“A Very Remarkable Piece of Iron”: Towards a Theory of Material Imagination in Virginia Woolf’s “Solid Objects”

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Abstract

This article examines the supposed lack of “humanity” in Woolf’s short stories and novels by identifying its source in the sphere of “solid objects” and in the way these “objects” destabilize the coherence of what the western philosophical tradition typically refers to as “subject” (in the Cartesian sense). Referring to Moore’s direct realism as well as James’s and Mach’s radical empiricism, the discussion focuses on specific states of heightened perceptive intensity in which the perceiving subject stumbles on the verge of collapse and “mixes” itself with what it perceives. By considering these limit cases, this paper tries to demonstrate the way in which Woolf’s fiction might in fact be understood as illustrative of the process of de-humanizing de-centralization and dispersion of the already fluid consciousness and its blending with the impersonal material objects, resulting in a complete loss of one idea of “the human” (an idea based on the intellectual autonomy and sovereignty of a unified subject) and pointing towards a post-human and post-modern condition in which human becomes defined by the ever-widening circle of its own outside

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Prague Journal of English Studies

The Journal of Charles University, Faculty of Education

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