Open Access Dissertation
Date of Award
This dissertation examines the role of representations of time in Virginia Woolf’s Jacob’s Room, Orlando: A Biography, and The Waves to illustrate the development of an androgynous time that is located between the inner subjective time of each individual, inspired by Henri Bergson’s durée, and the stunted measured time of society.
The Introduction provides an overview of my argument and critical approach, as well as illustrates the background in which Woolf was writing. The Introduction also introduces the ideas of French philosopher Bergson, whose theories on time will be instrumental in forming Woolf’s androgynous time.
The remainder of the dissertation will examine three pivotal works in Woolf’s development of androgynous time. Chapter One looks at Woolf’s first experimental novel, Jacob’s Room, and closely reads the relationships between the men and women of the novel. In doing so, it highlights the dangerous effects of external time on women and men, creating Bergsonian “ghosts” that are mere impression representations of selves. Women’s time is directly tied to their sexual desirability, while the men of the novel are given access to culture and education only to be killed off in war.
In Chapter Two I turn to Orlando: A Biography, a fantastical novel with an expansive amount of time covered between its chapters. Orlando changes genders in the novel, experiencing life, and therefore the effects of time, as both a man and a woman. Orlando embraces both sameness and difference, a characteristic that failed in Jacob’s Room but will resurface again in The Waves. Through close reading, I highlight the tension that exists between the internal and external in Orlando, using Bergson’s theories of duration and external societal time. Orlando, through the gender change and hundreds of years, keeps his/her durée, a sense of self that continues to develops but still holds on to the same markings of a life history, including memories.
In Chapter Three I argue that The Waves illustrates the most successful depiction of an androgynous temporality. Woolf again highlights the internal durée by creating a novel in where there is no traditional narrator or dialogue as internal monologues provide all the information of the novel. Yet, these six characters share memories, phrases, and language, borrowing moments from one another through a collective shared consciousness. This sharing of life events occurs in androgynous time, as characters are able to move from their durées and acknowledge the presence of others without completely losing their subjective times in the external world. I also address the role of gender in each character’s life and relationship to time, as Woolf again shows the different lives that men and women live because of societal expectations that are directly related to time.
Whitmore, Ashley, "“life Is A Luminous Halo”: Gender And Androgynous Time In Virginia Woolf" (2015). Wayne State University Dissertations. 1354.