Fighting the Mental Fight: Virginia Woolf's Lessons for Transforming Cultural Ideologies Open Access

Smith, David Anthony (2011)

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Fighting the Mental Fight: Virginia Woolf's Lessons for Transforming Cultural Ideologies
By David Smith
The following essay, "Fighting the Mental Fight," explores the capabilities of Virginia
Woolf's final novel Between the Acts to transform cultural ideologies and political allegiances.
My reading of the novel begins with Woolf's criticism of culture and nation-of England's
demanding imperial economy, masculine penchant for war, and educational commitment to
training men for imperial imperatives rather than individual gratifications. The purpose of
Between the Acts is to un-bind her readers to those cultural imperatives or, as she says in her
novel-essay on war Three Guineas, to free her readers from those "unreal loyalties." Beyond
noting examples of characters' subjectivity and conversations as cultural reflections, I argue that
Woolf's novel teaches her reader how to critically assess themselves and their culture. Woolf
transforms the ways in which her readers interpret events of history, society, and their own
private lives. Her fiction, thus, makes one aware of the forces that affirm and perpetuate
destructive cultural ideologies. This socio-political recognition, which requires the critical and
creative capacities of the mind that the act of reading fiction (particularly Woolf's) can enhance,
allows for the possibility to resist or revise crippling cultural ideologies.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Introduction - 1
1. Training for War - 4
2. Teaching Art, Not War - 24
3. An Education through Art - 44
Works Cited - 53

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