Virginia Woolf and the work of the literary sketch: scenes and characters, politics and printing in Monday or Tuesday (1921)

Bromley, Amy Nicole (2018) Virginia Woolf and the work of the literary sketch: scenes and characters, politics and printing in Monday or Tuesday (1921). PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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This thesis foregrounds Virginia Woolf’s 1921 volume of short fiction, Monday or Tuesday, examining its aesthetic qualities and formal strategies through the lens of the literary sketch. ‘Sketch’ is a term that has been invoked in criticism of Monday or Tuesday since its publication, but the provenance of the sketch as a literary genre and its centrality to Woolf’s aesthetic practices have not yet been fully examined in Woolf studies. The idea of the sketch is most often raised in analysis of her unfinished memoir, ‘A Sketch of the Past’, and as a descriptor for the general plotlessness of her short fiction; yet, the historical specificity and formal strategies of the sketch as an established literary genre have largely been elided in such discussions. Attending to the frequency and precision of Woolf’s own use of the term ‘sketch’, and particularly to her declared intention to ‘keep the quality of the sketch in the finished and composed work’ (D II 312), this thesis elucidates the sketch as a key mode of writing for Woolf. It argues that she achieved her desired combination of the sketch and the finished work most fully in the first Hogarth edition of Monday or Tuesday.

A set of texts more usually encountered in anthologies or integrated with Woolf’s other short fiction, Monday or Tuesday has itself occupied a relatively marginal place in the critical construction of Woolf’s oeuvre. Although there has been a recent surge of work on the short fiction, Monday or Tuesday has yet to be foregrounded as the sole object of a monograph, or to appear as a scholarly edition. This thesis reads Monday or Tuesday in its entirety, in the specificity of its original publication by Woolf’s Hogarth Press, and considers what is at stake in reading this work as a collection of literary sketches. The analysis performed is grounded in the material qualities of the first UK edition, where the woodcuts by Vanessa Bell and the uncorrected mistakes made in the hand-printing of the book contribute to the effects of the sketch as it appears in print. In these aspects, the thesis builds on the substantial body of scholarship on the Hogarth Press and Bloomsbury aesthetics to discuss Monday or Tuesday as a printed sketchbook. It shows how the sketch manifests in Monday or Tuesday’s material appearance, where it combines the ‘evanescent’ and ‘engraved’ qualities later formulated alongside ‘the life of Monday or Tuesday’ in Woolf’s manifesto for ‘Modern Fiction’ (1925).
Utilising Woolf’s own terminology throughout, the thesis explores the simultaneous ephemerality and permanence of the sketch, as something which can project into a future moment of writing, and whose significance can be realised belatedly; as something which works explicitly with the surface impression but which also layers moments of making. The thesis begins by drawing on recent scholarship to outline a history of the sketch as a literary genre which was popular throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in Europe and America, and identifies examples of this tradition with which Woolf was familiar. Woolf’s deployment of the term ‘sketch’ is discussed in detail, from her early journals and juvenilia to her memoir, and the thesis proceeds to study the ways in which the sketch is at work in Monday or Tuesday. It examines the book’s contents under some conventional categories of the sketch: the scene, the character, and the political sketch. The central chapter of the thesis discusses the poetics and narrative strategies of scene-making and character-sketching, and Chapter Four highlights the feminist political inflections of Woolf’s use of the sketch. These readings show how the literary sketch is not defined simply by its fragmentary, ekphrastic or unfinished qualities, but also utilises narrative strategies of suggestion, deferral and interruption. The thesis reaches for finish in the final chapter by examining the material qualities of the book, including an examination of key variants between the first British and first American editions.

While it makes serious strategic claims for the sketch as one possible genre through which to approach Monday or Tuesday, the thesis does not claim to definitively categorise these texts as sketches once and for all. Rather, in the attempt to treat these texts in broad-stroke but incisive detail, it acknowledges the procedures of the sketch itself – its representative provisionality, its potential to function as a detailed study, and its creation of a basis for re-working. It takes the idea of the sketch as a critical apparatus by which to perform the experimental reading that Monday or Tuesday’s own narrative strategies invite. The thesis ultimately seeks to foreground the work of both Monday or Tuesday and the literary sketch in Woolf’s modernist aesthetics, and to prepare the ground for future study of their significance for modernism more generally.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Additional Information: The electronic version of this thesis has been edited and some or all third party copyright material removed.
Keywords: Virginia Woolf, sketches, short fiction, Monday or Tuesday, Hogarth Press.
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)
P Language and Literature > PR English literature
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts & Humanities > School of Critical Studies > English Literature
Funder's Name: Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC)
Supervisor's Name: Kolocotroni, Dr. Vassiliki and Goldman, Dr. Jane
Date of Award: 2018
Depositing User: Dr Amy Bromley
Unique ID: glathesis:2018-8876
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 26 Apr 2018 09:24
Last Modified: 12 Apr 2024 09:43
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.8876

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