MODERNIST ELEMENTS IN VIRGINIA WOOLF’S A ROOM OF ONE’S OWN AND MODERN FICTION
By Francisco José Suárez García
“The literary movement that consists in the breaking with all the previous ideas and devices.” This is the definition of Modernism, a movement that rose in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. There was a need for renovation after the previous movements of naturalism and realism, where facts and description meant everything. Now the individual became the most important matter of study. Among the most representative authors of this period, we can find Ezra Pound, T.S. Eliot, Joseph Conrad, James Joyce and Virginia Woolf.
Virginia Woolf is probably the most remarkable female Modernist writer, in one of her most known essays, Modern Fiction, she makes an attempt to describe how literature has developed through the years and why there has to be another change according to the current period in which she lived. She said that the previous writers such as H.G. Wells, Arnold Bennet or John Galsworthy focused only in pure literary things like writing stories or making amounts of facts. She qualified them as “Materialists” and said that the things they wrote about were no longer important in that period. Here we can find an example of pure Modernist ideas, breaking with the previous period and imposing new basis and thoughts.
She said that what are really worth described are the impressions that we get in everyday life, and we must not follow narrative stereotypes if we want to reach this aim. Thus, she uses the works of Joseph Conrad and James Joyce as representative examples of this new literature. She pays special attention to Joyce’s The Portrait of The Artist as a Young Man and Ulysses, and explains that in this sense of incoherence is where we can find the real stream of consciousness. She opposes this new generation of writers, whom she call “Spiritual” to those mentioned early known as “Materialists”.
In the last part of this essay, Virginia Woolf defends that this new type of literature is purely psychological. Story-telling is no longer important, now it is the individual, his thoughts and feelings what really make a point. Thus, the works in this period are characterized by long descriptions of moments or sudden appearances of words describing a feeling during the stream of speech. As a result, these works were really hard to understand and took long writings to describe short periods of time. For example, James Joyce uses three complete volumes to describe a single day in his Ulysses.
In her most famous...