Teaching To the Lighthouse
Narrative theory is extremely useful in teaching modernist fiction; its revival in the beginning of the twentieth century may be a direct response to the practices of modernist fiction. One of the most important components of narrative theory is what I call narrative dynamics, or the related issues of presentation of the story from the choice of beginning point, through the arrangement of linear and nonlinear sequences of events, to the function of the ending. Each aspect of the dynamics produces a distinctive teaching opportunity and (it is hoped) a different kind of knowledge. A focus on beginnings, narrative middles, and endings allows one to cover every narrative form, engage in productive dialogues with a host of earlier narrative theorists from Aristotle to Henry James (the latter always a great source of impressive epigrams), and draw on the students’ own experience and judgments. In addition, many trenchant observations can be culled from the narrative theory written by modern writers like James, Edith Wharton, E. M. Forster, and Virginia Woolf.
Readings in narrative theory generally help students get the fullest experience from the more confusing or complex texts of the twentieth century. For the purposes of this discussion, I will invoke Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse, a work that shows how helpful every aspect of narrative analysis can be. (For those who prefer a shorter text, I can recommend Maurice Blanchot’s “The Madness of the Day,” Margaret Atwood’s “Happy Endings,” or Jeanette Winterson’s “The Poetics of Sex”.)
Some undergraduates are surprised to learn that the author has to select the point at which to begin her novel, and amazed to learn t...
... middle of paper ...
... place simultaneously with our reception of the final words of the text. It is as if author, character, and reader are united in unprecedented act of fusion. We go on to read D. A. Miller, Peter Rabinowitz, Rachel Blau DuPlessis, and Russell Reising on the subject and debate the relative strengths of each position, paying particular attention to Reising’s critiques of Miller and Barbara Herrnstein Smith and discussing which theory most adequately encompasses their reading of Woolf. The end result is that students can become theoretically informed, sophisticated readers of difficult texts, and can carry that knowledge on to the interpretation of other narratives they go on to experience.
Brian Richardson, ed. Narrative Dynamics: Essays on Time, Plot, Closure, and Frames. Ohio State University Press, 2002.
Virgina Woolf, To the Lighthouse, HBJ, 1981.
Need Writing Help?
Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.Check your paper »
- To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf When speaking of modernism in the work Virginia Woolf, scholars too readily use her innovations in style and technique as the starting point for critical analysis, focusing largely on the ways in which her prose represents a departure from the conventional novel in both style and content. To simply discuss the extent of her unique style, however, is to overlook the role of tradition in her creation of a new literary identity. In To the Lighthouse, Woolf's invention reveals itself instead as a reinvention, a recasting of the conventional through the use of the traditional.... [tags: Lighthouse Virginia Woolf Essays]
2170 words (6.2 pages)
- Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse is a novel dedicated to human emotion and humanity’s innate yearn for interpersonal connection. Woolf’s novel shows how we humans relate and react to the world around us- how we feel about the events we experience, what we perceive about the people we so desperately want to feel close to, and how raw human connection can help us find purpose in our live. Whether it is Mrs. Ramsay tirelessly working to aid her husband in his war against himself or Mrs. McNab contemplating the lives of the people she cleans after, all the characters in Woolf’s novel lack human closeness and try to find that closeness through interpreting what those around them experience.... [tags: Emotion, Marriage, Love, Virginia Woolf]
1364 words (3.9 pages)
- Evolution of the Modern Woman in Virginia Woolf's To the Lighthouse Virginia Woolf's To the Lighthouse examines the role of women or more specifically, the evolution of the modern woman. The two main female characters in the novel, Mrs Ramsay and Lily Briscoe, both represent different views on life and follow different paths on their search for meaning. Lily Briscoe transcends the traditional female gender roles embodied by Mrs Ramsay; by coming into her own as an independent and modern woman, she symbolises the advent of modernism and rejection of traditional Victorian values.... [tags: To The Lighthouse Essays Virginia Woolf ]
1478 words (4.2 pages)
- Self-realization in Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse A Lighthouse is a structure or tower, which emits light in order to guide people, mainly mariners. Virginia Woolf uses the meaning as a hidden symbol to guide readers to the deep unresolved feelings carried within the novel’s distraught characters. As the novel progresses, the significance of the Lighthouse’s meaning slowly unravels. The reader receives an insightful view into Mrs. and Mr. Ramsay’s complex everyday relationship while they raise their eight children and time passes. Consequently, the reader realizes how important one individual is to the lives of others, or more figuratively how one bright and strong beam of... [tags: Woolf To The Lighthouse Essays]
2133 words (6.1 pages)
- Importance of Brackets in To The Lighthouse [Here Mr. Carmichael, who was reading Virgil, blew out his candle. It was midnight.] [Mr. Ramsay, stumbling along a passage one dark morning, stretched his arms out, but Mrs. Ramsay having died rather suddenly the night before, his arms, though stretched out, remained empty.] [Prue Ramsay died that summer in some illness connected with childbirth, which was indeed a tragedy, people said, everything, they said, had promised so well.] [A shell exploded.... [tags: To The Lighthouse Essays]
798 words (2.3 pages)
- She was not inventing; she was only trying to smooth out something she had been given years ago folded up; something she had seen. For in the rough and tumble of daily life, with all those children about, all those visitors, one had constantly a sense of repetition-of one thing falling where another had fallen, and so setting up an echo which chimed in the air and made it full of vibrations. (199) What causes that crumpling. What makes the accumulated images fold up over the years.... [tags: To The Lighthouse Essays]
1895 words (5.4 pages)
- Death, Gender, and Social Roles in To the Lighthouse To the Lighthouse is a book preoccupied by death, and gender is formulated by the difference in response to its threat. Women pursue immortality through creation of illusion and men through pursuance of facts. The novel questions the distinction between the sexes that became rigidified into pre-WWI gender roles which are exemplified in the institution of marriage. A younger generation fights against the rigidity of gender boundaries, Lily being the chief representative of this rebellion.... [tags: To The Lighthouse Essays]
5284 words (15.1 pages)
- Analysis of Similes in Virginia Woolf's To the Lighthouse `Thoughts are made of pictures.' Our consciousness may be visualized as a photomontage of simultaneous impressions, mostly visual, according to poet John Ciardi (238). In verbalizing conscious experience, authors tend to use metaphor and simile to create images that, like words, possess both denotation, visual identification, and connotation, an emotional aura (Ciardi 239). In To the Lighthouse, by my count, Virginia Woolf employs over one hundred similes, figures of speech making an explicit comparison between two things essentially unlike, to enliven her description of things, places, and people.... [tags: To The Lighthouse Essays]
1756 words (5 pages)
- An Insightful Journey in Woolf’s To The Lighthouse The lighthouse stands in the distance. It signifies a far off place that takes planning and work to reach. Depending on your perspective, the lighthouse may look different. It may appear large or small, short or tall, it may be dark and musty or bright and clear. Perspective is defined by Random House dictionary as "a broad view of events or ideas in their true nature and relationships". Virginia Woolf, in To The Lighthouse, takes an insightful journey into the true nature of relationships through the perspective of many different characters.... [tags: To The Lighthouse Essays]
1185 words (3.4 pages)
- Fleeting Connections in Virginia Woolf's To the Lighthouse In Virginia Woolf's To the Lighthouse, Mrs. Ramsay plays the role of a beautiful, dutiful wife and mother. She also is a peacekeeper, who struggles to find unity, even in situations where it seems that none can be found. Through Mrs. Ramsay's attempts to unify conditions, many characters experience an extreme sense of connection with her. Often, like Mrs. Ramsay's successful unifications, these connections are but fleeting ones, lasting only momentarily.... [tags: To The Lighthouse Essays]
1590 words (4.5 pages)
- The Role of Scholars in the Era of Digital Texts
- Creating a Virtual Reality Game
- Charles Yale Harrison’s Generals Die in Bed vs Colin McDougall’s Execution
- Exterior of the Crystal Palace
- P. H. Delamotte Photograph of the Interior of the Crystal Palace
- Photograph of the Demolition of the Crystal Palace, 1936