Document Type

Student Research Paper

Date of Creation

Spring 2014




While many consider Virginia Woolf to be one of the leading Modernist writers in the English artistic avant-garde movement, few take into consideration the challenges which she faced as she created some of her most critically acclaimed work. In this study I investigate the manifestation of both the Great War and an advanced understanding of the space-time continuum in Virginia Woolf’s personal understanding of the struggle with self-expression. I chose these two subjects of study because the destructiveness of the Great War forced an entire culture to face the inhumanity of mankind while an advanced understanding of space and time dictated that the teleological notion of immutable space time be abandoned to the discontinuous and chaotic nature of quantum theory. I examine Woolf’s diaries, letters, and two of her post-war novels, Mrs. Dalloway and To the Lighthouse, in an effort to explore the method she found by which one can overcome the alienation incurred by the inexpressible nature of the self and the unknowability of the other, both of which have been exacerbated by the fragmentation of the Modern era. Through the triumphant moments of self-expression of three of her characters and the desperate suicide of one, Virginia Woolf illustrates how the search for any grand meaning in life is futile; however, if one is able to notice minor daily miracles, the ultimately insignificant battles one faces are made more worthwhile, and one may still be able to find beauty in something as arduous as life.


English Honors Thesis