Nataliya Gudz (Author of Concepts of Time in Virginia Woolf)
An hour [she explained], once it lodges in the queer element of the human spirit, may be stretched to fifty or one hundred times its clock length: on the other hand, an hour may be accurately represented on the timepiece of the mind by one second. Of them we can justly say that they live precisely the sixty-eight or seventy-two years allotted them on the tombstone.
Of the rest, some we know to be dead, though they walk among us; others are hundreds of years old, though they call themselves At the beginning of the book Orlando is a boy of 16, melancholy, indolent, loving solitude and given to writing poetry; the age is the Elizabethan; the book ends on the 11th of October, , and Orlando is a thoroughly modern matron of 36, who has published a successful book of poems and has evolved a hard-earned philosophy of life.
Thus, to express her very modern fourth-dimensional concepts, Mrs.
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Woolf has fallen back upon one of the most ancient of literary forms, the allegory. In doing so she has left the book perhaps more confused than was strictly necessary. At the first reading it is somewhat difficult to grasp the structure of the novel.
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During the Elizabethan period Orlando is a young nobleman, a favorite of Queen Bess, discovering for himself the world he lives in; first gloomy and in love with death; then amorous and florid, roistering in taverns; then a sprightly and dashing young courtier, engaged three times and finally jilted by a beautiful Muscovite Princess. Disillusioned, he returns to his estate in the country and devotes his energies entirely to writing.
By this time the Elizabethan background has gently faded away and it is the eighteenth century.
Virginia Woolf's sense of time
Before he was 25 he had written some forty-seven plays, histories, romances and poems. By the age of 80 he had become disillusioned with literature: "not only had he had every experience that life has to offer, but had seen the worthlessness of them all. Love and ambition, women and poets were all equally vain. His philosophic calm was eventually shattered by an importunate Archduchess, who pursued him so insistently that, to escape her, he was driven to serve King and country and to accept the Ambassadorship to Turkey, a position which he filled with distinction.
At this point Orlando unexpectedly changes sex, and throughout the rest of the novel is a woman. There is a revolution in Turkey; she escapes and for some time wanders about Central Europe with a band of gypsies; eventually her British love of nature asserts itself and she hastens back to the hills and hedges she is so fond of.
Later she comes to London in search of "Love and Life," she experiments with the various diversions the city has to offer, but finds them empty. Fashionable society is exciting for the moment, yet "nothing remained the next day;" she becomes intimate with Pope, Addison and Swift, but finds them dull fellows compared with their books. Then the eighteenth century fades from the screen and Orlando finds herself in the age of Victoria. There is a fine line between sanity and madness; antithetical standpoints which need to be re-evaluated to determine whether the latter is a term referring to exceptionally rare individuals who manage to experience life consciously.
A basic need of human beings is to live life to the full but this desire struggles against the concept of tempus fugit.
1. Woolf’s concept of time(s)
No writer despised absolute time more than Virginia Woolf. Her novels present the inner self in its raw state as she endowed the English novel with a touch of the avant-garde by amplifying her tales with a 'multi-voicedness' characteristic stemming from the multiple selves of the relative lives of her protagonists. Similarly, Marcel Proust's 'simultaneism' in his novel, In Search of Lost Time also focuses on narrating the inner life of his protagonist; one that is stimulated by involuntary memories.
The mechanics of relative time will be the main focus of this thesis as it will analyse how these Modernist writers have plunged their narratives into a relative world to attempt to transcribe the inner life of their characters. Accordingly, the chapters will include the notion of perception, of memory and of immediate experience to understand whether Woolf and Proust managed to create novels that authentically portray how human nature works internally.