Presentation Title

Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse: An Escape from the Gendered Mind

Start Date

November 2016

End Date

November 2016

Location

MSE 113

Type of Presentation

Oral Talk

Abstract

Paul Brown argues that men’s minds are intrinsically individualized and “separate,” whereas women’s are more definable in the context of togetherness and community. Brown maintains these differences are obvious in Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse, and certainly we find this distinction in Woolf’s portraits of Mr. and Mrs. Ramsay. But Woolf does more than delineate Victorian gender norms and more than suggest that gender shapes the processes of the human mind. She also challenges the validity of these norms. Mr. Ramsay exhibits a ‘masculine’ intelligence, one absorbed by a personal interest in philosophy, art, and science. Mrs. Ramsay’s socially-oriented “feminine” intelligence focuses on etiquette and on an awareness of the Other. Mr. Ramsay’s antagonism towards his wife’s lack of a “masculine” perspective highlights the tension that arises from the Victorian assumption of male superiority. Woolf undermines this gender norm most aggressively when she indicates the feminine intellect may be the preferred one. Such a conclusion, grafted onto Blakey Vermeule’s theory that a socially-oriented mind has an evolutionary advantage, led me to examine the role of Woolf’s Lily Briscoe more closely. Like Mrs. Ramsay, Lily operates with a socially-oriented intelligence, but Lily has a more individualized, artistic intelligence as well. In Lily, Woolf has given us a mind encompassing both artistic and social competence, independent of the gendered mind, balancing both masculine and feminine intellects--thus making a case not for the superiority of one over another, but, rather, for the superiority of a combination of both.

This document is currently not available here.

Share

COinS
 
Nov 12th, 2:00 PM Nov 12th, 2:15 PM

Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse: An Escape from the Gendered Mind

MSE 113

Paul Brown argues that men’s minds are intrinsically individualized and “separate,” whereas women’s are more definable in the context of togetherness and community. Brown maintains these differences are obvious in Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse, and certainly we find this distinction in Woolf’s portraits of Mr. and Mrs. Ramsay. But Woolf does more than delineate Victorian gender norms and more than suggest that gender shapes the processes of the human mind. She also challenges the validity of these norms. Mr. Ramsay exhibits a ‘masculine’ intelligence, one absorbed by a personal interest in philosophy, art, and science. Mrs. Ramsay’s socially-oriented “feminine” intelligence focuses on etiquette and on an awareness of the Other. Mr. Ramsay’s antagonism towards his wife’s lack of a “masculine” perspective highlights the tension that arises from the Victorian assumption of male superiority. Woolf undermines this gender norm most aggressively when she indicates the feminine intellect may be the preferred one. Such a conclusion, grafted onto Blakey Vermeule’s theory that a socially-oriented mind has an evolutionary advantage, led me to examine the role of Woolf’s Lily Briscoe more closely. Like Mrs. Ramsay, Lily operates with a socially-oriented intelligence, but Lily has a more individualized, artistic intelligence as well. In Lily, Woolf has given us a mind encompassing both artistic and social competence, independent of the gendered mind, balancing both masculine and feminine intellects--thus making a case not for the superiority of one over another, but, rather, for the superiority of a combination of both.