The Artistic Vision of the Androgynous Female: An Exploration of Patterned Symbolism and Gender Constructs in the Lifework of Virginia Woolf Open Access

Moriarty, Hannah Kathryn (2015)

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Throughout her novels, Virginia Woolf maintains a constant awareness of normative gender roles and the means by which masculine and feminine identities fit within these societal conventions. One means by which Woolf repeatedly returns the reader's attention to these pervasive gendered identities is through her patterned and cross-textual use of imagery. In particular, I have chosen to trace the presence of, and explore the language surrounding, the seemingly banal objects of the tree and the table. The analysis of their function within the text will shed insight into this dilemma of a gendered binary that our female creator Virginia Woolf faced in the writing of her masterpieces Orlando, To the Lighthouse, and Between the Acts. I will detail the way in which the perceived legacy of males and females is inherently different and the means by which, in each of her three novels, Woolf entertains a similar figure of female androgyny in order to mediate this tension between the gender binary. Woolf advocates for a world in which women can venture outside of their traditionally defined sphere of domesticity and illuminates the voice of female intuition that has previously been silenced. She questions: What voice has society deprived from the male-dominated sphere of academia? What can the women bring to the table? I propose that the androgynous female creators Orlando the poet, Lily Briscoe the painter, and Miss La Trobe the playwright, will embody not only this tension between the binary but also illuminate a liminal space in which a meeting of the minds can occur, a means to attain the hallowed "man-womanly" or "woman-manly" mindset that Woolf sets forth in A Room of One's Own.

Table of Contents

CHAPTER 1: Traditions of Knowledge 1

Thoughts on Peace 5

Masculine Knowledge 8

Feminine Knowledge 12

Table as Representation of Society 25

The Figure of the Androgynous Female Artist 30

CHAPTER 2: Intersection of the Table and the Tree 36

The Mark on the Wall 36

The Moment 40

In the Orchard 42

Orlando 45

To the Lighthouse 50

Between the Acts 62

The Lady in the Looking-Glass: A Reflection 73

The Art of Fiction 75

CHAPTER 3: Androgynous Artistry 78

The Feminine Power of Silence and Suggestion 78

Feminine Legacy 91

The Third Voice: Peace 99

The Search for Truth in Obscurity 105

Convergence of the Moment 115

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