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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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“Caterpillars of the Commonwealth Unite”

“Caterpillars of the Commonwealth Unite”

Photography and Trauma in Three Guineas

(p.145) “Caterpillars of the Commonwealth Unite”
Virginia Woolf and the Common(wealth) Reader

Ira Nadel

Liverpool University Press

This chapter considers the photographs in Three Guineas of the unidentified civilians killed in the Spanish Civil War—photographs that were not reproduced but rather described in the text. These photographs function to register trauma, echoing Freud who applied the metaphor of the camera to explain the unconscious as the place where traumatic memory-bits often remain seized until resolved. But rather than capturing past time, photographs of traumatic events access time and action that are distinct and explosive but not yet integrated into consciousness. They register in the psyche, as do the photographs of the dead for Woolf. The photograph is not a narrative but the embodiment of trauma itself, time as a single devastating burst of unprocessed knowledge. Woolf relied on the visual textuality of the Spanish photos to question the historical connection between patriarchal society and war. Punishment made visible is what Woolf seeks to undermine through associations established by readers.

Keywords:   Virginia Woolf, fascism, trauma, photographs, Spanish Civil War

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