Student: Sawyer Henry
Mentor: Christopher Schedler
The modernist period ushered forth numerous scientific discoveries and philosophical theories that had a notable influence on art, literature, psychology, and philosophy. Discoveries such as Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity and Darwin’s Theory of Evolution inspired theologians, philosophers, and psychologists to focalize new concepts of self, identity, time, reality, and human experience. These shifts in contemporary human understanding happened in concurrence with increased global travel and intellectual exchange between Western and Eastern countries. As a result, writers, philosophers, and artists became more interested in Buddhism, Hinduism, and other Eastern philosophical beliefs. Virginia Woolf, while being a self-proclaimed atheist, was deeply influenced by Eastern religious philosophy and well versed in contemporary scientific theories. Drawing on literary and biographical criticism on Virginia Woolf, I trace the intersections of Eastern philosophical beliefs and Western scientific discoveries through the stream of consciousness narration of Mrs. Dalloway by analyzing both what and how things are experienced by individual characters. In the novel, the integration of each character’s stream of consciousness fabricates a dissonant medium in which singular moments in the present time are experienced through the minds of multiple characters, while they simultaneously navigate past spans of time within their individual narrative consciousness. Through the analysis of narrative form and narrative consciousness in Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, it is possible to track the impact of distinct Eastern philosophies that were being merged with Western scientific theories in Britain’s academic and artistic communities during the early 1900s.