Virginia Woolf: The Waves

(1427 words)
  • James Stewart (University of Dundee)

The Waves (1931) is Virginia Woolf's most experimental and saturated piece of writing. During the process of composition its self-awareness was prefigural. That is to say, its production of sound, figure, and language were ahead of the author's conscious intention to the extent that she was – famously – obliged to go stumbling after her own seemingly autonomous voice. In one sense, then, The Waves obviously represents a high-Modernist breaking and remaking of novelistic form. But in another sense it is really the acme of a certain kind of rhetoric in which Woolf was long practised and in which she had achieved great facility; and it takes that sort of fluency about as far as Woolf would have wished to go.

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Stewart, James. "The Waves". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 18 July 2002
[, accessed 28 February 2015.]