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Interdisciplinary/Multidisciplinary Woolf$
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Ann Martin and Kathryn Holland

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780989082624

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: January 2016

DOI: 10.5949/liverpool/9780989082624.001.0001

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“One Must Be Scientific”

“One Must Be Scientific”

Natural History and Ecology in Mrs. Dalloway

Chapter:
(p.127) “One Must Be Scientific”
Source:
Interdisciplinary/Multidisciplinary Woolf
Author(s):

Sarah Dunlap

Publisher:
Liverpool University Press
DOI:10.5949/liverpool/9780989082624.003.0016

This chapter explores the themes of natural history and ecology in Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway by placing Helena Parry's imperialistic approach to botany in contrast to Septimus Smith's sense of connection with the natural world. By modeling an ecological understanding of human life and the nonhuman world, Mrs. Dalloway offers a corrective to harmful and outmoded scientific perspectives. The kind of science Woolf critiques is represented not only by the cold and imperialistic attitudes of Drs. Holmes and Bradshaw, but also by the attitudes of a Victorian botanist: Miss Helena Parry, Clarissa Dalloway's aunt. Visionary understandings of human interconnection with the organic world are experienced primarily by Septimus Smith, and to a lesser degree by Clarissa Dalloway, and point to the radical possibilities of scientific inquiry. The chapter then suggests that Septimus's visions raise the possibility of a more egalitarian science and more positive relationships between humans and nonhuman nature in the world to come.

Keywords:   natural history, ecology, Mrs. Dalloway, botany, natural world, science, scientific inquiry

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