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Lecture 19

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English 2307E
Krista Lysack

English 2307E Thursday March 27 Lecture 19 Virginia Woolf: Mrs. Dalloway (con’t) One day in London: the aeroplane (2166) • In the midst of Clarissa’s excursion, life in London is going on around her • An aeroplane suddenly flies over and draws everyone’s attention • This is an analogy of how to read the modern world o The aeroplane comes out of nowhere, it tells us what you can do when a random event happens (everyone looks up at the sky) • They were advertising a product, but nobody really knows what it is o The lesson is in understanding that there are not singular, definitive events • Each person has their own objective experience of what they are seeing o They are connected, but only by this spectacular event • The modern world of technology and advertising in the early 20 century didn’t have fixed communities of people, only scattered individuals who unite briefly under the sky, watching an advertising event • There isn’t any meaning already there to be revealed (no pre-existing meaning) – they create their own meaning o They are transitory (temporary) meanings – the smoke fades, goes away, and people go on with their lives • Clarissa says she is not one thing or another, but the sum of all the thoughts and memories she carries with her (2159) o This is very different than thinking of herself as a wife to a Cabinet Minister – she understands that it is a mystery to how you understand consciousness • A metaphor for us as readers: We are not looking for a revelation or ultimate moment in Mrs. Dalloway, but we are like the people observing the aeroplane on the ground, observing one letter to the next Meanwhile: Septimus Smith • Septimus is a young man (around age 30), who is out with his wife in London • He is a very troubled individual, suffering from PTSD or shell shock (he was a soldier during WWI) o Many men his age signed up out of patriotism, but he no longer has those views o Soldiers from WWI were exposed to a particularly brutal war (trench warfare, had to sit for long periods of time and then try to gain a little bit of ground through barbed wire and worrying about getting shot) o As time went on, people began to question the patriotism that caused a lot of young men to sign up in the first place o Returning soldiers had symptoms associated with shell shock: insomnia, delusions and hallucinations, disrupted speech patterns, some lost their voice, paralysis (with no physical link), blindness, deafness, increased heart rate… o The novel is critical of medical people at the time in their failure to respond to people with shell shock • He takes night courses, has a lower-middle class job, thinks of himself as a writer • We have a sense of his potential – he had a plan for a life, and that seems ruined because of the war o His wife is always trying to engage him in life (eg. telling him to look at the sky and what is going on around him), but he can’t engage with normal life anymore • At various times, Septimus thinks he is to blame for some great crime (he feels guilt and responsibility for the way the world has gone) o We see this through Woolf’s stream of consciousness – she uses Septimus to trace a modern subjectivity (a self that is divided and fractured) and what it means to be a self in the modern age (disjointed, frac
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