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Beyond Vision: Eyeless Writing in Virginia Woolf's The Waves
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of English.
2019 (English)Independent thesis Advanced level (degree of Master (Two Years)), 20 credits / 30 HE creditsStudent thesis
Abstract [en]

In the early 20thcentury, a “crisis of ocularcentrism” arose in philosophy, replacing the Cartesian epistemological notion of a disembodied mind inspecting the object-world from the outside with an ontological and phenomenological approach to vision and being, embedding humans corporeally in a world exceeding their perceptual horizon (Jay 94). In response, modernist artists abandoned realist and naturalist techniques, rejecting mimetic representation, and experimented with new artistic forms, trying to account for the new complexity of life. 

In this context, Virginia Woolf wrote her novel The Waves (1931), “an abstract mystical eyeless book” (DIII 203). Despite countless studies on The Waves and vision, its “eyelessness” has never been thoroughly examined before. Since Woolf considered vision and being to be inherently embodied and communal and longed for capturing moments of being, this thesis proposes to unlock Woolf’s eyeless writing in The Waves through Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s late corporeal phenomenology. Alongside his concepts of the flesh and chiasm, this thesis claims that eyeless writing is Woolf’s method to go beyond vision in order to reveal the inherent corporeal interconnectedness of all beings in a hidden, visually imperceptible pattern—the eyeless flesh of the world—by creating a narrative that is eyeless in several ways. It is at once eye- and I-less due to lacking a single focalising point and denoting an anonymous visibility enveloping all beings. Rather than being structured by a narrative eye/I, it is governed by the characters’ bodies and their chiasmatic relations with the world. On this basis, emphasising the carnal adherence of all human and non-human beings, their eyeless kinship thus comes to light, creating a nonanthropocentric conception of Being-in-and-of-the-world. In this sense, The Waves uncovers that since the Wesen (essence) of Being lies in the common, visually imperceptible flesh, it can only be reached eyelessly, via the body.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2019. , p. 55
Keywords [en]
Modernism, Virginia Woolf, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, phenomenology, vision, eyeless writing, anti-ocularcentrism, nonanthropocentrism, body
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Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-165470OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-165470DiVA, id: diva2:1287771
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Available from: 2019-03-04 Created: 2019-02-11 Last updated: 2019-03-04Bibliographically approved

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