Virginia Woolf’s futures, 1934-41: substrate, archive, anterior

Phillips, Joshua (2022) Virginia Woolf’s futures, 1934-41: substrate, archive, anterior. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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My thesis discusses Virginia Woolf’s late manuscript and typescript drafts. I locate the start of Woolf’s ‘late’ work in January 1934, as she drafts the 1917 chapter of The Years. My thesis argues that this draft signals a ‘reparative’ turn characterized by a change in her thinking of the future. I use the term ‘reparative’ after Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick’s anatomy of paranoid and reparative modes of thought. I use these late draft works to make the case that, from January 1934, Woolf starts to imagine new futures premised on genuine difference, futures that offer an alternative to patriarchy, to fascism, and to war, and I further argue that Woolf uses the textual space afforded her by the draft page as a locus to imagine such futures.

My reading of Woolf’s draft material is informed by the words ‘substrate,’ ‘archive’ and ‘anterior’. Substrate is a term from Jacques Derrida’s Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression (1995), a work that I use as a key analytic for my work in Woolf’s archive. The term ‘substrate’ signifies a surface for inscription: any surface, any inscription. I use this term to engage with the material specificity of Woolf’s draft pages and with the material specificity of my own work in the Woolfian archive. ‘Archive’ is the second word that guides this thesis: on the one hand it is the simplest, but I work throughout this thesis to problematise the notion of the archive as a fixed repository for documents, using Archive Fever both as a guide through Woolf’s archive and as a way to radically expand its parameters. ‘Anterior’ is a Janus-faced tense structure that speaks at once to what will have happened and to a past that precedes what has happened: it is my contention that this tense structure is apt to the archival work of genetic critics and that Woolf’s writing on the future gestures towards anteriority.

This thesis is divided into three parts. Part One is introductory, providing a methodological and theoretical justification for the archival work I present later in the thesis. In Chapter One, I provide a close reading of the opening of ‘Time Passes,’ the second part of To the Lighthouse (1927), in order to establish key tropes in my thesis. I read both the published version(s) of this text and its avant-textes, as well as exogenetic material including Virgil’s Georgics, which I argue is an intertext to ‘Time Passes,’ in order to introduce key theoretical and methodological tenets of my thesis. Chapter Two expands this reading to encompass Woolf’s use of the word ‘future’ prior to 1934, tracing its changing valences by means of distant reading. This distant reading provides the groundwork for my theorising of a reparative turn in the early months of 1934.

Part Two reads the holograph drafts of the ‘1917’ chapter of The Years as a richly generative avant-texte not only for Woolf’s 1937 novel but also for Three Guineas (1938). Chapter Three examines tropes and figurations common to both the draft scene and to Three Guineas, including an early and textually fraught invocation of Three Guineas’ Society of Outsiders and a call to revolutionary arson at Oxford and Cambridge. I read between the 1934 draft and the published texts of 1937 and 1938, alongside Derrida’s Archive Fever in order to expand the theoretical boundaries of Woolf’s archive. Chapter Four offers a genetic reading of Antigone’s footfalls from the 1934 draft through the published texts of 1937 and 1938 and reads Woolf’s interaction with Sophocles’ drama in all three texts. I light on a curious instantiation of Antigone’s speech—a misquotation of the ‘five words’ upon which Three Guineas tropes—in the draft, reading it alongside the children’s chorus at the end of The Years.

Part Three of my thesis constellates the draft fragments of ‘Anon’ and ‘The Reader’ with Between the Acts (1941). Chapter Five examines the fragments’ curatorial and editorial history, using a startling collocation of a single page from this part of Woolf’s archive in order to argue that closer critical attention needs to be paid to the material form of the fragments and the archival, curatorial, and editorial context in which contemporary readers encounter them. Chapter Six investigates modes of anonymity in Between the Acts and ‘Anon’ and ‘The Reader.’ I use three definitions of the word ‘anon,’ the first an abbreviation for ‘anonymous,’ the second an obsolete word meaning ‘of one body,’ and the third meaning ‘now again’ to read Woolf’s final constellation of works as theorising anonymity as a mode of subjectivity that is profoundly future-oriented.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts & Humanities > School of Critical Studies
Supervisor's Name: Randall, Professor Bryony and Goldman, Dr. Jane
Date of Award: 2022
Depositing User: Theses Team
Unique ID: glathesis:2022-82855
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 10 May 2022 09:02
Last Modified: 10 May 2022 09:03
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.82855

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