Date of Award

Spring 2022

Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Department

English Language and Literatures

First Advisor

Catherine Keyser

Abstract

Woolf has been generalized popularly as enthusiastic about parties, relishing their effervescence and conversation, and she had a particular bent for imagining a party’s vivacity while often remaining distanced from it. This imagination and duality would mark Woolf’s thoughts as is recorded in her diary entries, and they became especially apparent in her fiction. In an entry on April 27th, 1925, less than one month from Mrs. Dalloway’s May 14th publication, she declares that “people have any number of states of consciousness” and reports that she “should like to investigate the party consciousness” (A Writer’s Diary 74). In conjunction with her vivacious social life, Woolf indeed investigates ‘party consciousness’ many times over, as evidenced by her bountiful party depictions spread throughout her fiction. In the wake of the paradigm shifts set in motion by WWI, much of Woolf’s writing acknowledges the new consciousnesses that have been created and also identifies the uncertainty that accompanies these changes. Parties become an opportune experience for Woolf to investigate these shifts as they operate as centers of both observation of and participation in the ever-changing systems and culture. There is, however, a delicate nature attributed to this party consciousness. In studying it Woolf feels that it is potentially fragile as she remarks, “You must not break it. It is something real. You must keep it up—conspire together” (74). I seek to illuminate where we locate this instability in Woolf’s parties, specifically Clarissa’s in Mrs. Dalloway, which takes place after the war, and Mrs. Ramsay’s in To the Lighthouse, which takes place before the war, and to suggest that though these structures, specifically parties, become more fragile post-war, they also become ever more important.

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