Jacob's Room Background

Jacob's Room Background

Published in 1922, Jacob’s Room was the first novel Virginia Woolf published herself through Hogarth Press, the publishing house she co-founded. The novel represented another break with tradition by becoming the work that Woolf herself admitted was the first in which she discovered her voice. She was 40 at the time.

Situated firmly within the genre of bildungsroman stories, which chart the coming of age of a typically callow youth from innocence into experience, Woolf's novel departs significantly from the tradition by nature of its avant-garde elements and bona fide existence as a novel of experimentation. Although it takes the backdrop of war as its central historical motif, as so many other bildungsroman novels have done, the most obvious experimental divergence from its ancestors is the fact that the hero, Jacob Flanders, is forced to be understood through a myriad of experiences that shape and his define his progress. Woolf, through Jacob, construes the horrors of war as the overarching metaphor for evolutionary leaps in the individual.

The centerpiece of the experimental quality to be found within the narrative of Jacob’s Room (as well as the reasoning that its experimental construction unleashed Woolf's inner voice with full flowering for the first time) is the attack on the constrictions imposed by chronological time. The novel represents the first full-fledged dive into the waters of pure stream-of-consciousness for Woolf, as it rejects plot, plays with perspective and points of views, and—most jarringly—indulges in the willingness to commence a scene with the focus on one topic and the suddenly switch with no conventional literary markers to another. Thus, the narrative coerces the reader to tag along on Woolf’s delirious journey of literary adventurousness by sheer force of imagination.

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