An Anachronistic Reading
Virginia Woolf’s The Waves (1931) is her most “experimental” novel. The Waves is made up of two sorts of discourse juxtaposed: the ten “interludes” in the past tense distributed through the novel describing waves breaking on the shore at various times of the day and at various seasons, and the present tense “soliloquies” (her words) of the six characters at various times in their lives. Just what set of interpretative hypotheses will best and most economically account for the strange stylistic features of The Waves? The best answer is that The Waves presupposes a vast impersonal memory bank that stores everything that has ever happened, every thought or feeling of every person, but turned into appropriate language, complete with figures of speech for sensations and feelings that cannot be said literally. Passages in Woolf’s Dairy and in her “A Sketch of the Past” (from Moments of Being) confirm this hypothesis.
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