Tag Archives: Virginia Woolf

The vision of our minds

“Life escapes; and perhaps without life nothing else is worth while. It is a confession of vagueness to have to make use of such a figure as this, but we scarcely better the matter by speaking, as critics are prone to do, of reality. Admitting the vagueness which afflicts all criticism of novels, let us hazard the opinion that for us at this moment the form of fiction most in vogue more often misses than secures the thing we seek. Whether we call it life or spirit, truth or reality, this, the essential thing, has moved off, or on, and refuses to be contained any longer in such ill-fitting vestments as we provide. Nevertheless, we go on perseveringly, conscientiously, constructing our two and thirty chapters after a design which more and more ceases to resemble the vision of our minds.”

Woolf, Virginia. “Modern Fiction.” In The Common Reader, 149. San Diego, CA: Harcourt, 1925.

At first, I did not know what Woolf was stating and I thought it was pretty dumb for her to state to obvious, but as I repeatedly read this passage, I found that what Woolf is stating is quite powerful. Despite the way we want life to turn out, life does not. What we control in life is limited, but writers persevere to write in ways that the vision they have in their minds cannot be portrayed within their books.  They cannot bring their vision to words because they are so constrained to a form of writing. What can writers do to express the visions of their minds? How can writers step away from the trending way of writing fiction? Isn’t that why modernism is a new way of approaching writing? They challenge to step away from the traditional and write in a way they can express their visions.

Free The Writers

“The writer seems constrained, not by his own free will but by some powerful and unscrupulous tyrant who has him in thrall, to provide a plot, to provide comedy, tragedy, love interest … The tyrant is obeyed; the novel is done to a turn. But sometimes, more and more often as time goes by, we suspect a momentary doubt, a spasm of rebellion, as the pages fill themselves in the customary way. Is life like this? Must novels be like this?”

Woolf, Virginia. “Modern Fiction.” In The Common Reader, 149. San Diego, CA: Harcourt, 1925.

A writer should be able to write based on their own inspirations, experiences, and feelings’ however, instead the readers, the society, and the publishing company are restraining writers from the freedom of their own works. Instead writers are being constrained to write what will entertain the readers and to write what the society allows in literature. Why does writers have to follow a certain standard? Why does society determine what the writer’s can write in their novels? Aren’t writer’s supposed to be the ones with freedom in determining how they want their novel to turn out?

If a writer was not a slave

“…if a writer were a free man and not a slave, if he could write what he chose, not what he must, if he could base his work upon his own feeling and not upon convention, there would be no plot, no comedy, no tragedy, no love interest or catastrophe in the accepted style, and perhaps not a single button sewn on as the Bond Street tailors would have it…life is a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end.”

Woolf, Virginia. “Modern Fiction.” In The Common Reader, 150. San Diego, CA: Harcourt, 1925.

Woolf has profound opinions concerning writers and restrictions that are placed on writing, in general. This statement is quite baffling, yet somewhat true. It seems as if a writer writes his ‘own feelings’ it would not be considered fiction. Therefore that is why it would not be ‘accepted’ as ‘modern fiction.’