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In the Hollow of the Wave

In the Hollow of the Wave: Virginia Woolf and Modernist Uses of Nature

Bonnie Kime Scott
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    In the Hollow of the Wave
    Book Description:

    Examining the writings and life of Virginia Woolf,In the Hollow of the Wavelooks at how Woolf treated "nature" as a deliberate discourse that shaped her way of thinking about the self and the environment and her strategies for challenging the imbalances of power in her own culture-all of which remain valuable in the framing of our discourse about nature today. Bonnie Kime Scott explores Woolf's uses of nature, including her satire of scientific professionals and amateurs, her parodies of the imperial conquest of land, her representations of flora and fauna, her application of post-impressionist and modernist modes, her merging of characters with the environment, and her ventures across the species barrier.

    In shedding light on this discourse of Woolf and the natural world, Scott brings to our attention a critical, neglected, and contested aspect of modernism itself. She relies on feminist, ecofeminist, and postcolonial theory in the process, drawing also on the relatively recent field of animal studies. By focusing on multiple registers of Woolf's uses of nature, the author paves the way for more extended research in modernist practices, natural history, garden and landscape studies, and lesbian/queer studies.

    eISBN: 978-0-8139-3262-0
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  4. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. xv-xviii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-12)

    There is nothing I can imagine that is totally independent of nature; despite the ravages of human-made pollutants, there may still be substances, forces, and living beings unknown or unaffected by culture. Nature enters a cultural arena, however, as soon as we think about it, and certainly when we write it, entering into discourse. Thus it is not very useful to make any separation of the two. Indeed, ecofeminist Donna Haraway has coined the blended term “naturecultures,” breaking down the binary division between nature and culture that was long encouraged by Enlightenment philosophy, the rise of Western science, and the...

  6. 1 Toward a Greening of Modernism
    (pp. 13-41)

    Despite the challenges of modernity, nature has a persistent, even adaptive, presence in modernism. Furthermore, the reinsertion of nature into modernist studies contributes to ongoing debates concerning sources of aesthetic form, the development of personal identity, survival of trauma, and the rebalancing of power and resources in the light of post-colonial and antiracist consciousness. Modernists regularly make reference to nature, or its control, in their writing. Natural interests of specific writers vary, as affected by factors such as geographical location, gender, race, class privilege, spirituality, and awareness and acceptance of scientific theory. This chapter investigates ways that a small set...

  7. 2 Diversions of Darwin and Natural History
    (pp. 42-70)

    By the early twentieth century, the field of natural history had yielded much of its authority to a more theoretical, discipline-based pursuit of science situated in professional societies and the academy and, as feminist historians of science have recognized, largely off-limits to women and people of color.¹ Natural history still attracted the general public, including women. These “common readers” of science might also apply “survival of the fittest,”² or some other smattering of Darwinian evolutionary theory to daily discourse. For Woolf, the observers and collectors of nature were as interesting as what they collected. Writing of the eighteenth-century naturalist Gilbert...

  8. 3 Limits of the Garden as Cultured Space
    (pp. 71-110)

    Though Virginia Woolf had only a modest record as a gardener, from her earliest years she recorded vivid impressions of gardens that held lasting significance. She was highly accurate in natural detail and imaginative with similes, metaphors, and modernist representation that included the influence of Post-Impressionism. Complex, interactive garden scenes permeate her novels and stories, many bearing hidden meanings. For Victorians, flowers might function as a code for things that could not properly be said or must be kept secret. Kate Greenaway’s 1884 bookThe Language of Flowersdecodes various flowers, trees, and vegetables, whereby (for example) ivy connotes fidelity...

  9. 4 The Art of Landscape, the Politics of Place
    (pp. 111-153)

    The annual migration of the Stephen family between London and Cornwall offered young Virginia contrasting urban and seaside settings, with differing balance and mixture of nature and culture. In her diaries, essays, and fiction, she made imaginative juxtapositions of scenes filled with people, and ones that pore over landscape as well as internal and external spaces. Giles Deleuze and Félix Guattari imagine that “to take a walk like Virginia Woolf” would mean “to be part of the crowd and at the same time completely outside it, removed from it: to be on the edge” (29). As noted in chapter 3,...

  10. 5 Crossing the Species Barrier
    (pp. 154-192)

    Animals have a pervasive, varied, and versatile presence throughout Virginia Woolf’s life and writings, as already suggested by the Stephen family’s engagement with natural history, in chapter 2. Julia Stephen’s children’s stories featured talking and thinking animals (monkeys, goats, pigs, cats, and birds, including a parrot and an owl). They teach that good children are sensitive to kind treatment of animals. A little girl named “Ginia,” who has been naughty, misses out on much of the action in “The Monkey on the Moor,” located in a beach setting very like St. Ives.

    Woolf exchanged animal nicknames through much of her...

  11. 6 Virginia Woolf and Ideas of Environmental Holism
    (pp. 193-220)

    This book began by placing Woolf in the company of her contemporaries, finding that nature has a vigorous if largely unheralded presence in modernist literature and in modernity itself. We have seen Woolf writing about nature in numerous registers—in childhood explorations of natural history, the creative and political challenges of landscapes, cultivation of character in contexts of the garden, and imaginative crossings of the species barrier. This final chapter considers whether an ordering approach to nature is decipherable in Woolf’s work, and what her construction of such order might mean in facing trauma and environmental crisis. How do Woolf’s...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 221-238)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 239-260)
  14. Index
    (pp. 261-268)