A Room of One's Own

The Unseen Table: Woolf’s Critique of Philosophy and the Possibilities of Female Subjectivity in To the Lighthouse

The construction of subjectivity in relation to the “real” world of objects has long been a concern for critics of Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse. In his seminal work, Mimesis, Eric Auerbach argues that the novel inverts the conventional relation in fiction between inner and outer events: “In Virginia Woolf’s case the exterior events have actually lost their hegemony, they serve to release and interpret inner events, whereas before her time…inner movements preponderately function to prepare and motivate significant exterior happenings” (Auerbach 1). According to his analysis of the novel, events external to characters are subordinate to the subjective thoughts or "chains of ideas" (Auerbach, 477) they evoke, as if the function of the outer world were to provide merely a stimulus for the inner one: "the exterior objective reality of the momentary present . . . is nothing but an occasion . . . The stress is placed entirely on what the occasion releases, things which are not seen directly but by reflection, which are tied to the present of the framing occurrence which releases them" (Auerbach, 478). In this way, the very notion of reality is transformed. That which happens as "exterior...

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