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In the Hollow of the Wave

Virginia Woolf and Modernist Uses of Nature

Bonnie Kime Scott

Publication Year: 2012

Examining the writings and life of Virginia Woolf, In the Hollow of the Wave looks at how Woolf treated "nature" as a deliberate discourse that shaped her way of thinking about the self and the environment and her strategies for challenging the imbalances of power in her own culture—all of which remain valuable in the framing of our discourse about nature today. Bonnie Kime Scott explores Woolf’s uses of nature, including her satire of scientific professionals and amateurs, her parodies of the imperial conquest of land, her representations of flora and fauna, her application of post-impressionist and modernist modes, her merging of characters with the environment, and her ventures across the species barrier.

In shedding light on this discourse of Woolf and the natural world, Scott brings to our attention a critical, neglected, and contested aspect of modernism itself. She relies on feminist, ecofeminist, and postcolonial theory in the process, drawing also on the relatively recent field of animal studies. By focusing on multiple registers of Woolf’s uses of nature, the author paves the way for more extended research in modernist practices, natural history, garden and landscape studies, and lesbian/queer studies.

Published by: University of Virginia Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. ix-x


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pp. xi-xiv


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pp. xv-xviii

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pp. 1-12

There is nothing I can imagine that is totally independent of nature; despite the ravages of human-made pollutants, there may still be substances, forces, and living beings unknown or unaffected by culture. Nature enters a cultural arena, however, as soon as we think about it, and certainly when...

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1. Toward a Greening of Modernism

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pp. 13-41

Despite the challenges of modernity, nature has a persistent, even adaptive, presence in modernism. Furthermore, the reinsertion of nature into modernist studies contributes to ongoing debates concerning sources of aesthetic form, the development of personal identity, survival of trauma, and the rebalancing of power and resources in the light of post-colonial and...

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2. Diversions of Darwin and Natural History

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pp. 42-70

By the early twentieth century, the field of natural history had yielded much of its authority to a more theoretical, discipline-based pursuit of science situated in professional societies and the academy and, as feminist historians of science have recognized, largely off-limits to women and people of color.1 Natural history still attracted the general public, including women...

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3. Limits of the Gardenas Cultured Space

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pp. 71-110

Though Virginia Woolf had only a modest record as a gardener, from her earliest years she recorded vivid impressions of gardens that held lasting significance. She was highly accurate in natural detail and imaginative with similes, metaphors, and modernist representation that included the influence of Post-Impressionism. Complex, interactive garden scenes...

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4. The Art of Landscape,the Politics of Place

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pp. 111-153

The annual migration of the Stephen family between London and Cornwall offered young Virginia contrasting urban and seaside settings, with differing balance and mixture of nature and culture. In her diaries, essays, and fiction, she made imaginative juxtapositions of scenes filled with people, and ones that pore over landscape as well as internal and external spaces. Giles...

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5. Crossing the Species Barrier

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pp. 154-192

Animals have a pervasive, varied, and versatile presence throughout Virginia Woolf ’s life and writings, as already suggested by the Stephen family’s engagement with natural history, in chapter 2. Julia Stephen’s children’s stories featured talking and thinking animals (monkeys, goats, pigs, cats, and birds, including a parrot and an owl). They teach that good children are...

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6. Virginia Woolf and Ideas of Environmental Holism

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pp. 193-220

This book began by placing Woolf in the company of her contemporaries, finding that nature has a vigorous if largely unheralded presence in modernist literature and in modernity itself. We have seen Woolf writing about nature in numerous registers—in childhood explorations of natural history, the creative and political challenges of landscapes, cultivation of...


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pp. 221-238


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pp. 239-260


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pp. 261-268

E-ISBN-13: 9780813932620
E-ISBN-10: 0813932629
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813932606
Print-ISBN-10: 0813932602

Page Count: 288
Illustrations: 35 halftones
Publication Year: 2012

OCLC Number: 796999199
MUSE Marc Record: Download for In the Hollow of the Wave

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Subject Headings

  • Woolf, Virginia, -- 1882-1941 -- Criticism and interpretation.
  • Nature in literature.
  • Modernism (Literature) -- Great Britain.
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