Sunday, October 31, 2010


I read an article by Allen McLaurin, “Virginia Woolf and Unanimism”. I chose to read this particular article, because it talked about The Waves, but it also relates to the topic on which I plan to write my paper, which is the opposite of unanimism in Woolf’s work. I thought it would be a good idea to read something opposing this particular theme of alienation, loneliness and subjective experience I found in her writing.

McLaurin’s main point in the article is that Woolf creates a certain “group mind”, a unity of consciousness, in her works. He brings up the example of The Waves, as the characters gather round Percival after his death and likens this to Woolf’s experience of being a part of the Bloomsbury group, which, he argues, shared this same kind of unity of consciousness and likens the character of Percival to Woolf’s brother Thoby, whom many of the Bloomsbury members admired greatly. He also mentions Jules Romains, a figure of great importance in French unanimism in literature and a figure well known to Woolf. McLaurin argues that Woolf actually wrote a favorable review of Romains’ work for a magazine in which she often wrote, despite the fact that the review is anonymous. McLaurin also argues that Woolf’s works – The Voyage Out, Mrs. Dalloway, To the Lighthouse, The Years, Between the Acts as well as The Waves present the unanimous themes found and championed in Romains’ work. In Between the Acts McLaurin argues that the gramophone represents a means of unity between people. In The Waves, the characters share each other’s innermost thoughts and images, according to McLaurin. He emphasizes the importance of Bernard, as the one character who feels most explicitly the notion of the group, a group mind, especially at the death of Percival.

However, in response to this article, I have began reading another article relating to Between the Acts and it compares the gramophone to fascist propaganda, uniting people into an easily controlled herd. Thus, this article undermines the benign nature of unanimity that McLaurin focuses on. Also, he mentions that at the end Bernard abandons this notion of unanimity, which points to the idea that maybe Woolf was not entirely convinced that such a “group mind” could be achieved. After all, even though Bernard says all the characters felt the same, common emotion at Percival’s death, it is not entirely clear that they did. Also, McLaurin cites Neville’s love for watching people pour out of the Tube in what he perceives as harmony, unanimous, but this kind of unanimity does not seem possible for an extended period of time; once people pour out of the Tube and into the streets, they are dispersed again. Thus, the theme of unanimity, although perhaps present in Woolf’s work, is not followed entirely – Woolf recognizes that this unity cannot be sustained for long and if it is present at all, it is perhaps superficial.

McLaurin, Allen. "Virginia Woolf and Unanimism." Journal of Modern Literature 9.1 (1981-1982): 115-122. JSTOR. Web.

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