marcus, ‘Thinking Back Through Our Mothers’, in New Feminist Essays on Virginia Woolf ed. Jane Marcus, London: Macmillan, 1981, P. 9.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Virginia Woolf, ‘“Anon” and “The Reader”’ (1939–40), ed. Brenda Silver, Twentieth Century Literature 25, 1979, p. 374.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Julia Kristeva, Revolution in Poetic Language trans. Margaret Waller, New York: Columbia University Press, 1984, p. 29.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    For Kristevan readings of Woolf, see Makiko Minow Pinkney, ‘ Virginia Woolf “Seen from a Foreign Land”’ in Abjection, Melancholia and Love: The Work of Julia Kristeva ed. John Fletcher and Andrew Benjamin, London and New York: Routledge, 1991, pp. 162–77, and her full-length study, Virginia Woolf and the Problem of the Subject. See also Rebecca Saunders, ‘Language, Subject, Self: Reading the Style of To the Lighthouse’, Novel: A Forum on Fiction 26, 2, Winter 1993, pp. 192–251.Google Scholar
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    Julia Kristeva, Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection trans. Leon S. Roudiez, New York: Columbia University Press, 1982, p. 179.Google Scholar
  9. 10.
    For a suggestive glimpse into what may well have been Sharpe’s analysis of Adrian Stephen, see Ella Freeman Sharpe, Dream Analysis: A Practical Handbook for Psycho-Analysts (1937), London: Karnac Books, 1978, pp. 122–3. An unnamed dreamer dreams of a ‘genealogical table set out [which] showed how characters in Jane Austen’s novels were related to one another’. Sharpe’s analysis traces the dream back to a family genealogy which corresponds to that of the Stephen family: ‘The dreamer as a little boy had this conundrum. X was his sister, Y was his sister and Z was his brother. A was his brother and so was B, but the father of A and B was dead while the boy’s own father was alive. Yet his mother was the mother of A and B … The dreamer chose an eminent woman novelist as a tribute to his own mother who created children who became distinguished in later life …. In the logic of this child’s range of facts it was inevitable that the father must die after children had been created’.Google Scholar
  10. 11.
    The temporality of rhythm in Sharpe’s work seems to be a marginal issue. For a recent account of the psychic temporalities of rhythm, see Nicolas Abraham, ‘Psychoanalytic Aesthetics’ Time, Rhythm and the Unconscious’, Rhythms: On the Work, Translation and Psychoanalysis collected and presented by Nicholas T. Rand and Maria Torok, trans. Benjamin Thigpen and Nicholas T. Rand, California: Stanford University Press, 1995, pp. 107–30.Google Scholar
  11. 12.
    Ella Freeman Sharpe, ’similar and Divergent Unconscious Determinants Underlying the Sublimation of Pure Art and Pure Science’ (1934) in Collected Papers on Psychoanalysis ed. Marjorie Brierley, London: Hogarth Press, 1950, p. 104.Google Scholar
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  13. 15.
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  14. 16.
    Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own (1929), London: Grafton, 1985, p. 99.Google Scholar
  15. 24.
    Nicolas Abraham and Maria Torok, ‘Introjection-Incorporation: Mourning or Melancholia’, Psychoanalysis in France ed. Serge Lebovici and D. Widlocher, New York: International University Press, 1980, p. 6.Google Scholar
  16. 26.
    See Emile Benveniste, ‘La notion de “rythme” dans son expression linguistique’, Problèmes de linguistique générale, vol. 1, Paris: Gallimard, 1966, pp. 327–35. This translation, Problems in General Linguistics trans. Mary Meek, Florida: University of Miami Press, 1971, p. 287.Google Scholar
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    See Emile Benveniste, ‘Semiologie de la langue’, Problèmes de linguistique générale, vol. 2 Paris: Gallimard, 1974.Google Scholar
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    See Virginia Woolf, Roger Fry: A Biography p. 232; Leonard Woolf, After the Deluge: A Study of Communal Psychology Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1937 and Quack, Quack London: Hogarth Press, 1935.Google Scholar
  19. 35.
    Virginia Woolf, A Reflection of the Other Person: The Letters of Virginia Woolf vol. 4, 1929–1931, ed. Nigel Nicholson, London: Hogarth, 1978, p. 204.Google Scholar
  20. 40.
    William Empson, Some Versions of Pastoral (1935), London: Chatto and Windus, 1974.Google Scholar
  21. 42.
    Virginia Woolf, ‘Introductory Letter’, Life As We Have Known It ed. Margaret Llewelyn Davies, London: Hogarth, 1931Google Scholar
  22. Virginia Woolf, The Diary of Virginia Woolf, vol. 5, 1939–1941 ed. Anne Olivier Bell, Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1988, p. 288Google Scholar
  23. John Mepham, Virginia Woolf: A Literary Life London: Macmillan, 1991, p. 191.Google Scholar
  24. 47.
    J. Hillis Miller, ‘Between the Acts Repetition as Extrapolation’, Fiction and Repetition: Seven English Novels Cambridge, Massachusetts: University of Harvard Press, 1982, p. 240.Google Scholar
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    Virginia Woolf, Pointz Hall: The Earlier and Later Typescripts of Between the Acts ed. Mitchell A. Leaska, New York: University Publications, 1983, pp. 61–2.Google Scholar
  26. 49.
    Alex Zwerdling, Virginia Woolf and the Real World Berkeley: University of California Press, 1986, p. 308.Google Scholar
  27. 50.
    Virginia Woolf, Between the Acts (1941), London: Grafton Books, 1988, p. 89.Google Scholar
  28. 65.
    Lacan first delivered ‘La stade du miroir’ at the fourteenth International Psychoanalytic Congress, Marienbad in 1936. See Jacques Lacan, ‘The mirror stage as formative of the function of the I as revealed in psychoanalytic experience’, Ecrits trans. Alan Sheridan, London: Tavistock/Routledge, 1977.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Lyndsey Stonebridge 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lyndsey Stonebridge
    • 1
  1. 1.University of East AngliaUK

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