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Treatment of time in Virginia Woolf's Work

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  1. Introduction
  2. Definition of clock time
    1. Usage of clock time in the novel 'To the lighthouse'
  3. Analysis of what 'time in the mind' means
  4. As inner time as a matter of interiority
  5. Conclusion
  6. Works cited

In her novel "Orlando: a Biography" published in 1927, Virginia Woolf evokes 'the extraordinary discrepancy between time on the clock and time in the mind' (Orlando p.91) and the opposition she expresses between this two conceptions of time is to be found, more or less obviously, in most of her works. In this study, we will analyse the characteristics and meanings of each of these 'times', as well as the reasons why Woolf chose to use both of them in her novels. This argument will be based on two of her main works: Mrs Dalloway (1925) and To the Lighthouse (1927) because, although written at the same period, they both exemplify really different conceptions of time.

[...] Nevertheless this inner time is constantly present in Woolf's works as it is tightly linked to the device of stream of consciousness that she uses. Indeed, inner time is all about time as it is perceived and experienced by the characters, and thus it completely depends on their sensitivity. Given that it is only defined by subjectivity, inner time in opposition to clock time cannot be linear and thus, neither measured nor divided. In other words, 'time in the mind' is unlimited, just like thoughts are, because they both only belong to the individual. [...]


[...] Thanks to this piece of information, the reader can then calculate the approximate age of each remaining character and thus situate in time the plot of this last part of the novel. In Mrs Dalloway, the plot is contained in a single day but the precise date is never explicitly revealed. Only hints are given along the narrative, for instance 'For it was the middle of June. The war was over' (Mrs Dalloway p.6) or some references to social events can let the reader know that the action is probably taking place in late May. [...]

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