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

Open access


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


  • Albright, Daniel. Quantum Poetics: Yeats, Pound, Eliot and the Science of Modernism.

  • Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1997. Print.

  • Baldwin, Tom. “George Edward Moore.” Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy. Web. 15 December 2013.

  • Bergson, Henri. “An Introduction to Metaphysics.” Trans. T. E. Hulme. Web. 5 Jan. 2014. Matter and Memory. Trans. N. M. Paul and W. S. Palmer. London, New York: Macmillan, 1929. Print.

  • Blecha, Ivan. Proměny Fenomenologie. Praha: Triton, 2007. Print.

  • Brown, Bill. “Thing Theory.” Critical Inquiry, Vol. 28, No. 1 (Autumn, 2001), 3. Web. 2 February 2011.

  • Gillespie, Diane F. The Sisters’ Arts: The Writing and Painting of Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell. Syracuse University Press, 1991. Print.

  • Moore, G. E. “The Refutation of Idealism.” New Series, Vol. 12, No. 48 (Oct., 1903). Web. 11 January 2014.

  • Preston, Aaron. “George Edward Moore (1873-1958).” Internet Encyclopaedia of Philosophy. Web. 22 January 2014.

  • Rosenbaum, P. S. ed. English Literature and British Philosophy. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1971. Print.

  • Ryan, Judith. “The Vanishing Subject: Empirical Psychology and the Modern Novel.” PMLA, Vol. 95, No. 5 (Oct., 1980). Web. 5 February 2011.

  • ---. The Vanishing Subject: Early Psychology and Literary Modernism. London and Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1991. Print.

  • Woolf, Virginia. A Haunted House and Other Short Stories. London: Hogarth Press, 1967. Print.

  • ---. Mrs Dalloway. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2000. Print.

  • ---. Selected Essays. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press 2009.

  • Print.

  • ---. Selected Works of Virginia Woolf. London: Bibliophile Books, 2007. Print.

  • ---. The Complete Shorter Fiction. London: Vintage Books, 2003. Print.

  • ---. The Diary of Virginia Woolf. Vol. 2 and 4. Ed. Anne Olivier Bell. London, Hogarth Press, 1977-1984. Print.

  • ---. The Essays of Virginia Woolf. Ed. Andrew McNeillie. Vol. I-IV. London, Hogarth Press, 1994. Print.

  • ---. The Letters of Virginia Woolf. Ed. Nigel Nicolson. Vol. 2. London: Hogarth Press, 1976. Print.

  • ---. To the Lighthouse. London: Longman Group Ltd., 1990. Print.

  • ---. Waves. London: CRW Publishing Ltd., 2005. Print

Prague Journal of English Studies

The Journal of Charles University, Faculty of Education

Journal Information


All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 0 0 0
Full Text Views 25 25 25
PDF Downloads 3 3 3