Essay on cows

Topics: Bloomsbury Group, Sociology, Modernist literature Pages: 3 (883 words) Published: December 1, 2013
In a famous passage in her unfinished autobiography "A Sketch of the Past," Virginia Woolf described her revulsion at seeing herself in a looking glass, and went on to contrast this experience with the hedonic sensuousness of some of her earliest childhood moments. While this passage has attracted attention as a description of a traumatic symptom, her ensuing comment tends to pass as a truism and furthermore as evidence of her notorious shrinking from physicality. In this comment Woolf wrote, "I could feel ecstasies and raptures spontaneously and intensely and without any shame or the least sense of guilt, so long as they were disconnected with my own body."1

[2] I want to suggest that this formulation is strikingly odd. After all, where else would one feel "ecstasies and raptures" if not in one's own body? Of the possible answers, "the intellect" seems simply wrong and "the soul" anachronistic except as a metaphor for the more rarefied sorts of bodily sensations. Furthermore, such philosophically idealist accounts are alien to the precise renderings of physical sensation that Woolf offered in her work. As Lily Briscoe reflects in To the Lighthouse, "It was one's body feeling, not one's mind,"2 and the fiction, essays and personal writings that Woolf produced during her lifetime present a spectrum of sentient and sensuous bodies. I want to suggest further, however, that in these writings, the bodies allowed the most unrestricted experience of ecstasies and raptures (as well as of loss and horror) are bodies of a different order than those seen in the mirror: that is, than the bodies consolidated by and for the gaze of others. In essence, Woolf represented and perhaps experienced two kinds of body. One kind was the body for others, the body cast in social roles and bound by the laws of social interaction. The other, however, was fundamentally new to modernist representation although arguably always an element of experience. One of Woolf's signal contributions...
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