Intimacy politics and Virginia Woolf : a queered-feminist analysis / Amanda V. Mason.

Mason, Amanda V.
vi, 231 p. ; 29 cm.
Local subjects:
Penn dissertations -- English.
English -- Penn dissertations.
This dissertation confronts the split between queer theory and feminist criticism over the role of identity politics. An investigation of Virginia Woolf's novels, using both methodologies, offers an opportunity to reunite these two approaches. In her irrecoverably intertwined life and work Woolf transgresses boundaries of gender, sexuality, and literary form: drawn to hierarchical dualistic oppositions, she often renders them reversible. I have used a practice of close reading to salve the cognitive dissonance resulting from Woolf's queerly deconstructive practice. Furthermore, I rely on a plainspoken rhetorical stance that privileges lucidity as a comforting context in which to compare two combative literary methodologies.
The results of this investigation show that Woolf's works, both "fictional" novels and "nonfictional" diaries and letters, demonstrate an aversion to physical and emotional intrusiveness as a tremendous risk to the autonomy of the individual. Intrusiveness can be read here in opposition to the optimal distance required by intimacy. Within this spectrum of intrusiveness and intimacy, the prospect of marriage presents a dire threat to the ability of Woolf's heroines to attend to their artistic work, as seen in The Voyage Out and Night and Day. While she also feels that the prospect of marriage threatens her work, Woolf does with Leonard create an extremely productive union that effectively balances mutual independence and interdependence. She writes of this successful balance in Mrs. Dalloway and To the Lighthouse. Thus, in addition to criticizing the institution of marriage, she also valorizes in her letters/diaries and novels--even in Orlando--the comforts of a mutually respectful heterosexual marriage. Simultaneously and without contradiction, Woolf explores the nature of physical intimacy between women in her life and in several works; additionally, the deepest intimacy in Woolf's life and prose (for example in The Years and Between the Acts) often occurs between heterosexual women and homosexual men. By using Woolf's conscious boundary-crossing I have articulated a non-hierarchical politics of intimacy in reparative contrast to identity politics. This can aid--in addition to the study of Virginia Woolf--the effort to negotiate intimacy between contentious groups, whether literary critics or other subcultures.
Adviser: Vicki Mahaffey.
Thesis (Ph.D. in English) -- University of Pennsylvania, 1998.
Includes bibliographical references.
Local notes:
University Microfilms order no.: 98-29942.
Mahaffey, Vicki, advisor.
University of Pennsylvania.
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