03 February, 2011

Jacob Littleton's “Portrait of the Artist as a Middle-Aged Woman”

Littleton’s essay teems with fruitful and perceptive observations about aspects of Mrs. Dalloway ranging from the eponymous character’s conception of life to the contrast between community and individual isolation. The body of the paper focuses primarily on defining Clarissa’s artistic endeavor, arguing that her love of life for its own sake is at the heart of her ability to transmute this love into a communal setting at her climactic party. Her heightened awareness of existence leads her to find unity with others in shared experience and memory of shared experience, and Littleton intelligently characterizes her secular “faith” in such communal moments as a counter to the fear of death (physical or societal) that plagues her even to the close of her triumphant party. This excellent argument, however, forms only the central portion of the paper, and is rather weakened by being couched in political language that relates only distantly to his attempt to characterize her artistry. Depicting Clarissa as a subversive element in the midst of a stifling traditional society, the close of the paper comes off as rather bathetic after the highly engaging discussion of the body.

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