10 April, 2011
Art in Relation to the Social in Woolf: A Brief Comment
Basically all of the critics I've read so far recognize that Mrs. Dalloway is a novel sensitive to the difficulties of preserving individuality within a rigid social order. Yet as an artist, Woolf shies away from attempts to entirely subvert the standing order. Art, as we see in her depictions of Mrs. Ramsay and Lily in To the Lighthouse or even of Rachel in The Voyage Out, is primarily an attempt to communicate a subjective vision of what is worthwhile in life to others. In order to accomplish this communication, however, it must have recourse to social forms such as a dinner party, a painting, a sonata, or even words: it would be useless to express a vision if it were to be expressed in terms that mean something only to the artist. In Mrs. Dalloway, art is not the focus; rather, life is imagined as art, as an act of balancing the individual with the social, the particular with the general.