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Virginia Woolf: To The Lighthouse

To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf

U. of Adelaide e-text

wiki: To the Lighthouse

Large parts of Woolf’s novel do not concern themselves with the objects of vision, but rather investigate the means of perception, attempting to understand people in the act of looking. In order to be able to understand thought, Woolf’s diaries reveal, the author would spend considerable time listening to herself think, observing how and which words and emotions arose in her own mind in response to what she saw.

SparkNotes: To the Lighthouse

Themes, Motifs and Symbols – The Subjective Nature of Reality

Toward the end of the novel, Lily reflects that in order to see Mrs. Ramsay clearly—to understand her character completely—she would need at least fifty pairs of eyes; only then would she be privy to every possible angle and nuance. The truth, according to this assertion, rests in the accumulation of different, even opposing vantage points. Woolf’s technique in structuring the story mirrors Lily’s assertion. She is committed to creating a sense of the world that not only depends upon the private perceptions of her characters but is also nothing more than the accumulation of those perceptions. To try to re-imagine the story as told from a single character’s perspective or—in the tradition of the Victorian novelists—from the author’s perspective is to realize the radical scope and difficulty of Woolf’s project.

Stream of Consciousness in To the Lighthouse

by Christie Lamon-Burney and Srirupa Dhar

Auerbach states that Woolf’s technique is achieved through “[t]he design of a close approach to objective reality by means of numerous subjective impressions received by various individuals….

Notes on Novels: To the Lighthouse

Jane Elizabeth Dougherty, in an essay for Novels for Students, Gale, 2000.

deals with characterization of Lily Briscoe

Virginia Woolf’s Comments on To the Lighthouse


I suddenly remembered Sartre’s description of light in Nausea, and decided to check how often the word was mentioned in To the Lighthouse in the e-text. I think he ripped the idea of light as a philosophical metaphor from Woolf !

Refs. on realism

Some Forms of Realism – A Critique of Representative and Presentative Realism

Subjective Realism and Phenomenal Consciousness – an essay


There is an essay:

Light in To the Lighthouse
Jack F. Stewart
Twentieth Century Literature, Vol. 23, No. 3 (Oct., 1977), pp. 377-389

This essay refers to Stewart:

The Illuminating Gaze: Light and Consciousness in Woolf’s To the Lighthouse

By Anne-Marie Walsh

There is :

Erich Auerbach’s essay, “The Brown Stocking”

which I have not found on online.

April 25, 2008 Posted by | objective realism, Sartre, subjective realism, Virginia Woolf | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sartre: Realism all the way down

A man is always a storyteller; he lives surrounded by his own stories as well as those of others. Through them he sees everything that happens to him; and he tries to live his life as if he were fictionalizing it.


Having finish Nausea, it only remains (ha!) for an explanation of its philosophy. First more on Sartre/Virgina Woolf.

Philosophy apart, I had, while reading Nausea, picked up on something about Nausea and Woolf’s To The Lighthouse. The only thing online I could find was this tantalising abstract:

This article analyses the relationship between Jean-Paul Sartre’s La Nausée [1938] and Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse [1927], which share many textual details and a concern with the representation of traumatic loss. In both texts, there is an encounter with contingency and a quest for an ethical form that might symbolize suffering. Roquentin’s melancholic quest for an aesthetic vision to render loss constructs a false dichotomy of history versus art, in which the relation with the Other is abjected. Unable to find a form for his suffering – as he terms it, ‘souffrir en mesure’ [‘to suffer in time’] like the jazz tune which relieves his existential nausea – Roquentin ultimately retreats into narcissistic abstraction. In To the Lighthouse, Lily Briscoe’s post-Impressionist quest to represent her spiritual love for Mrs Ramsay in portraiture is more successful: in its eschewal of narcissistic signature and its hospitality to difference, Lily’s vision becomes an aesthetic space of encounter with the (m)Other, removed from the melancholic, narcissistic project of novel-writing that Roquentin envisages at the end of La Nausée.

of a paper: Mourning and the ethics of form in Sartre’s La Nausée and Woolf ‘s To the Lighthouse, by Ursula Tidd, published in The Journal of Romance Studies, Volume 6, Numbers 1-2, Spring & Summer 2006 , pp. 209-220 (12). If you’ve got a spare $39, or just under £20, you’ll be able to read it.

A discussion at Talking Philosophy on Virginia Woolf and Jean-Paul Sartre.

A quote at Questia:

“I tried to profit”, explains Sartre, “from the research made by certain novelists such as Dos Passos and Virginia Woolf into techniques of narrative.

It remains to both try to specify what I want to find out and to decide how deep to go.

(1) More on Woolf’s narrative techniques. As in : “Explained by someone else not from a reading of her whole ouevre”. Also something more on comparison of technique s in Woolf ‘s fiction and non-fiction.

(2) contingency

(3) Intentionality (wikipedia)

Intentionality (Stanford Enclyplopedia of Philosophy)

Sartre Today: A Centenary Celebration though as a GoogleBook not complete is a great help.

[1] Chapter 6: Sartre and Realism-All-The- Way

[a] The Purification of the Consciousness, pages 94-99

[b] Objective realism, 99-100

[c] Radical continuity, 100-104

[d] Realism not contextualism, All the way down, 104-108 {107 missing}

Detailed notes useful 110 – 113

Back, too, to Dennett’s Consciousness Explained for what he says on intentionality. Trying to find his papers on the intentional stance. Probably not going as far as to read his book The Intentional Stance.

(4) Objective realism

John Duncan in Sartre Today :

In Nausea, Sartre crafts a portrayal of radical contingency, that assiduously rejects objective realism.

There is plenty of online help with objective realism. E.g.

wiki: objective realism

What is objective realism?

(5) Idealism

This by Ian Heath on objective idealism is useful. It takes us to the relationship between psychology and philosophy.

April 23, 2008 Posted by | general | , | Leave a comment

Smorgasbord {1}

Radio 4’s Start the Week introduces two new books: Raymond Tallis’, The Kingdom of Infinite Space: A Fantastical Journey Around Your Head , on the brain ( TimesOnline review: Why we kiss, laugh, yawn and cry ) and a new biography of Sartre and de Beauvoir, A Dangerous Liaison by Carole Seymour-Jones, summarised on radio by the author herself and reviewed here by Graham Robb in the Times.

Having got to within 25 pages of the end of Nausea – spurred on by a suggestion to compare it to Woolf’s The Lighthouse *- without in any way removing from mind the Author versus the Work Problem churned up by considering Naipaul, the snippets of revelation about their sordid lives only adds to the problem: it was pointed out on the radio program the French couple’s sordid lives began well before they were both famous: which logically leads to sordid lives in of people who are not or who do not become famous and generally known. Well, sordid lives in general and what effect they have on others. Or to something along the lines of do the sordid lives of famous people have greater impact than the sordid lives of the not-famous, if so, why?

Wood s Lot (the mysterious lack of apostrophe) leads to David Weinberger’s post in JOHO, The Future of Book Nostalgia, which in it’s turn leads back to Anthony Grafton’s New Yorker piece , Future Reading: Digitization and its Discontents (which I have already linked to in another post). DW also links to a GoogleBook (if you don’t know what that is it’s a partial fascimile of a published book which invariably has the page you are most interested in missing), The Social Life of Information, By John Seely Brown, Paul Duguid, which is comprehensively reviewed at The Complete Review.

The book is more than just a welcome antidote to digital silliness. It is also an important description of the complexities of innovation. – The Economist

Also from Wood s Lot a review Farhang Erfani of a new book on Walter Benjamin called Walter Benjamin, By Esther Leslie.

There is also a lecture (in 10 minute 16 parts) on YouTube by Dr. Sean Homer which its titled Reading Film with Lacan, which may or may not be interesting to filmophiles depending on whether you are into psychoanalysis and Lacan’s theories. Part of the education shall we say? Certainly I am comforted by a quick check under Jouissance in the Literacy Enclyclopedia that:

For Lacan, on the other hand, jouissance seems to imply a desire to abolish the condition of lack (la manque) to which we are condemned by our acceptance of the signs of the symbolic order in place of the Real.

On Start the Week, they were briefly discussing the idea that we are the only species detached from reality. Forgive me: I have been wading through Nausea by Jean-Paul Sartre. And reading a smidgen on phenomenology.

* Sartre was said to acknowledge a debt to Virginia Woolf’s writing.

April 21, 2008 Posted by | de Beauvoir, human nature, Internet, neuroscience, Sartre | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Paul-Vincent Spade on Jean-Paul Sartre

Paul Vincent Spade is Professor of Philosophy at Indiana University, Bloomington. He has put his Sartre course notes online in pdf:

(1) Jean Paul Sartre’s Being and Nothingness: Class Notes, Fall 1995. 243 pp.

(2) Jean Paul Sartre’s Being and Nothingness: Course Materials. 76 pp.

Also includes : Christopher Vaughan, Pure Reflection: Self-Knowledge and Moral Understanding in the Philosophy of Jean-Paul Sartre (Ph.D. dissertation, Indiana University, 1993) 210 pp.

April 14, 2008 Posted by | Existentialism, general, Jean-Paul Sartre | , , , , | 2 Comments

The Jean-Paul Sartre Cookbook

The Jean-Paul Sartre Cookbook By Marty Smith

April 14, 2008 Posted by | Sartre | , , | Leave a comment


Existentialism is a Humanism
First given as a lecture: Paris, 29 October 1945.

Understanding Philosophy for AS Level by Christopher Hamilton (GoogleBook sample): designed for AS (High School) Level Philosophy, section VI, Jean-Paul Sartre: Existentialism and Humanism, uses E is an H as its primary text. Half a dozen pages missing but still useful. Recommended by author as suitable introductory undergraduate course in philosophy.

The World According to Sartre by Roger Kimball (New Criterion essay)

Sartre Today: A Centenary Celebration {GoogleBook) partial facsimile
By Adrian Van den Hoven, Andrew N. Leak

The Introduction is intact but other chapters are truncated. Chapter 19: Camus vs. Sartre, The Unresolved Conflict by Ronald Aronson, p.302 – 310 (only p. 308 missing. Well, alright, buy the book then…)

Sartre by David Drake published in 2006 to coincide with the centenary. This GoogleBook offers the first 37 pages.

Sartre and Stalinism? There are 50 odd pages of this GoogleBook, Sartre Against Stalinism by Ian H. Birchall, which helps with this question.

Pickings from TLS article, The novelist in the bubble by James Campbell. Subtitled: Sartre’s fiction and its resistance to the “living principle”.

“Why is it that Roquentin and Mathieu, who are me, are so gloomy?”. Typically unsparing, he decided that the reason is that they are “stripped of the living principle”.

Phenomenology and Deconstruction By Robert Denoon Cumming (GoogleBook extract}

Chapter 19: The Work of Art: should start at 158: starts from p.159 : includes sections on contingency and melancholia. Mentions Sartre named Nausea, Melancholia, but the editor changed it.

Mention of Durer’s Melancholia I. Sartre had a bout of depression in 1935. He tried mescaline once. Nausea was published in 1938.

Sartre Online : Articles on Jean-Paul Sartre

The Endgame of Taste: Keats, Sartre, Beckett 2001 Paper by Denise Gigante

Paper by Jean-Michel Heimonet, Bataille and Sartre, translated from the French by Emoretta Yang.

It is available as a Word doc. Here, the HTML with the search terms, “Sartre melancholia” left in.

The Cry has source materials from a variety of existentialists including Sartre. The out links from the Sartre page are dead. The play No Exit.

Also included: Woody Allen. (!) Scripts for Annie Hall and Manhattan Murder Mystery. The part of the website written by Woody was probably the horizontal list of links to the authors included.




kierkegaard …(VOICE. Yes) dostoevsky (Uhuh..) allen (no response) sartre (Yees…) jaspers camus nietzsche kafka heidegger descartes de beauvoir rilke


kierkegaard dostoevsky allen ( VOICE. QUIZZICAL. Allen? )

April 12, 2008 Posted by | Jean-Paul Sartre, Sartre | , , | Leave a comment

Camus and Sartre

Dark Feelings, Grim Thoughts: Experience and Reflection in Camus and Sartre

By Robert C. Solomon

{GoogleBook} partial facsimile

Introduction: Camus and Sartre (complete)

Modern Tragedy By Raymond Williams, Pamela McCallum (GoogleBook facsimile}

Chapter 6: Tragic Despair and Revolt, Camus and Sartre, p. 209- (several pages missing, but sufficiently readable)

Nauseated Strangers

Sartre vs. Camus

Algis Valiunas

Short essay comparing Camus to Sartre

April 12, 2008 Posted by | Camus, Existentialism, Jean-Paul Sartre, Sartre | , | Leave a comment

Patently absurd

This title will be prone to change as will the contents.

Litlove’s 2006 post What is existentialism? with particular reference to Sartre made me try to remember what it was that I read and what took my fancy all those decades ago. I remember being not dissimilar to Tony Hancock in the show where he is ostentatiously (though alone) reading Russell’s History of Western Philosophy when attempting Sartre’s Being and Nothingness, eventually giving up the ghost. Remember how Hancock reads from the beginning, facial expression at first calm, positive, optimistic, but in stages shows the full gamut until utter incomprehension. Having got through half of the first page (artistic license here as I can’t remember the details) he turns to the beginning, defaulting to the initial calm expectancy and then getting confused once more. Does he then throw the book aside?

Nausea was o.k. because Sartre in fiction writes simply, even if you don’t at the end grasp the philosophy. The wiki: Nausea is pretty comprehensive, with substantial quotes which might help in deciding whether to tackle it. I’ve decided to have another go. Notice how Sartre is fond of the colon: I wrote a post on his autobiography, Words, in Moleskine Modality a while back, remarking on the use of the colon there: I still really haven’t a clue how to use it but keep on using it just the same.

I may or may not have made a stab at Sartre’s The Roads to Freedom Trilogy, but cannot find any of them on my bookshelves. I remember watching the BBC adaptation, based on all three books, starring Michael Bryant looking exceeding puzzled and irritated throughout. According to a brief wiki:The Roads to Freedom, Sartre planned a fourth volume, of which only two chapters remain. In the IMDb entry on the Roads to Freedom a comment suggests the BBC wiped some of the original tapes: but that maybe an individual recorded them. If so please make yourself known to us because we desperately need something decent to watch on British TV, and what better than such a great series?

There is a 48 minute Google video of a BBC programme Human all too Human – Sartre: The Road to Freedom. For those of you like me who are not prepared to go over the old ground in a substantial way, here is a painless and short-cut way to re-immerse oneself.

It was to Camus I turned after Sartre and found the absurd in the long essay The Myth of Sysiphus. And the novels.

It is so easy now to find interesting online materials on Camus and existentialism in general. For example the wiki: absurdism has a simplified chart showing the relationship between Existentialism, Absurdism, and Nihilism. I am reminded by re-reading about Camus that he did not consider himself an existentialist, but there are those who do, such as this person who has written The Existential Primer.

I’ll put here some of the articles and sites that might help someone starting from scratch:

The Myth of Sisyphus from SparkNotes (a clear one page summary)

Suicide and Atheism: Camus and The Myth of Sisyphus By Richard Barnett

The wiki:Albert Camus points out that some distinguish Camus’ idea of the absurd from others by terming it the Paradox of the Absurd

Paul M Willenburg has a compilation of essays and other things.

Dance of the Mind blog in a 2008 post explains his reading of The Myth of Sisyphus. Lots of interesting points can be picked out of the the comments stream, including the larger one that is not that easy to grasp what Camus was on about.

Book Crazy blog : several posts

Albert Camus – the Absurd Hero

Caligula by Camus: Absurdity’s illogical end.

In 2006 Marcel Berlins wrote an article in the Guardian, What is it about Albert Camus’ The Outsider that makes it such an enduring favourite with men?

….my brief Outsider-inspired vow always to tell the truth and not care about the consequences spoiled my love life for a while. (“What do you think of my new dress?” “Awful. You’ve got terrible taste.”)

The Outsider study guide from BookRags.


I personally found Mersault bloody irritating because it seemed no man would act or think like that. The initial attraction for me was a recognition of the milieu. I had been a teenager on another North African beach.

One might tend to say now Mersault had a personality disorder. Perhaps it might be said that Camus had no other way to examine such an extreme existential position other than to create a fictional character representing it, in order that the philosophical implications could be worked through. To imagine such a person, is an act of creative fiction at its best.


The general way of dealing with The Outsider is to do the teenage angst bit, as in this BBC News magazine article by Sean Coughlan, The Cult of the Outsider.

BBC 2 ran the Virginia Tech Massacre docudrama 8 April 2008 which seemed to me to be visiting the same territory as Camus with Mersault. There was mention of the need to play with identity. Having re-visited existentialism and the absurd the day before, when an expert (a paraphrase here) summarised gun-boy Cho as preferring the persecution of injustice to the reality of failure, my ears pricked up: this seemed to be the nub. It also seems to feed into the notion of America being the epitome of narcissism. This wiki:narcissistic rage, completes the story.

Cho changed courses from Business IT to English. He started a novel. His family encouraged him, but professionals politely told him it was crap. He wasn’t going to be a writer; he hadn’t got the talent. But this is the way he eventually chose to express himself: he had backed himself into what he saw was a corner he couldn’t get out of. He saw no way out for his desire for admiration and fame than to kill randomly and then kill himself, hence going down in history. Being ultimately disillusioned by the recognition that you haven’t got what it takes to live the life you imaged may be behind many teenage suicides (which just happen to be predominantly male).

Although he did not commit suicide, what is this if not the life of Lee Harvey Oswald?

MARINA OSWALD : “Lee had no moral sense at all…only egotism, anger at others on account of his failures.”

Lionel Shriver in a April 2007 Guardian piece, These are all Copycat Crimes, expresses it better than I have.

Campus shootings are now a genre, much as, in literature, campus-shooting novels are a genre, one of whose entries I am guilty of writing myself. They are part of the cultural vocabulary, and any disgruntled, despairing or vengeful character – of any age of late, since grown-ups now want in on the act – now has the idea of shooting up a campus firmly lodged in his brain.

I do not believe that the choice of schools or colleges for the pursuit of grievance or, often, for the staging of what I call “extroverted suicide”, is arbitrary. For most of us, school and university are the seats of profound and formative emotional experiences, and the psychological power of these locales does not necessarily abate with age. Only last month I had reason to walk down the hallway of an elementary school in the US, and the lockers, lino and acrid chalk-dust smell sent my head spinning with memories, not all of which were pleasant. I felt claustrophobic, smothered, actively grateful to be spared the tyrannies of Mrs Townsend’s home room, and relieved to get out. In fact, I couldn’t believe I was allowed out of the door without a pass.

For a lucky few, school and college are where we first distinguish ourselves. But for the majority, they are the site of first humiliation, subjugation and injury. They are almost always our first introduction to brutal social hierarchies, as they may also sponsor our first romantic devastation. What better stage on which to act out primitive retribution?

Here’s a couple of chunks from The Outsider.


And finally, Colin Wilson’s The Outsider. For those who who know nothing of it, Lynn Barber wrote a profile of Wilson in 2004, titled Now they Will realise That I Am a Genius, which covers pretty much everything, and can have you in stitches at times if your humour is that way inclined, including having written over a 100 books after The Outsider, which no one really wanted to publish. The best being that the blurb in edition after edition continued (or continues) to have praise from Edith Sitwell and Cyril Connolly (who later admitted he hadn’t read it).

I read it in the 1960s having read the story of who he was and how he came to write the book. It was first published in the 50s. The general idea amongst the intelligentsia being he was some uneducated upstart who couldn’t possibly be writing this book, as this page puts it, because of his ‘outsiderish autdidactism’. My view is that he is fine where he is telling us about the books and lives he examines but less good when he tries to develop a theory to encompass a positive gloss on the outsider.

April 7, 2008 Posted by | Absurdism, Albert Camus, Existentialism, Sartre | , , , , , | Leave a comment