The Unseen Table: Woolf’s Critique of Philosophy and the Possibilities of Female Subjectivity in to the Lighthouse

July 16, 2021 by Essay Writer

The construction of subjectivity in relation to the “real” world of objects has long been a concern for critics of Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse. In his seminal work, Mimesis, Eric Auerbach argues that the novel inverts the conventional relation in fiction between inner and outer events: “In Virginia Woolf’s case the exterior events have actually lost their hegemony, they serve to release and interpret inner events, whereas before her time…inner movements preponderately function to prepare and motivate significant exterior happenings” (Auerbach 1). According to his analysis of the novel, events external to characters are subordinate to the subjective thoughts or “chains of ideas” (Auerbach, 477) they evoke, as if the function of the outer world were to provide merely a stimulus for the inner one: “the exterior objective reality of the momentary present . . . is nothing but an occasion . . . The stress is placed entirely on what the occasion releases, things which are not seen directly but by reflection, which are tied to the present of the framing occurrence which releases them” (Auerbach, 478). In this way, the very notion of reality is transformed. That which happens as “exterior occurrence,” though indisputably concrete and actual in its own right, becomes merely the context or frame in which “a more real reality” unfolds (Auerbach, 477).

A range of critical study has further elaborated on the philosophical implications of Virginia Woolf’s work. Jane Duran maintains “some of Woolf’s best known work—especially To the Lighthouse—exemplifies a concern for time, reality and a sense of interior life-as-lived that is overtly philosophical in its construction” (Duran, 300). Both Lucio Ruotolo and Heidi Storl employ Martin Heidegger’s existential analysis of Dasein, or “being there,” found in his seminal work Being and Time. In interpreting Mrs. Dalloway, Ruotolo uses the concept “to illuminate Clarissa Dalloway’s complex interaction with nothingness, ‘the void that borders meaning’” (Ruotolo, 17) while Storl argues that in To the Lighthouse “Woolf illustrated the nature and implications of being” as proposed by Heidegger (Storl, 303). In The Singing of the Real World: The Philosophy of Virginia Woolf’s Fiction, Mark Hussey links Woolf’s perpetual attentiveness to moments of sensation to the phenomenological theory of Maurice Merleau-Ponty to analyze the various senses in which “self” or “soul” are used in order to define its reality. Also using the work of Merleau-Ponty in addition to Emmanuel Levinas, Justine Dymond argues in “’The Outside of its Inside and the Inside of its Outside’: Phenomenology in To the Lighthouse” that the novel effectively performs “the phenomenological challenge to the inside/outside dichotomy as theorized by Levinas and Merleau-Ponty” (Dymond, 140). In Virginia Woolf and Postmodernism: Literature in Quest and Question of Itself Pamela Caughie explores Woolf’s work in terms of “a conceptual model” rooted in Ludwig Wittgenstein’s philosophy of language, “for narrative discourse [. . .] in terms of the multiple and shifting relations among signifying systems” (Caughie, 81). Lastly, in The Phantom Table Ann Banfield argues that the theory of knowledge formulated by G.E. Moore and Bertrand Russell had a profound effect on Woolf’s conception of reality and through the work of Roger Fry, her artistic expression of it.

Despite of, and in response to, this scholarship, Michael Lackey maintains in “Modernist Anti-Philosophicalism and Virginia Woolf’s Critique of Philosophy” that “philosophy was a discipline in crisis during Woolf’s day, and a casual glance at philosophy and the philosopher in Woolf’s works indicates not just that she was aware of the unparalleled assault on philosophy’s most treasured axioms and methods, but that she was also trying to deliver the deathblow to philosophy itself. Given Woolf’s blatant critique of philosophy, I argue that using philosophy to analyze and interpret her corpus places the critic at odds with Woolf’s political and aesthetic agenda” (Lackey, 76). While rightly noting that in Woolf’s time the discipline of philosophy was in a profound state of crisis, Lackey misinterprets the position of this crisis within Woolf’s work. Regardless of Woolf’s inclination toward or against philosophy, I find that her politically motivated feminist deconstruction of gender identity within To the Lighthouse remains indebted to philosophical shifts in the understanding of the masculine subject in relation to the external object, both material and female. In effect, these shifts constitute the intellectual underpinnings of Woolf’s reformulation of gender identity and relations and are thus responsible for opening up a space that made such a re-imagining possible. In this way, philosophical interpretation of Woolf’s work does not undermine its political or aesthetic intent, but rather confirms and illuminates the framework that allowed for its development.

The thematic importance of philosophy in To the Lighthouse is embodied in the character of Mr. Ramsay, a professional philosopher referred to as the “greatest metaphysician of the time” by his disciple, Charles Tansley (Woolf TL, 59). His son, Andrew Ramsay, responds to the painter Lily Briscoe’s query on the topic of “his father’s books…’Subject and object and the nature of reality,” Andrew had said. And when she said Heavens, she had no notion what that meant. ‘Think of a kitchen table then,’ he told her, ‘when you’re not there.’” (Woolf TL, 38). This episode alludes to one of the basic problems of Western empirical thought, which Bertrand Russell describes in The Problems of Philosophy: “It seems to me that I am now sitting in a chair, at a table of a certain shape, on which I see sheets of paper with writing or print” (Russell, 7). Ann Banfield identifies the table as “the paradigmatic object of knowledge” that “any philosophy addressing our knowledge of the external world first addresses” (Banfield, 66). In this episode, then, we find the novel’s engagement with “the topics of the British empiricists, Locke, Hume, Berkeley—the survival of the object without a perceiver, the nature of identity and non-entity, the skepticism about substance—“ that “”lie beneath the activity of the narrative” (Beer, 32).

Woolf critiques this empirical strand of metaphysical speculation through the characterization of both Mr. Ramsay and his wife, who observes the philosophical fallacies of her husband:

Indeed he seemed to her sometimes made differently from other people, born blind, deaf, and dumb, to the ordinary things, but to the extraordinary things, with an eye like an eagle’s. His understanding often astonished her. But did he notice the flowers? No. Did he notice the view? No. Did he even notice his own daughter’s beauty, or whether there was pudding on his plate or roast beef? He would sit at a table with them like a person in a dream (Woolf TL, 107).

This passage demonstrates how “reality…is ever haunted by its spectral negation, unreality” so that probing into the realness of the object turns it “into something strange, unreal, and yet so insistently present one wonders whether its strangeness is its reality” (Banfield, 60). In this sense, despite his speculative labours, Mr. Ramsay remains paradoxically estranged from the reality of the world he seeks to comprehend. Storl’s reading of To the Lighthouse in conjunction with Heidegger’s Being and Time is illuminating in connection to Mr. Ramsay’s detached subjectivity. Heidegger was primarily concerned with the recuperation of the question of the “Being” of human life and the failure of Platonic Idealism to reach the real ground of “Being”:

In the history of Western thinking, indeed continually from the beginning, what is, is thought in reference to Being; yet the truth of Being remains unthought, and not only in that truth denied to thinking as a possible experience, but Western thinking itself, and indeed in the form of metaphysics, expressly, but nevertheless unknowingly, veils the happening of that denial (Heidegger IM, 20).

According to Heidegger, Western philosophy had thus far formulated the ground of philosophical inquiry from the perspective of the thinking subject. His aim was to reverse “the Cartesian suggestion…’I think, therefore I am’” through a new understanding in which “my being (the fact that I am) makes possible my various modes of being, including that of thought or thinking” (Storl, 306). The consistent fallacy within Western philosophy was to ascribe “Being” to an immaterial essence, the “Form” of which the object comprises a mere representation of, thus reducing the world to an object for the thinking subject. This perspective is found in Mr. Ramsay with the alternative posited by his wife who, when seeing “the first pulse of the full-throbbing star,” wants to shows her husband and have him look at it, “for the sight gave her such keen pleasure. But she stopped herself. He never looked at things. If he did, all he would say would be, Poor little world, with one of his sighs. At that moment, he said, ‘very fine,’ to please her, and pretended to admire the flowers. But she knew quite well that he did not admire them, or even realize that they were there” (Woolf TL, 108). Instead of seeing the flowers he only “notic[es] something red, something brown” (Woolf TL, 93). In this passage, rather than comprehending nature’s “Being” in its fullness, Mr. Ramsay has chosen the reductive perspective of narrow conceptual or empirical analysis and the belief that the world is a mere shadow image, a “poor[er]” and “little[r]” version of the truth. For these reasons, he can only see one aspect of the object in question.

In this sense, Mrs. Ramsay effectively acts as the foil to her husband’s subjectivity and a model of Heidegger’s alternative connective “being there.” In the novel’s opening scene, Mr. Ramsay insists that a lighthouse trip is impossible in present weather conditions, pressing single-mindedly for truth despite the harm this does to the feelings of James, his son. In contrast, Mrs. Ramsay processes multiple factors in the same situation, linking them associatively rather than by cause and effect: James’s eagerness to make the trip; her husband’s rational approach to the weather predictions; the barometer reading; the stockings that she knits for the lighthouse keeper’s son; her desire that her husband and find some common ground; the look of the sea and sky; the mood of the day (Woolf TL, 49-51). Unlike her spouse, the historical perspective and the distant future do not interest Mrs. Ramsay. Rather, the immediate sensations of life’s flux engage her completely. Assembling disparate foci into an organic whole and moving from one image to another, Mrs. Ramsay remains more aware of the present than its relation between past and future. Watching family and guests around the dinner table, she “unveils each of these people, and their thoughts and feelings…without effort, like a light stealing under water so that its ripples and the reeds in it and the sudden trout are all lit up hanging, trembling” (Woolf TL, 160). Reading poetry after dinner, she envision climbing upward through a blossoming tree, “…swinging herself, zigzagging this way and that, from one line to another as from one branch to another” (Woolf TL, 179). These individual images and the larger pattern they suggest illustrate Mrs. Ramsay’s spatially centered perception that sees and connects things in motion—disparate parts of life’s flux—into a weblike cluster of associations where “the whole is held together” for brief moments of synthesis (Woolf TL, 160). In opposition to this perspective of connectivity, Mr. Ramsay seeks security and safety in the linearity of an objectifying masculine perspective, against the nagging worry that time will efface his work. His walks through local lanes and commons always lead him to the sea, a symbol to him of confusion and reflective of time’s violent destruction of his contribution of knowledge. Images of the sea emphasize his fear of ignorance, a forceful chaos surrounding intellectual history that resists the fragile structures of human thought. Throughout “The Window” section of the novel, Mr. Ramsay’s fear that history will erase his work translates into images of his guarding the land’s edge, watching the sea erode the ground under him: It was his fate…whether he wished it or not, to come out thus on a spit of land which the sea is slowly eating away, and there to stand, like a desolate sea-bird, alone. …and so to stand on his little ledge facing the dark of human ignorance, how we know nothing and the sea eats away the ground we stand on… (Woolf TL, 68-69). Separation and opposition thus define Mr. Ramsay’s perspective. In opposition to this conception of the thinking subject, Heidegger maintained that “[s]elf and world…belong together in the single entity, the Dasein,” translated literally as “being there.” In short, “[s]elf and world are not two entities, like subject and object…but self and world are the basic determination of the Dasein itself in the unity of the structure of being-in-the-world” (Heidegger BPP, 297). The “empirical sense” of “the human body” that is “distinct from the desk and chair within which it is situated” remains, but the underlying “being of the human being merges with, or becomes indistinguishable from, the keyboards at its fingertips” (Storl, 306). Storl sees To the Lighthouse as illustrating this “subject-object collapse” and “convergence of being” that is “traditionally construed as a collection of independently existing subjects and objects” (Storl, 306). The novel’s dinner party scene illustrates such a fusion of “Being”:

“Light the candles,” and they jumped up instantly and went and fumbled at the sideboard…Now eight candles were stood down the table, and after the first stoop of the flames stood upright and drew with them into visibility the long table entire…Now all the candles were lit up, and the faces on both sides of the table were brought nearer by the candlelight, and composed, as they had not been in the twilight, into a party round a table, for the night was now shut off by panes of glass, which, far from giving any accurate view of the outside world, rippled it so strangely that here, inside the room, seemed to be order and dry land… (Woolf TL, 96-97).

The critique of the metaphysical division between the subject and the object is likewise identified within Gillian Beer’s essay “Hume, Stephen, and Elegy in To the Lighthouse” as the foremost philosophical fiction that is “passionately explored” in novel, “not only by the painter Lily Briscoe, but by the entire narrative process” (Beer, 60). Beer cites the comments of Leslie Stephen, Woolf’s father, on Hume, the eighteenth-century philosopher he most admired:

The whole history of philosophical thought is but a history of attempts to separate the object and the subject, and each new attempt implies that the previous line of separation was erroneously drawn or partly ‘fictitious’ (Beer 30- cite original)

This division is the foundational assumption of the tradition through which Mr. Ramsay and Mr. Bankes, a friend and houseguest of the Ramsays, regard themselves as “knowing subjects that examine and manipulate the order of nature—conceptually (as in the case of Mr. Ramsay) or empirically (as in the case of Mr. Bankes)” (Storl, 305). Over the course of the novel, this division and its associated philosophical tradition are deconstructed and replaced by an alternative vision of perception that renders the “thinking subject” unnecessary.

As Banfield outlines with thorough detail, Woolf’s understanding of philosophy was in large part influenced by the work of Bertrand Russell and G.E. Moore. Russell sought to reconcile the basic problem of the relation between subject and object in epistemological terms: “That the mind can ’know’ its own private experience is not contestable, but that it can have a knowledge that goes beyond immediate experience, a knowledge of the external world, is subject to doubt” (Banfield, 22). Woolf’s comprehension of philosophy was largely defined by the conflict between “two versions of a knowledge of the external world, one direct apprehension of it through the senses and the other scientific knowledge, chiefly modern physics.” Both made certain empirical claims: “All we ever know immediately is not matter, but our own sensations. The object of science is beyond immediate knowledge. But sensation remains the evidence for it. The empirical basis for objective knowledge thus rests on subjective foundations” (Banfield, 6). Truth, then, cannot be perceived from a singular and detached perspective. Russell formulated this position in a 1926 lecture given at Cambridge University:

All empirical evidence consists, in the last analysis, of perception, since it is the latter which supplies the evidence of the law of physics. In the time of Galileo, this fact did not seem to raise any very difficult problems, since the world of physics had not yet become so abstract and remote as subsequent research has made it…The problem arises because the world of physics is, prima facie, so different from the world of perception that it is difficult to see how one can afford evidence for the other (Banfield, 6).

Russell responds to “doubt” of the external world by restoring the possibility of a reality independent of subjective perception through his argument that we can logically infer knowledge of the unobserved object not directly from observed experience of it, but by means of “the seeming paradox of unoccupied perspectives and unsensed sensibilia.” That is, through the fact that any human perspective can perceive it (Banfield, 59-107). The consequence for Woolf was an “impressionistic” mode of narration in which the individual “I” is effectively unnecessary. Banfield thus characterizes Woolf’s novels as a Leibizian “monadology”, an atomized universe—not an “unbroken whole”—in which the “table is not one table, but many” (Banfield, 108). This universe “grounds itself on a philosophical system, a theory of knowledge” in which “[o]bjects are reduced to ‘sense-data’ separable from sensations and observing subjects to ‘perspectives.’ Atomism multiplies these perspectives.” From this viewpoint, “the idea of death” is “the separation of subject and object” that is otherwise interconnected (Banfield, 1). In this context, we can understand Lily Briscoe’s difficulty in comprehending the topic of Mr. Ramsay’s work:

So now she always saw, when she thought of Mr. Ramsay’s work, a scrubbed kitchen table. It lodged now in the fork of a pear tree, for they had reached the orchard. And with a painful effort of concentration, she focused her mind, not upon the silver-bossed bark of the tree, or upon its fish-shaped leaves, but upon a phantom kitchen table, one of those scrubbed board tables, grained and knotted, whose virtue seems to have been laid bare by years of muscular integrity, which stuck there, its four legs in the air” (Woolf TL, 23).

The inadequacy of a singular perspective is further observed following Mrs. Ramsay’s death, in Lily Briscoe’s musing that “[o]ne wanted fifty pairs of eyes to see with…Fifty pairs of eyes were not enough to get round that one woman with, she thought” (Woolf TL, 294). In order to penetrate the essence and identity of Mrs. Ramsay, one set of eyes would need to “steal though keyholes and surround her where she sat knitting, talking, sitting silent in the window alone” (Woolf TL, 294) and capture a successive external portrait of Mrs. Ramsay in all her settings. Another pair would pass into Mrs. Ramsay’s consciousness to see what “stirred and trembled in her mind” and unveil responses to questions of perception: “What did the hedge mean to her, what did the garden mean to her, what did it mean to her when a wave broke?” (Woolf TL, 294). Yet to fully embrace Mrs. Ramsay’s being, even these “fifty pairs of eyes” are insufficient, as Lily contemplates the “chambers of the mind and heart” of Mrs. Ramsay, imagining them as “treasures in the tombs of kings, tablets bearing sacred inscriptions, which if one could spell them out, would teach one everything” (Woolf TL, 79). In her coordination of narrative perspectives, Woolf effectively constructs multiple “pairs of eyes” in her portrait of Mrs. Ramsay, including the omniscient eyes of the narrator, the external eyes of the characters, and the internal eyes of the character herself. Banfield describes this method in terms of an “infinite number of possible perspectives” that constitute Woolf’s universe and “like London at night, out of a multitude of rooms and houses, it is punctuated by points of light, private worlds” (Banfield, 109). Although Woolf enacts this privilege of traversing the spatial and temporal boundaries of her characters, she also acknowledges that “fifty pairs of eyes” cannot satisfy the breadth and depth of any identity. Lily, without access to more than one perspective, wonders early in the novel how “did one know one thing or another thing about people, sealed as they were?” (Woolf TL, 79); yet, even “unsealed” in the eyes of the narrator identity is slippery, as Lily herself eventually discovers and finally wonders “how many shapes one person might wear” (Woolf TL, 290). The possibilities for identity are thus expanded and multiplied, and this is in large part due to the deconstruction of the rigid separation between subject and object. Moreover, dominance that the subject holds over the object is diffused, as the subject must recognize that understanding reality occurs in power-with, rather than power-over, additional perspectives.

The philosophical shifts outlined above in which the division and power relation between subject and object open up the space of aesthetic possibility that furthers Woolf’s political concerns. In A Room of One’s Own, she protests the mystification of the objectified female image:

Women have served all these centuries as looking-glasses possessing the magic and delicious power of reflecting the figure of man at twice its natural size…Mirrors are essential to all violent and heroic action. That is why Napoleon and Mussolini both insist so emphatically upon the inferiority of women, for if they were not inferior, they would cease to enlarge (Woolf ROO, 44).

The real “object” of this projecting vision is obscured—but how this male perspective be altered so as to recognize this obscurity and consequently improve the status of women? As Nancy Armstrong points out, in the Modernist period “the gendering of human identity provided the metaphysical girders of modern culture—its reigning mythology—[I]nstead of a ‘soul’—Locke’s word for what exists before the process of self-development begins—the essential self was commonly understood in terms of gender.” Consequently, men and women were divided into separate spheres according to the determining “essence” of their apparent masculine or feminine characteristics. Public employment, earning an income, public interaction, and verbal articulateness were masculine, whereas domestic work, private interaction with family, modesty, and verbal inarticulateness were feminine (Armstrong, 18-19). In brief, masculinity was associated with “economic and political qualities” while femininity was associated with “emotional qualities”, and these roles were considered both natural and essential: writing in 1913, Walter Heape, “an antisuffragist zoologist,” could claim that because the reproductive system differs structurally and functionally “in the Male and the Female; and since all other organs and systems of organs are affected by this system, it is certain that Male and Female are essentially different throughout” (Gilbert and Gubar, xvi).

In “Mr. Bennett and Mrs. Brown” Woolf contests the underlying power relations that dictate the lives of women in terms of knowledge of their apparently innate “nature”: “I ask myself, what is reality? And who are the judges of reality?” (Woolf BB, 239). In this passage we can find Woolf’s critique of the masculine subject who struggles to control the material world through logical thought, as Mr. Ramsay strives to accomplish in To the Lighthouse:

For if thought is like the keyboard of a piano, divided into so many notes, or like the alphabet is ranged in twenty-six letters all in order, then his splendid mind had no sort of difficulty in running over those letters one by one, firmly and accurately, until it had reached, say, the letter Q. He reached Q. Very few people in the whole of England ever reach Q,…But after Q? What comes next? After Q there are a number of letters the last of which is scarcely visible to mortal eyes, but glimmers red in the distance. Z is only reached by one man in a generation. Still, if he could reach R it would be something…Q he could demonstrate. If Q then is Q – R— (Woolf TL, 53-4).

In “Getting to Q: Sexual Lines in To the Lighthouse” Rachel Bowlby finds in this passage the “structure of masculine subjectivity” as a linear progression of “human development” from which women are excluded:

In the psychoanalytic account of human development, there is no subjectivity without sexual difference, and there is no natural, programmed progression for these of either biological sex towards the achievement of the ‘masculine’ or ‘feminine’ identity socially ascribed. Because the dominant line is that of masculinity, the girl’s understanding of the meaning of sexual difference implies coming to terms with her de facto eccentricity, forced to take up a position in relation to the norm from which she is by definition excluded: as the image of maternal fulfillment seen from the train window, as the ‘woman’ despised for her lack of the masculine attribute, or as an interloper into the compartment reserved for men (Bowlby GQ, 57).

In “The Trained Mind” Bowlby comments on a passage from A Room of One’s Own, in which Woolf writes, “For if Chloe likes Olivia and Mary Carmichael knows how to express it she will light a torch in that vast chamber where nobody has yet been. It is all half lights and profound shadows like those serpentine caves where one goes with a candle peering up a down, not knowing where one is stepping” (ROO, 80). Bowlby observes,

The subterranean, shadowy imagery of this passage recalls the frequent allusions in one region of contemporary feminist theory to two of Freud’s metaphors for femininity. In his essay on ‘Female Sexuality’ (1931), Freud compares the discovery of the significance of ‘the early, pre-Oedipus, phase to girls’ to that ‘in another field, of the Minoan-Mycenaean civilization behind the civilization of Greece’. And in The Question of Lay Analysis (1926), he says ‘the sexual life of adult women is a ‘dark continent’ for psychology’. The conflation of historical and spatial obscurity in the archaeological analogy suggests that femininity in some way eludes or precedes the parameters of rationalistic representation; the “dark continent” suggests a vast expanse awaiting its enlightenment, but also the enigma of a space which cannot be assimilated to the norms of ‘civilized’ thought (Bowlby TM, 28).

This passage points to the problems of knowledge that mark the imbalance of power between men and women. The naturalized norm that is exemplified by men, rather than viewed as its own sexual difference, is upheld as that which is known while the sexual difference of women is mystified and marginalized as that which is unknowable. Yet, as the above interpretations of To the Lighthouse demonstrate, truth can be accessed only through a perspective that is limited by its singularity. Banfield notes that “Moore’s and Russell’s revolt against Idealism…allow[ed] the possibility that there is an unknowable truth…denying…the Berkeleyan proposition ‘nothing can be true without being known,’ as Russell says in The Philosophy of Leibniz” (Banfield, 153). In this sense, the loss in the philosophical assumption of absolute access to the knowable allows for the possibility of an autonomous female subjectivity.

It is within this context that we can understand Mrs. Ramsay’s retreat into her own private space as an expression of such a possibility. Mrs. Ramsay finds this imagined blank space strangely comforting. When she enjoys solitude, sitting alone before dinner, she shrinks down into herself in the “wedge-shaped core of darkness” (Woolf TL, 95-96). Here, Mrs. Ramsay removes herself from public or social identity and sinks down into a “dark”, “all spreading,” “unfathomably deep” place where the “horizon [seems] to her limitless.” Rising “not as oneself…but as a wedge of darkness,” a person can go anywhere, “for no one [sees] it” or can stop it: “There [is] freedom…peace…a summoning together, a resting on the platform of stability” (Woolf TL, 96). This free space is liberating, allowing Mrs. Ramsay to cast off identity at the surface and sink down where she can be and see anything. Freud’s “dark continent” of unknowable female sexual identity is thus recast as a space of possibility in which a female subjectivity is not limited by the domination of the masculine norm of development or “knowability.” In other words, “[t]he unseen table, a logical possibility, leads knowledge outside the comfortable sphere of certainty to another, uncertain knowledge” (Banfield, 51).

As a number of critics have observed, Woolf’s awareness of philosophy through the work of her father, Leslie Stephen, and the work of “Cambridge” philosophers such as Russell and Moore, had a discernable effect on her novels. This is particularly illustrated by the problematic posed by the “subject and object” and the independent existence of the “table” within To the Lighthouse. The novel deconstructs the division between subject and object that posits the absolute authority of the former over the latter, thus destabilizing the “thinking subject.” Moreover, these shifts further her “political and aesthetic agenda” of achieving an autonomous female space where identity can be deconstructed and reconstructed. Lackey’s claim that Woolf rejected philosophy mistakes her rejection of certain branches of philosophy for that of the discipline altogether. Rather, Woolf’s philosophical recognition of the limitations of the masculine subject in terms of the inadequacy of a singular perspective is rooted in her familiarity with the work of Moore and Russell. These limitations meant that man did not have direct access to all that is “knowable,” thus removing his apparent power to cast out what is deemed “unknowable” about the object, whether material or female. It is thus partly through these foundational shifts that the truth-claims of the masculine subjectivity of Charles Tansley that “[w]omen can’t paint, women can’t write…” are irrevocably undermined within To the Lighthouse (Woolf 75).

Works Cited

Armstrong, Nancy. Desire and Domestic Fiction : A Political History of the Novel. New York : Oxford University Press, 1987.

Auerbach, Erich,. Mimesis; the Representation of Reality in Western Literature. Tr. from the German by Willard Trask. Anchor Books Ed. Garden City, N.Y.,: Doubleday., 1953.

Banfield, Ann. The Phantom Table : Woolf, Fry, Russell, and Epistemology of Modernism. Cambridge, U.K. ; New York : Cambridge University Press, 2000.

Beer, Gillian. “Hume, Stephen, and Elegy in To the Lighthouse. Virginia Woolf : The Common Ground : Essays by Gillian Beer. Ann Arbor : University of Michigan Press, c1996.

Bowlby, Rachel. “Getting to Q: Sexual Lines in To the Lighthouse.” Feminist Destinations and further Essays on Virginia Woolf. Updated ed. ed. Edinburgh : Edinburgh University Press, c1997.

—. “The Trained Mind.” Feminist Destinations and further Essays on Virginia Woolf. Updated ed. ed. Edinburgh : Edinburgh University Press, c1997.

Caughie, Pamela L.,. Virginia Woolf & Postmodernism : Literature in Quest & Question of itself. Urbana : University of Illinois Press, c1991.

Dymond, Justine. “’The Outside of its Inside and the Inside of its Outside’: Phenomenology in To the Lighthouse.” Conference on Virginia Woolf University of Maryland,Baltimore County) 2000 : (10th :, Je

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