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Virginia Woolf and the Common(wealth) Reader$
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Helen Wussow and Mary Ann Gillies

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780989082679

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: January 2016

DOI: 10.5949/liverpool/9780989082679.001.0001

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Modernism Across the Commonwealth

Modernism Across the Commonwealth

Virginia Woolf’s and Arundhati Roy’s Critique of Empire

(p.115) Modernism Across the Commonwealth
Virginia Woolf and the Common(wealth) Reader

Elsa Hӧgberg

Liverpool University Press

This chapter presents a reading of Woolf's The Waves and Arundhati Roy's The God of Small Things in order to highlight the critique against imperialism that emerges through the two writers' strikingly similar political ideas and aesthetic strategies. These novels illustrate how a specific form of modernist representation—highly stylized and poetic; intensely sensual as well as playful and parodic—can be honed into a vehicle for a radical anti-authoritarian politics. The reading supports the notion of modernism as an ongoing literary practice, one that enables aesthetically as well as politically charged projects such as Woolf's and Roy's. Both novels demonstrate the potential of modernist writing as a means for sociopolitical intervention. The textual politics of The Waves anticipates Woolf's polemical conflation of empire, patriotism, and patriarchal family structures in Three Guineas while Roy's activist stance against the neo-imperialist violence of corporate globalization reverberates throughout her highly experimental novel. Although Roy's political essays are more outspoken and overtly angry than Woolf's Three Guineas, both writers unmask and denounce the violence of the many power structures enabling the imperial project.

Keywords:   Virginia Woolf, Arundhati Roy, The Waves, The God of Small Things, imperialism, modernism, anti-authoritarian politics

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