Type / Thesis

The Extraordinary Ordinariness of Everyday Details: The Everyday and the Politics of Details in Virginia Woolf’s Writings

Jen-yi Hsu

Page / 97-129

Abstract


Influenced by feminism and cultural studies, this paper investigates the representation of the everyday in Virginia Woolf’s works. For many feminists, the history of Western metaphysics is a history of misogyny in which philosophical ideas have been centered on a series of value-laden and “gendered” dualisms. One example is the concept of everyday detail, which has been feminized and is denounced as an obstacle to the heightened, non-everyday realm of the sublime. However, this paper argues that while paying attention to the ordinary details of the everyday, Woolf also problematizes the metaphysical/physical dualism by exposing the strangeness in the everyday banality. Therefore, quotidian events can inspire epiphanic Event, ordinariness has already been extraordinary, and life-world bears an uncanny resemblance to metaphysical world. Analyzing images of the everyday in Woolf’s selected prose works, experimental sketches, literary criticisms, and novels such as Mrs. Dalloway and To the Lighthouse, the paper demonstrates how Woolf emphasizes gendered, domestic, and laboring experiences in her aesthetics of the everyday, interrogating the masculinist prioritization of sublime and transcendence derived from Edmund Burke and Immanuel Kant. Also, Woolf’s exploration of the sublime of the mundane makes her a precursor to postmodern theorists such as Michel de Certeau and Henri Lefebvre.

Keywords : Virginia Woolf, everydayness, gender, the aesthetics of details, modernism
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