Virginia Woolf

I read some Wolf trying to puzzle out why Deleuze liked her so much. He cites her work as an example of a haecceity in ATP -- the dog running along the road at 5 o'clock. Like the pedant I am, I searched a lot of Woolf's work electronically with the search term 'dog' and found no such actual quote.There is a lot about dogs though. I think the dog running along the road distracted by different smells in The Waves is the closest. There is also the adventures of Flash,  E Barratt Browning's dog and its life story,including its freedom when it roams the streets of Naples. But it is a made-up quote, with the 5 o'clock bit added in tribute to Lorca's poem Lament for Ignacio Sanchez Mejia
which also gets a mention in the bit on haecceity

Deleuze also says Mrs Dalloway's walk will never be repeated, so off I went like a klutz to read it

Mrs Dalloway

My first impression was that this is like a bourgeois English Joyce. Woolf admires Joyce in her Essays. She also talks of the emphasis on character as the crucial difference between her generation,misleadingly called the Georgians (as in George V) to distinguish them from the Edwardians: the former style was much more descriptive, and almost sociological. She almost anticipates autoethnography by saying we should not explain character by reference to anything external.

Mrs D's walk occupies the early part of the book (not divided into chapters) as she walks around Westminster and the West End buying flowers for the party: she notices all sorts of divers happenings on the pavements and in the streets, including the prostitutes in Haymarket. Mrs D's character is developed throughout the novel until she finally emerges as a bit of a poser running her posh party for the nobs (including the Prime Minister), part of her duties towards her husband who is an middle-ranking MP.  The poor woman hires extra servants to cope! Can you imagine! We learn a lot about her past, her childhood in a country house and her early acquaintances, and her main love interest, the rather hopeless Peter Walsh who let her go, moved to India to seek his fortune, didn't do so and now returns to London, ostensibly to sort out a divorce for his new lady love in India. He may never go back, he realizes.

It's Joycean in that it interweaves Mrs D's walk to get ready for her party and her subsequent  story into the lives of strangers who happen to be in the same streets or are doing something at the same time (more haecceities?).

[Mrs Dalloway is in the crowd waiting for a royal to pass by]  'The Prince [Edward VIII] lived at St James's ; but he might come along in the morning to visit his mother.  [Paragraph].  So Sarah Bletchley [the name of a woman in the crowd, like all of the ones in this section not central to the novel] said with her baby in her arms, tipping her foot up and down as though she were by her own fender in Pimlico, but keeping her eyes on the Mall, while Emily Coates ranged over the palace windows and thought of the housemaids, the innumerable housemaids, the bedrooms, the innumerable bedrooms.  Joined by an elderly gentleman with an Aberdeen terrier, by men without occupation, the crowd increased.  Little Mr Bowley, who had rooms in the Albany and was sealed with wax over the deeper sources of life, but could be unsealed suddenly, inappropriately, sentimentality, by this sort of thing – poor women waiting to see the Queen [widow of Edward VII] go past—poor women, nice little children, orphans, widows, the War—tut, tut—actually had tears in his eyes (19)…  [An aircraft appears sign-writing in the sky]… Lucrezia Warren Smith, sitting by her husband's side on a seat in Regent's Park in the Broad Walk, looked up.  [Paragraph]…  So, thought Septimus, looking up, they are signaling to me.  Not indeed in actual words; that is he could not read the language yet; but it was plain enough, this beauty, this exquiste beauty, and tears filled his eyes as he looked at the smoke words languishing and melting in the sky and bestowing upon him, in the inexhaustible charity and laughing goodness, one shape after another of unimaginable beauty, and signaling their intention to provide him, for nothing, for ever, for looking merely, with beauty, more beauty!  Tears ran down his cheeks.'  (21).

Septimus Smith is a returned war hero with PTSD and an Italian wife. He gets hallucinations, many of them more disturbing than the ones above,  and eventually kills himself, rather than be institutionalized,  just as Clarissa D is greeting the early arrivals [without knowing,of course -- they are separate stories]  -- Walsh,  at the party hears the ambulance bell and thinks of civilization in England:

'...  he had found life like an unknown garden, full of turns and corners, surprising, yes; really it took one's breath away, these moments; there coming to him by the pillar box opposite the British Museum one of them, a moment, in which things came together; this ambulance; and life and death.  It was as if he were sucked up to some very high roof by that rush of emotion, and the rest of him, like a white shell-sprinkled beach left bare.  It had been his undoing in Anglo-Indian society—this susceptibility' (135)

The Waves

Widely regarded as one of the most experimental pieces, it details the perceptions and thoughts of six characters for as they grow up go through school and college and end up in various kinds of careers.  There's also a seventh character that we never see, Percival, who plays a major part in their lives as a kind of hero who meets an early death.  After their initial childhood encounters where they merge into each other, they gradually separate, and when they meet again for the last time, they realize that they are quite different: Susan, for example, has gone back to her childhood home and married a farmer, while Louis has become an important city figure.  Bernard is the one who gets to say the last words, and he talks of quiet despair at the way in which routine colonizes a life, at the way he has wasted his life trying to capture complexity in an number of phrases, and how it is all futile in the end.  Although it is Rhoda who actually commits suicide, after a period of travel designed to bring color back to her life, Bernard is the most likely to kill himself, and it is easy to see him as standing for Woolf herself.  The other characters are more lightly sketched I thought: Jinny is a flirt and good time girl, Neville barely emerges from the page at all, although we learn he is an academic, and Percival is thoroughly idealized throughout, as a kind of sporting hero, dead manly, unafraid to go to India.  The conversations, and meditations which soon take over from them are usually written in the present tense, and they are punctuated by poetic descriptions of the sea and the waves at various seasons of the year

The introduction, by D. Parsons, says that Woolf thought of this not as a novel but as a piece of music, with rhythm rather than plot, and a 'poplyphonic, dialectical relationship between interludes and episodes, natural and aesthetic creation, universal and individual'(i).  It is normally seen as high modernism, both poetic and descriptive.  She found it hard to write it, and the characters often regret the incapacity of language to capture complexity: Woolf talks of a desperate attempt to capture deep meaning with languager, like flinging and net to try to capture a pearl.  She described the book as a series of 'dramatic soliloquies', organized by the rhythm of the waves.  This implies a fluid sense of selfhood but with some underlying permanence, claim to be some dramatic truth.  The style is also romantic, with lyrical descriptions of colors, sounds and visions of nature, plants, individual plants, the turn of the season's and the rest.  There are apparently connections with actual people that Woolf knew, and of Woolf herself, as both Jinny and Rhoda.  Percival is Woolf's brother who died an early death. 

Woolf also writes this as a fictional autobiography, describing her own the 'various "selves"', in deliberate opposition to the '"damned egotistical self"'(ix) of writers like Joyce.  She is interested in collective aspects of identity and how to break down the boundaries of identity, 'of self and world, and of self and other' (x), so that the six characters can be seen as offering one larger and more complex identity, as she confided in a letter.  She found it hard to maintain her own identity, realizing that the reflections back from others were also important: Bernard describes this phenomenon best.  This leads her to also critique the 'inadequacy of the conventional narrative of the coherent, individual subject following a linear passage through time', echoing her remark in the essay is that life is not a series of lamps symmetrically arranged, but rather '"a semi transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end"'.  Parsons says there's a connection with Bergson and duration, especially on the role of memory as condensing time.

Overall, the characters have  'symphonic'identity, and there idiosyncratic voices end in harmony and mutual connection when they meet [I was looking for this, but must say it was not prominent for me], especially at the farewell to Percival and at the final meeting at Hampton Court [but that meeting ends up with couples wandering off in different directions, I recall].  Only Percival is the conventional literary hero with a unified selfhood, and he attracts the others, leaving them in a sense of lack: he unifies them and connects them, making their differences seem less important.  This shows the nostalgia for such characters in modernism [the annoyingly recurrent metaphor of squares and oblongs is explained in this way, with Percival's personality as the square that obscures most of the oblong].

The book was a great success apparently and invited comparison with Joyce or Proust [or Dorothy Richardson, whom I do not know].  It was praised for its fluidity, the inconsequent and half realized, the unfinished.  Others saw it as a vain attempt to capture every detail in experience, eloquent description, with that as the only role for the characters [I can see that].  The prosaic is entirely disregarded, and the feminism and Marxism diminished, although it is now possible to see it as a kind of cultural politics, with Percival displayed ironically, for example.  Woolf herself looking back saw it as a step to ward developing her own philosophy '" that the whole world is a work of art; that we are parts of the work of art…  We are the words; we are the music; we are the thing itself"'(xv) [I'm sure I read this in Deleuze too].  This can be seen as a theme in The Waves, 'the pattern of connections that run submerged beneath the surface impressions'.  [There is an example of a haecceity picked out by Parsons: 'a continuity created from "broken dreams, nursery rhymes, street crimes, hall finished sentences and sights—elm trees, willow trees, gardeners sweeping women writing"'(144).]

I picked out a few bits too:

'But when we sit together, close,' said Bernard, 'we melt into each other with phrases.  We are edged with mist.  We make an unsubstantial territory.'(8)

[Bernard says] 'I cannot sit down to my book, like Louis, with ferocious tenacity.  I must open the little trapdoor and let out these linked phrases in which I run together whatever happens, so that instead of incoherence there is a wandering thread, lightly  joining one thing to another'(26).

[Neville says] 'Yesterday, passing the open door leading into the private garden, I saw Fenwick with his mallet raised.  The steam from the tea urn rose in the middle of the law.  There were banks of blue flowers.  Then suddenly descended upon me the obscure, the mystic sense of adoration, of completeness that triumphed over chaos.  Nobody saw my poised and intent figure as I stood at the open door.  Nobody guessed the need I had to offer my being to one god; and perish, and disappear.  His mallet descended; the vision broke' (28).

[Bernard speaks] 'Every hour something new is unburied in the great bran pie.  What am I?  I ask.  This?  No I am that.  Especially now than I have left a room and people talking, and the stone flags ring out with mysolitary footsteps, and I behold the Moon rising, sublimely, indifferently over the ancient chapel—then it becomes clear that I'm not one and simple, but complex and many.  Bernard in public, bubbles; in private, is secretive' (42).

[Susan says] 'But who am I…  I'm not a woman, but the light that falls on this date, on this ground.  I am the seasons' (54) [but she says that going to school has left something hard inside her].

[Bernard says, at the meeting with Percival]: 'shall we say "love of Percival"…  [As the thing that draws them together]…  There is a red carnation in that vase.  A single flower as we sat here waiting, but now a seven sided flower, many petalled, red, puce, purple shaded…  A whole flower to which every eye brings its own contribution' (70). 

'Let us hold it for one moment,' said Jinny; 'love, hatred, by whatever name we call it, this globe whose walls are made of Percival, of youth and beauty, and something so deep sunk within us that we shall perhaps never make this moment out of one man again.'[Paragraph] 'Forests and farcountries on the other side of the world,'said Rhoda, 'are in it; seas and jungles; howlings of jackals and moonlight falling upon some high peak with the eagle soars.'[Paragraph] 'Happiness is in it,' said Neville, 'and the quiet of ordinary things.  A table, a chair, a book with a paper knife stuck between the pages.  And the petal falling from the rose, and the light flickering as we sit silent, or perhaps, be thinking us of some trifle, suddenly speak.'[Paragraph] 'Week days are in it,'said Susan, 'Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday; the horses going up to the fields, and the horses returning; the rocks rising and falling, and catching the elm trees in their net, whether it is April, whether it is November.'(80-81).

[Jinny says] 'I see what is before me…  This scarf, these wine colored spots.  This glass.  This mustard pot.  This flower.  I like what one touches, what one tastes.  I like the rain when it has turned to snow and become palpable…  My imagination is the body's.  It's visions are not finespun and white with purity like Louis's.  I do not like your lean cats and your blistered chimney pots [the view from his office window]…  Men and women, in uniforms, wigs and gowns, bowler hats and tennis shirts, beautifully open at the neck, the infinite variety of women's dresses (I note all clothes always) delight me…  This man lifts the hoof of the horse...  I am never alone.  I am attended by a regiment of my fellows…  I am like a little dog that trots down the road after the regimental band, but stops to snuff a tree trunk, to sniff some browned stain, and suddenly careers across the street after some mongrel cur and then holds one paw up while it sniffs an entrancing whiff of meat from the butcher shop'(125) [this could be that Deleuzian phrase?  If so, it is not that the dog becomes the road, but rather that Jinny becomes the dog].

'Unreasonably, ridiculously,'said Neville [at Hampton Court], 'as we walk, time comes back.  A dog does it, prancing.  The machine works.  Age makes hoary that gateway.  300 years now seem more than a moment vanished against that dog.  King William mounts his horse wearing a wig, and the court ladies sweep the turf with their embroidered panniers…  Yes; I declare, as we pass through this gateway, it is the present moment; I am become a subject of King George'(119).

[Bernard, summing up] 'I begin to long for some little language such as lovers use, broken words, inarticulate words, like the shuffling of feet on the pavement'(135) [compare with stuttering].

[As an illustration of his thought processes] 'I leap, here, at this point, and alight now upon some perfectly commonplace object—say the poker and tongs, as I saw them sometime later [and then goes on to recall an earlier relationship].  [As an example of his depressive tendencies] 'To see things without detachment, from the at side, and to realize their beauty in itself…  And then the sense that a burden has been removed; pretense and make believe an unreality are gone…  This freedom this immunity seemed then a conquest and sturdy and me such exultation that I sometimes go there, even now, to bring back exultation and Percival.  But it did not last.  What torments one is the horrible activity of the mind's eye—how he fell, how he looked, where they carried him, men in loin cloths, pulling ropes; the bandages and the mud.  Then comes the terrible pounce of memory, not to be foretold, not to be warded off—than I did not go with him to Hampton Court [on one occasion in the past].  That claw scratched; that fang tore' (149).