This article argues for a “resolute reading” of Virginia Woolf’s The Voyage Out, akin to Cora Diamond and James Conant’s reading of Ludwig Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. The resolute approach to the Tractatus contends that we should embrace Wittgenstein’s assertion that the Tractatus is finally nonsense. Accordingly, the Tractatus acts as a kind of therapy, enabling us to dispense with certain types of philosophical, linguistic, and analytical claims. I argue that Woolf’s The Voyage Out takes a similar approach to the nineteenth-century novel, fully investing in the conventions of the bildungsroman and the marriage plot only to ruthlessly dispense with them. Both works use a particular kind of modernist therapeutic pedagogy reliant on logic and form.
Reading Virginia Woolf Logically: Resolute Approaches to The Voyage Out and Wittgenstein’s Tractatus
Megan Quigley is associate professor of English at Villanova University where she teaches courses in twentieth-century literature, gender and women’s studies, and philosophy and literature. Her work has appeared in The Cambridge Companion to European Modernism, the James Joyce Quarterly, The Journal of the T. S. Eliot Society, Modernism/modernity, and Philosophy and Literature. She wrote and edited a series of short essays for the Modernism/modernity print plus series called “Reading The Waste Land with the #MeToo Generation.” Her book, Modernist Fiction and Vagueness: Philosophy, Form, and Language came out in 2015. She is currently at work on a project investigating T. S. Eliot’s relationship to fiction and fictionality.
Megan Quigley; Reading Virginia Woolf Logically: Resolute Approaches to The Voyage Out and Wittgenstein’s Tractatus. Poetics Today 1 March 2020; 41 (1): 101–116. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/03335372-7974114
Download citation file: