[Vwoolf] Number 1 misreading of Woolf?

Christine Froula cfroula at northwestern.edu
Mon May 18 09:27:16 EDT 2020

I've always taken VW to be saying that the incessantly rain of atoms of 
experience is the existential condition of modern life, leading to the 
question: how does the artist make a work of art under this condition? I 
don't think that's an unusual reading. It's also important to reflect on 
what she means in referring to JJ as "the spiritual Mr Joyce."

On 5/18/2020 7:58 AM, Mark Hussey via Vwoolf wrote:
> I don’t quite agree with Naremore here. Woolf mentions Joyce as ‘the 
> most notable’ of ‘several young writers’ who are chafing at 
> convention, and I think it is reasonable to see herself as implicitly 
> included among those ‘young writers’. Her complaint about Joyce is 
> more specific; his (narrative) ‘self’ ‘never embraces or creates what 
> is outside itself and beyond’, he lays a ‘didactic’ emphasis upon 
> indecency.  I don’t think those writers you quote are taking the lines 
> from ‘Modern Fiction’ out of context, and it seems to me reasonable to 
> take the essay (in both its 1919 and 1925 iterations) as a modernist 
> manifesto, though not necessarily as a recipe for how to make a Woolf 
> novel.
> *From:* Vwoolf <vwoolf-bounces+mhussey=verizon.net at lists.osu.edu> *On 
> Behalf Of *Jeremy Hawthorn via Vwoolf
> *Sent:* Monday, May 18, 2020 7:52 AM
> *To:* vwoolf <vwoolf at lists.osu.edu>
> *Subject:* [Vwoolf] Number 1 misreading of Woolf?
> Looking through some old notes I came across this, taken from James 
> Naremore's 1973 book /The World Without a Self: Virginia Woolf and the 
> Novel/. Naremore quotes a celebrated sentence from Woolf's "Modern 
> Fiction" essay: "Let us record the atoms as they fall upon the mind in 
> the order in which they fall, let us trace the pattern, however 
> disconnected and incoherent in appearance, which each sight or 
> incident scores upon the consciousness." He comments that the sentence 
> "has been quoted out of context over and over again to describe her 
> technique. In its proper context, however, it is clear that the 
> passage is an abstract of what Virginia Woolf thinks Joyce's method 
> tells us. She herself was seldom predisposed to "record the atoms as 
> they fall." She rather dislikes such a method, and she explains why a 
> few lines later: [quotes from "Is it the method" to "into the 
> bargain"] (p. 72)
> I wondered whether the sentence was still being taken as a description 
> by Woolf of her own method, or of a method that she recommended, and 
> so carried out a quick Google search. To be fair, a good number of 
> commentators correctly noted that Woolf was not describing her own 
> compositional method or recommended principles. But many persist in 
> asserting that this was indeed what Woolf was doing. The following are 
> representative (I have changed the wording slightly so as not to 
> enable the identification of specific individuals).
> * . . . her own instructions to her fellow modern novelists in "Modern 
> Fiction": "Let us record the atoms as they fall . . . upon the 
> consciousness."
> * Woolf asks that the novelist should "record record the atoms as they 
> fall upon the mind in the order in which they fall”"
> *. . . she seeks an art than comes "closer to life," that tries to 
> capture what life is really like: "let us record the atoms . . . upon 
> the consciousness"
> * Novelists, Woolf stated, should "record the atoms as they fall upon 
> the mind in the order in which they fall, let us trace the pattern, 
> however disconnected and incoherent…"
> * "Let us record the atoms as they fall upon the mind in the order in 
> which they fall," she advised
> * Woolf called on the novelist to find new ways to represent 
> consciousness: "Let us record etc etc"
> * Woolf insists that writers must instead "record the atoms as they 
> fall upon etc etc"
> I think that Naremore must be pretty irritated that 47 years later 
> critics are still making the same mistake.
> Jeremy H
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