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Contradictory Woolf$
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Derek Ryan and Stella Bolaki

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780983533955

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: January 2016

DOI: 10.5949/liverpool/9780983533955.001.0001

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“When the lights of health go down”

“When the lights of health go down”

Virginia Woolf’s Aesthetics and Contemporary Illness Narratives

(p.115) “When the lights of health go down”
Contradictory Woolf

Stella Bolaki

Liverpool University Press

This chapter examines the question of aesthetics in Virginia Woolf's contradictory discussion of mind and body in “On Being Ill” (1926). In particular, it considers the importance of taking seriously the aesthetic dimension of contemporary illness narratives by linking Woolf's “On Being Ill” with Hilary Mantel's diary essay published in 2010. It points out the contradictions in Mantel's reading of Woolf's essay which repeats the clichéd criticism of the latter as an aesthete while also continuing aspects of her aesthetic project. It also explains how “On Being Ill” provides contemporary narratives of illness with a workable model of “translating pain and raw sensation into verbal form”.

Keywords:   aesthetics, mind, body, On Being Ill, illness, Hilary Mantel, contradiction, pain

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