Choose your screen resolution: Auto adjust 800x600 1024x768


Study on subjectivity and feminism_Virginia Woolf’s_the new dress_2
Marţi, 08 Iunie 2010 00:00

STUDY ON SUBJECTIVITY AND FEMINISM

IN VIRGINIA WOOLF’S THE NEW DRESS

Part II

 

Prof. Delia Ilona Cristea

Colegiul Naţional Elena Cuza, Craiova


It is through the searching for a language unmarked by culture coded as masculine that Woolf discovers or develops the stream-of-consciousness technique. What makes Woolf’s narrative gendered as feminine? Firstly, it is a language not yet formulated into speech. Woolf tries to present the content of consciousness as it was before it had been shaped in obedience to the demands of practical life. Woolf’s emphasis is placed on the exploration of the pre-speech (semiotic or pre-oedipal) level of consciousness as closer to the feminine for the purpose, primarily, of revealing the true reality, the psychic “being” instead of “states of doing” of the characters. The semiotic, stemming from the pre-oedipal phase, bound with the child’s contact with the mother’s body, is thus closely connected with femininity. The child in the pre-oedipal phase “does not yet have access to language”, to the symbolic, to the “Law of the father”, but we can imagine its communication by a flow of “body” pulsions”(Eagleton 188). This pre-oedipal “rhythmic pattern”, like the stream-of-conscious, in its inchoate nature, can be seen as non-patriarchal language. Since the semiotic is not yet meaningful and not yet organized into the symbolic, it is more typical of a womwn. This is why Mabel’s frame of mind seems to be better transmitted and grasped in this non-linear form, her inner monologue being more eloquent for the reader than any other dialogue, which in fact she manages to create in her mind, following a characteristically active and remarkably vivid flow of thoughts.And this, obviously, is quintessentially feminine. (“We are all like flies trying to crawl over the edge of the saucer, Mabel thought, and repeated the phrase as if she were crossing herself, as if she were trying to find some spell to annul this pain, to make this agony endurable. Tags of Shakespeare, lines from books she had read ages ago, suddenly came to her when she was in agony, and she repeated them over and over again.  "Flies trying to crawl," she repeated.  If she could say that over often enough and make herself see the flies, she would become numb, chill, frozen, dumb. Now she could see flies crawling slowly out of a saucer of milk with their wings stuck together; and she strained and strained (standing in front of the looking-glass, listening to Rose Shaw) to make herself see Rose Shaw and all the other people there as flies, trying to hoist themselves out of something, or into something, meagre, insignificant, toiling flies.  But she could not see them like that, not other people.  She saw herself like that -- she was a fly, but the others were dragonflies, butterflies, beautiful insects, dancing, fluttering, skimming, while she alone dragged herself up out of the saucer.  (Envy and spite, the most detestable of the vices, were her chief faults.)”

Secondly, Woolf representation of the consciousness “drifting” from past to present and her texts which “flood”with feelings, make the narrative feminine (“And Mrs. Holman, who could never get enough sympathy and snatched what little there was greedily, as if it were her right (but she deserved much more for there was her little girl who had come down this morning with a swollen knee-joint), took this miserable offering and looked at it suspiciously, grudgingly, as if it were a halfpenny when it ought to have been a pound and put it away in her purse, must put up with it, mean and miserly though it was, times being hard, so very hard; and on she went, creaking, injured Mrs. Holman, about the girl with the swollen joints.  Ah, it was tragic, this greed, this clamour of human beings, like a row of cormorants, barking and flapping their wings for sympathy -- it was tragic, could one have felt it and not merely pretended to feel it! But in her yellow dress to-night she could not wring out one drop more; she wanted it all, all for herself. She knew (she kept on looking into the glass, dipping into that dreadfully showing-up blue pool) that she was condemned, despised, left like this in a backwater, because of her being like this a feeble, vacillating creature; and it seemed to her that the yellow dress was a penance which she had deserved, and if she had been dressed like Rose Shaw, in lovely, clinging green with a ruffle of swansdown, she would have deserved that; and she thought that there was no escape for her -- none whatever.  But it was not her fault altogether, after all.  It was being one of a family of ten; never having money enough, always skimping and paring; and her mother carrying great cans, and the linoleum worn on the stair edges, and one sordid little domestic tragedy after another -- nothing catastrophic, the sheep farm failing, but not utterly; her eldest brother marrying beneath him but not very much -- there was no romance, nothing extreme about them all.  They petered out respectably in seaside resorts; every watering-place had one of her aunts even now asleep in some lodging with the front windows not quite facing the sea.  That was so like them -- they had to squint at things always.  And she had done the same -- she was just like her aunts.  For all her dreams of living in India, married to some hero like Sir Henry Lawrence, some empire builder (still the sight of a native in a turban filled her with romance), she had failed utterly.  She had married Hubert, with his safe, permanent underling's job in the Law Courts, and they managed tolerably in a smallish house, without proper maids, and hash when she was alone or just bread and butter, but now and then -- Mrs. Holman was off, thinking her the most dried-up, unsympathetic twig she had ever met, absurdly dressed, too, and would tell every one about Mabel's fantastic appearance -- now and then, thought Mabel Waring, left alone on the blue sofa, punching the cushion in order to look occupied, for she would not join Charles Burt and Rose Shaw, chattering like magpies and perhaps laughing at her by the fireplace -- now and then, there did come to her delicious moments, reading the other night in bed, for instance, or down by the sea on the sand in the sun, at Easter -- let her recall it -- a great tuft of pale sand-grass standing all twisted like a shock of spears against the sky, which was blue like a smooth china egg, so firm, so hard, and then the melody of the waves -- "Hush, hush," they said, and the children's shouts paddling -- yes, it was a divine moment, and there she lay, she felt, in the hand of the Goddess who was the world; rather a hard-hearted, but very beautiful Goddess, a little lamb laid on the altar (one did think these silly things, and it didn't matter so long as one never said them). And also with Hubert sometimes she had quite unexpectedly--carving the mutton for Sunday lunch, for no reason, opening a letter, coming into a room -- divine moments, when she said to herself (for she would never say this to anybody else), "This is it.  This has happened.  This is it!"  And the other way about it was equally surprising -- that is, when everything was arranged -- music, weather, holidays, every reason for happiness was there -- then nothing happened at all.  One wasn't happy.  It was flat, just flat, that was all”).It’s this stream-of-consciousness, this flow of inner experiences that brings water into “the desert of male arrogance and intellectuality” (Poole 26). It creates a flowing communication among time-bound and land-locked selves.

As the short-story proves, Wools attempts at this very rendering of the flow and play of consciousness. (“But in her yellow dress to-night she could not wring out one drop more; she wanted it all, all for herself … She had married Hubert, with his safe, permanent underling's job in the Law Courts, and they managed tolerably in a smallish house, without proper maids, and hash when she was alone or just bread and butter, but now and then -- Mrs. Holman was off, thinking her the most dried-up, unsympathetic twig she had ever met, absurdly dressed, too, and would tell every one about Mabel's fantastic appearance -- now and then, thought Mabel Waring, left alone on the blue sofa, punching the cushion in order to look occupied, for she would not join Charles Burt and Rose Shaw, chattering like magpies …”). Language and consciousness are placed by Woolf at the centre of her work structurally, thematically and stylistically, both here and elsewhere. She both discusses and illustrates her idea of feminine writing: they are not linear or logical, which means that they are not contained by traditional (masculine/patriarchal) notions of argumentation and development. The narration of her works is more fluid than direct ( Mabel’s flow of thoughts is a clear proof of this), more experimental than argumentative. She aims for her reader to understand the nature of women’s writing as much from the way in which she writes, as from what she writes about. As in so many other kinds of oppositional definitions, such as mind/body, reason/passion, one term has historically been priviliged at the expense of the other, and one has been linked with the male, one with the female. Stream-of-consciousness as narrative might also Woolf’s refusal to accept the traditional Western separation of mind and body. Woman, linked with body rather than mind, is supposed to be antithetical to writing, an activity said to be restricted to the intellect. Stream of consciousness, the “content of people’s mind” – memories, dreams, perceptions, sensations, impressions, aspirations, illusions, feelings, intentions, thoughts – associated by Woolf with the feminine has challenged this masculine vision of body/ mind notion in theory and practice.

Simultaneously, Woolf’s works in general, and “The New Dress” in particular, are about and are “feminine writing”. It is in these terms that we can interpret Mabel’s inner existence: her visible feelings of inadequacy and inferiority in the presence of those belonging to the aristocrats which are set off by concerns that her new dress is inappropriate for the occasion. Immediately after greeting her hostess, she goes straight to a mirror at the far of the room to look at herself and is filled with misery at the conviction that "It was not right." She imagines the other guests exclaiming to themselves over "what a fright she looks! What a hideous new dress!" She begins to berate herself for trying to appear "original": since a dress in the latest fashion was out of her financial reach, she had a yellow silk dress made from an outdated pattern. Her self-condemnation verges on self-torture, as she torments herself with obsessive thoughts of her foolishness "which deserved to be chastised." She thinks of the new dress as a "horror . . . idiotically old-fashioned." The reader first sees her insecurity when the Dalloways's servant, Mrs. Barnet, immediately recognizes Mabel's humble origins from the new dress that she has had made for the party. The servant's behavior affirms Mabel's belief that she is an outsider and does not belong in this society. Social interactions at the party further verify her estrangement. Although the other guests engage Mabel in conversation, an acute self-consciousness about her appearance and manners makes her unable to communicate on anything other than a superficial level. Mabel's self-absorption and self-centeredness isolate her from the other party guests and make any communication impossible. Supposedly, this manner of conveying the protagonist’s state of mind is the most efficient one, able to allow the reader to enter the most intimate and hidden part of the woman’s life, her mind. Nothing taken from the outer world could have made the image of the main character more accessible to the reader.Her very own perception of reality, presented on this pre-verbal level, with its incoherent and confusing messages, rounds up the two selves of the woman, body and mind, with an unprecedented depth and intensity.

Language, and particularly the language of women’s writing, is a rich and complex dialogue of voices. The discourse that is multi-voiced is “dialogic” and “ polyphonic” rather than “monologic”, and it achieves this quality primarily through “ collision or communication” between or among differing points of view or consciousnesses on the world. A speaker affects not only the listeners, but the collective discourses of social classes, the whole culture. A voice refers to different listeners and signifies differently in different time and different situations. This language, therefore, is “populated and overpopulated with the intention of others”(Bakhtin 1981, 294). This process is the means whereby language is transformed into a voice, whereby The New Dress is transformed into voices by Woolf. Language one uttered by man, the carrier of ides, is discourse, and becomes voices. It is the diversity of voices and “split internal stratification of language” that characterise the narrative in the short-story. Different voices represent different ideas, consciousnesses, or ideologies. But they all mean the same thing: voices. Multiple voices are heard through Woolf’s stream-of-conscious narrative. The whole narration here is an example of multi-voicedness. The fuzzy indication of the speakers and the flowing structure of the speeches evade any effort to fix and to exhaust the meanings. ( “"But, my dear, it's perfectly charming!" Rose Shaw said, looking her up and down with that little satirical pucker of the lips which she expected -- Rose herself being dressed in the height of the fashion, precisely like everybody else, always. We are all like flies trying to crawl over the edge of the saucer, Mabel thought, and repeated the phrase as if she were crossing herself, as if she were trying to find some spell to annul this pain, to make this agony endurable. Tags of Shakespeare, lines from books she had read ages ago, suddenly came to her when she was in agony, and she repeated them over and over again.  "Flies trying to crawl," she repeated.  If she could say that over often enough and make herself see the flies, she would become numb, chill, frozen, dumb. Now she could see flies crawling slowly out of a saucer of milk with their wings stuck together; and she strained and strained (standing in front of the looking-glass, listening to Rose Shaw) to make herself see Rose Shaw and all the other people there as flies, trying to hoist themselves out of something, or into something, meagre, insignificant, toiling flies.  But she could not see them like that, not other people.  She saw herself like that -- she was a fly, but the others were dragonflies, butterflies, beautiful insects, dancing, fluttering, skimming, while she alone dragged herself up out of the saucer.  (Envy and spite, the most detestable of the vices, were her chief faults.) "I feel like some dowdy, decrepit, horribly dingy old fly," she said, making Robert Haydon stop just to hear her say that, just to reassure herself by furbishing up a poor weak-kneed phrase and so showing how detached she was, how witty, that she did not feel in the least out of anything.  And, of course, Robert Haydon answered something, quite polite, quite insincere, which she saw through instantly, and said to herself, directly he went (again from some book), "Lies, lies, lies!"  For a party makes things either much more real, or much less real, she thought; she saw in a flash to the bottom of Robert Haydon's heart; she saw through everything.  She saw the truth. THIS was true, this drawing-room, this self, and the other false.  Miss Milan's little workroom was really terribly hot, stuffy, sordid.  It smelt of clothes and cabbage cooking; and yet, when Miss Milan put the glass in her hand, and she looked at herself with the dress on, finished, an extraordinary bliss shot through her heart. Suffused with light, she sprang into existence.  Rid of cares and wrinkles, what she had dreamed of herself was there -- a beautiful woman. just for a second (she had not dared look longer, Miss Milan wanted to know about the length of the skirt), there looked at her, framed in the scrolloping mahogany, a grey-white, mysteriously smiling, charming girl, the core of herself, the soul of herself; and it was not vanity only, not only self-love that made her think it good, tender, and true.  Miss Milan said that the skirt could not well be longer; if anything the skirt, said Miss Milan, puckering her forehead, considering with all her wits about her, must be shorter; and she felt, suddenly, honestly, full of love for Miss Milan, much, much fonder of Miss Milan than of any one in the whole world, and could have cried for pity that she should be crawling on the floor with her mouth full of pins, and her face red and her eyes bulging -- that one human being should be doing this for another, and she saw them all as human beings merely, and herself going off to her party, and Miss Milan pulling the cover over the canary's cage, or letting him pick a hemp-seed from between her lips, and the thought of it, of this side of human nature and its patience and its endurance and its being content with such miserable, scanty, sordid, little pleasures filled her eyes with tears”).

The speeches with or without quotation marks, the words in the brackets, the past memories and the present events, the mixture of tenses, the consciousnesses or unconsciousnesses, the multiple voices produced, all together make it hard for the reader to recognize who is reasoning, who is speaking, what is past, what is present, whether it happens in the mind or in reality.This technique of blurring the distinction between direct and indirect speech is common in Woolf and is part of her attempt to make the transition between speech and thought as fluid. She orchestrates individual speeches between past and present, interior thoughts and outward speeches, and moves the reader to one character and another.The characteristic of Woolf’s feminine writing gives the impression to readers that The New Dress “flows in one uninterrupted stream from first word to last”(Hussey 175). The short-story can be seen as a “metaphoric ocean whose rhythms …surge through the passages describing the loss of clear distinction between the self and the world”9175-176). Generally she avoids identification with any authority and so creates a text as elusive as the reccurent image of the fly (“She saw herself like that -- she was a fly, but the others were dragonflies, butterflies, beautiful insects, dancing, fluttering, skimming, while she alone dragged herself up out of the saucer.  (Envy and spite, the most detestable of the vices, were her chief faults.) "I feel like some dowdy, decrepit, horribly dingy old fly," she said )”( "Now the fly's in the saucer," she said to herself )”.

For Woolf, stream-of-consciousness represents versions of reality; for Bakhtin, novelistic discourse represents languages of truth. Feminine writing, as elaborated by Woolf, and “novelistic discourse”, as defined by Bakhtin, seem very similar in uses of language, despite the fact that the novelistic language Bakhtin described had nothing to do with women, and feminine language Woolf claimed is not necessarily tied to the novel. The very act of giving voice to the female by Woolf and to the unofficial by Bakhtin makes feminine writing and novelistic discourse move toward the same direction against a monologic dominant discourse. For both of them, consciousness is inner speech, and inner speech is the orchestration or interaction of the dialogic, different voices that we heard. Wayne Booth claims that “ if Bakhtin had lived today, he would have come to accept feminist criticism”. Woolfs remarks of the “Russian influence”, the “Russian mind”, and “their natural reverence of the human spirit” indicate her evaluation of human consciousness. Though Woolf is not the mother of “stream-of-consciousness”, she is undoubtedly the mother of “feminine writing”, an example of which we find in the short-story “The New Dress”.


Bibliography

Abel, Elizabeth, Virginia Woolf and the Fictions of Psychoanalysis, U of Chicago P, 1989

Bakhtin, Mihail, The Dialogic Imagination, Ed. Michael Holquist, Trans. Carl Emerson & Michael Holquist, Austin: U of Texas P, 1981

Burdescu, Felicia, 20th Century British Literature, Reprografia Universitatii din Craiova, 2000

Booth, Wayne C, The Rhetoric of Fiction, 2nd edition, London, Penguin, 1983


Ultima actualizare în Miercuri, 09 Iunie 2010 16:34
 

Adaugă comentariu


Codul de securitate
Actualizează

Revista cu ISSN

Horoscop 2013 cariera si bani

Horoscop 2013 cariera si bani

Horoscop 2013 - cariera si bani   Afla acum ce iti prezic astrele in ceea ce priveste cariera si banii pentru 2013 in functie de semnul tau zodiacal: Horoscop cariera si bani...

Read more

Curriculum la decizia scolii si invatare…

CURRICULUM LA DECIZIA ŞCOLII ŞI ÎNVĂŢAREA DE CALITATE LA DISCIPLINA MATEMATICĂ    Profesor Păduraru Constantin Eugen Şcoala gimnazială nr. 1 Slănic Moldova, judeţul Bacău            Rezumat          Articolul de specialitate propus urmăreşte să evidenţieze...

Read more

Test geografie clasa a XI-a

Test geografie – clasa a XI-a     I. Definiţi noţiunile: mediu antropizat, ecosistem, hazarde naturale,  despăduriri.          16 puncte     II. Precizaţi trei categorii de procese majore care determină degradarea solului. Explicaţi fiecare proces major...

Read more

Influente culinare de la centru si est e…

INFLUENŢE CULINARE DE LA CENTRU ŞI EST EUROPENI   Maistru instructor Hodorog Cristina C.N.E. “Gh. Chiţu” Craiova, judeţul Dolj             Un studiu  făcut la făcut la Universitatea Charles din Praga pe adolescenţii din ţările...

Read more

Securitatea bazelor de date atacuri si m…

SECURITATEA BAZELOR DE DATE – ATACURI ŞI METODE DE CONTROL   Prof. Diana Bărbat                                                                                                C.N.I. “Gr. Moisil” Brașov            Acest articol a apărut în Journal of applied quantitative methods în anul 2009,...

Read more

Importanta creativitatii in dezvoltarea …

IMPORTANŢA STIMULĂRII CREATIVITĂŢII ÎN DEZVOLTAREA COPILULUI   Marinescu Larisa Eromanga, Profesor Psihopedagog, Centrul de Pedagogie Curativă HD - locaţia Lupeni, Judeţul Hunedoara     Creativitatea poate fi definită ca trăsătură complexă a personalităţii umane, constând...

Read more

Educatia socio emotionala la varsta pres…

EDUCAŢIA SOCIO-EMOŢIONALĂ LA VÂRSTA PREŞCOLARĂ Prof. înv. preşc DAN FLORINA, Grădiniţa cu PP nr 26 Braşov Conceptul de educaţie socială şi emoţională în contextul...

Read more

Studiul critic al manualelor scolare

STUDIUL CRITIC AL MANUALELOR ŞCOLARE   Prof. Sandu Diana Colegiul Energetic “Regele Ferdinand I” Timişoara   Studiul se referă la modul în care este tratată tema “Compuşi hidroxilici” în manualele de chimie pentru clasele...

Read more