Virginia Woolf, Modernism, Materialism, T.J. Clark, Heidegger


In this paper, I argue that the “lighthouse” in Virginia Woolf’s novel To The Lighthouse operates as a symbol for Mrs. Ramsay’s “self-hood” and for Mr. Ramsay’s obscure desire for sanctuary and domesticity in Mrs. Ramsay. Through this symbolism I further contend that Woolf renders the ambiguous processes associated with self-hood and desire materially legible and, in doing so, demonstrates how metaphor and symbolism reconstitute our material world into representation. Moreover, I argue that we can conceptualize the lighthouse symbolism revolving around and centered in Mrs. Ramsay in terms of T.J. Clark’s “dual figure”; a figure with two symbolic connotations that never quite coalesce.

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