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Virginia Woolf and Heritage$
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Jane deGay, Tom Breckin, and Anne Reus

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9781942954422

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: September 2018

DOI: 10.5949/liverpool/9781942954422.001.0001

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Resetting the Type: An Exploration of the Historical Sense in Mrs. Dalloway

Resetting the Type: An Exploration of the Historical Sense in Mrs. Dalloway

(p.156) Resetting the Type: An Exploration of the Historical Sense in Mrs. Dalloway
Virginia Woolf and Heritage

Savannah Pignatelli

Liverpool University Press

Scholars often study instances of intertextuality within Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, which they connect to both classical and contemporary authors. Though some of these scholars have noted a connection between Mrs. Dalloway and T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land, there has been little criticism that attempts to explain how this connection affects the meaning within Mrs. Dalloway. Virginia Woolf’s diaries reveal that she crafted her novel during the period in which she developed a personal and collaborative relationship with T.S. Eliot and his poem The Waste Land: Eliot recited the poem to Leonard and Virginia Woolf in June of 1922, two months before Virginia began writing Mrs. Dalloway, and she set the type for The Waste Land herself in 1923. In my paper I will examine how Mrs. Dalloway interacts with Eliot’s work, including his theoretical text “Traditional and the Individual Talent.” Meaning, in Eliot’s model, is cumulative and cultural. By tapping into the larger historical dialogue embodied by “tradition” meaning is transformed, created anew, challenged, and reproduced. In many ways, Mrs. Dalloway is a performance of Woolf’s ability to exercise Eliot’s concept of the historical sense. More importantly, however, Woolf’s appropriation of “tradition” allows her to collaborate with past authors to create meaning in the face of a changed world.

Keywords:   T.S. Eliot, historical sense, mermaid, drowned sailor, Clarissa, Septimus, Prufrock, The Waste Land

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