One of the most striking features of Virginia Woolf's fiction is her representation of what Julia Briggs has called "the conversation behind the conversation." These prominent non-verbal "conversations" evoke the word's archaic sense, still visible in its roots of con and vertĕre: a relation of "turning together." Woolf's experimental "playpoem," The Waves (1931), may be read as an extended exploration of this sort of nonverbal "conversation." The text's depiction of two crucial scenes of dinner table conversation moreover sketches a subtle dialogue between Bertrand Russell's epistemology and Immanuel Kant's aesthetics. The Waves reframes and integrates both philosophical inquiries in terms of conversation, proposing a theory by which collaborative aesthetic conversation transforms the given world into what Rhoda calls a "dwelling-place." The resultant philosophy of conversation offers an original account of the sensus communis, in which the feeling of commonality underlying aesthetic judgment may itself be produced by a particularly aesthetic mode of conversation.


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