Virginia Woolf, The Waves

James Stewart (University of Dundee)
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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.

Whether The Waves is in fact a novel may be questioned. Woolf herself thought it

1427 words

Citation: Stewart, James. "The Waves". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 18 July 2002 [, accessed 26 May 2024.]

8106 The Waves 3 Historical context notes are intended to give basic and preliminary information on a topic. In some cases they will be expanded into longer entries as the Literary Encyclopedia evolves.

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