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The Politics of Gender in Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse and James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

Ljiljana Ina Gjurgjan

Puni tekst: engleski pdf 320 Kb

str. 3-17

preuzimanja: 6.523



The article discusses the ideologematics of Bildungsrman/ Künstlerroman underwriting
Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse and Joyce’s A Portrait, in particular the relationship
between self-definition and gender. The tenor of the article is that Bildungsroman/
Künstlerroman is concerned with the process of becoming a man. Consequently, To the
Lighthouse, though predominantly a female novel, delineates the process of maturation
through the father-son relationship. The journey to the lighthouse symbolizes
James’s initiation into manliness as he steers the boat to its final destination. In A
Portrait Stephen’s artistic search also ends with self-cognition and is also rendered as a
metaphor of travel. However, unlike James, Stephen does not desire to inscribe himself
into the codified system of manliness; he aims at the individualized self-definition,
that of an artist. In this he complies with the relevance ascribed to fin de siécle art.
Both novels end with a moment of artistic self-realization, since Stephen’s epiphanic
recognition of his artistic vocation is comparable to that of Lily Briscoe at the end of
To the Lighthouse. Yet, the moment of Lily’s creative revelation turns out to be abortive
since her art would not participate in the artistic production of the period. Instead,
she succumbs to her woman’s fate designating her art as solipsistic, her paintings
being fated to end up stored in the attic or destroyed. Her artistic self-definition is
thus undercut by the signifying practices of Victorian society (“women can’t write,
women can’t paint”) defining the metaphysical space of representation as solely male.

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