Virginis Wiilf and Djuna Barnes Essay

Virginis Wiilf and Djuna Barnes Essay

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Virginia Woolf and Djuna Barnes were writers experimenting with new, modern ways of life, and they expressed new-age philosophies in their novels. Both writers explore a more emotional side Modernism than the other male writers, with greater emphasis on character relationships, thoughts and emotions. To the Lighthouse does this by posing the futility of ambitions in the novel, suggesting that it is pointless to sentimentalizing previous dreams, since actuality is unlikely to reflect them. Both Barnes and Woolf look back at the great minds of history and critique their views, often dismissing them as old-fashioned. In this essay, I shall discuss how the themes of alienation, subjective reality and traditionalism are conveyed in To the Lighthouse and Nightwood.

Many texts written during the Modernist movement have been known to evoke intense emotions in their reader by imposing ambivalent questions about topics, which play primary roles in human life, such as the interpretation of reality and the purpose of life on earth. Virginia Woolf was a Modernist writer who was encouraged to live a privileged life with her liberated parents, which fuelled her to write one of her most famous and free-spirited works. Djuna Barnes was an ex-patriot bisexual living in bohemian Paris, and she addresses problems characters experience with gender, sexuality and identity. Both writers are interested in the mind, and characters’ thoughts and private lives, with much emphasis on psychoanalysis.
In To The Lighthouse, Woolf depicts a mirrored world of the pre and post-war England in which she lived, which was constantly reflecting upon modernity, and one way in which she shows this is by illustrating psychologically curious characters. To The Lighth...

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...and the culture of Paris. Matthew calls the night an ‘unknown land’, implying that the city of Paris comes alive with café gossip and illicit, Bohemian behaviour that has yet to be explored. Nora feels exiled because she has a lesbian affair, even though homosexual relationships were not illegal in Paris. Whereas Woolf expresses the night as being a time where human life ceases, in Nightwood a darker, more mysterious side to life is revealed. To the Lighthouse has a more traditional view of the night being a time when everything looks eerie and surreal, and Nightwood is more radical in its treatment of nocturnal individuals in Paris.

Works Cited

Djuna Barnes, Nightwood, (London: Faber and Faber 2007), 106

Janet Winston, Woolf’s To the Lighthouse, (London: Continuum 2009), 21

Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse, (United States: Numitor Comun Publishing, 2011) 57

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