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Virginia Woolf and the Materiality of TheorySex, Animal, Life$

Derek Ryan

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780748676439

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: September 2013

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748676439.001.0001

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Sexual Difference in Becoming: A Room of One’s Own and To the Lighthouse

Sexual Difference in Becoming: A Room of One’s Own and To the Lighthouse

Chapter:
(p.58) Chapter 2 Sexual Difference in Becoming: A Room of One’s Own and To the Lighthouse
Source:
Virginia Woolf and the Materiality of Theory
Author(s):

Derek Ryan

Publisher:
Edinburgh University Press
DOI:10.3366/edinburgh/9780748676439.003.0003

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter focuses on sexual difference in A Room of One’s Own and To the Lighthouse. The first half of the chapter stages a dialogue between Woolf’s much-discussed theory of ‘androgyny’, Braidotti’s ‘nomadic subject’ (which she distances from the notion of androgyny), and Deleuze and Guattari’s ‘becoming-woman’ (which they themselves find evidence of in A Room of One’s Own) - three concepts with distinct relationships to the materiality of sexual difference but with shared concerns. Starting with a brief overview of the conflicting responses to Woolf’s androgyny, it goes on to draw out some of the continuities and dissonances between these theories, emphasising the importance of each to contemporary feminist debates. The second half of this chapter analyses Woolf’s handling of subjects and objects, bodies and environments, in To the Lighthouse by forming creative links between this novel and Deleuzian concepts of the ‘rhizome’, ‘smooth’ and ‘striated’ spaces, and ‘becoming’.

Keywords:   Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own, To the Lighthouse, sexual difference, androgyny, becoming-woman, feminism, Rosi Braidotti, Gilles Deleuze

Combining the Greek roots andro (male) and gyn (female), the term ‘androgyny’ has historical ties to a wide range of myths and religions, as well as philosophy, psychology, and literature. Critics have explored its links to the Yin and Yang of Taoism, the Upanishads and Puranas of Hinduism, various aspects of the Judeo-Christian tradition, and noted that versions of androgyny can be found in Plato’s philosophy, Freud’s psychoanalytic theory, and Jung’s psychology.1 In her own famous passage on androgyny in A Room of One’s Own, Woolf points to Samuel Taylor Coleridge:

the sight of the two people getting into the taxi and the satisfaction it gave me made me also ask whether there are two sexes in the mind corresponding to the two sexes in the body, and whether they also require to be united in order to get complete satisfaction and happiness. And I went on amateurishly to sketch a plan of the soul so that in each of us two powers preside, one male, one female; and in the man’s brain, the man predominates over the woman, and in the woman’s brain, the woman predominates over the man. […] If one is a man, still the woman part of the brain must have effect; and a woman also must have intercourse with the man in her. Coleridge perhaps meant this when he said that a great mind is androgynous. It is when this fusion takes place that the mind is fully fertilised and uses all its faculties. (RO 127–8)2

Woolf appears to see intrigue and subversive potential in the notion of an androgynous mind that is ‘resonant and porous’, ‘transmits emotions without impediment’ and is ‘naturally creative, incandescent and undivided’. But if she is clearly influenced by Coleridge, Woolf is quick to point out that his thinking does not much concern women: ‘Coleridge certainly did not mean, when he said that a great mind is androgynous, that it is a mind that has any special sympathy with women; a mind that takes up their cause or devotes itself to their interpretation’ (RO 128). Woolf herself, as Bowlby notes, seems to betray an asymmetry in the way in which this model of androgyny comes about, where the man would (p.59) simply have a ‘woman part’ to his brain whereas the woman ‘must have intercourse with the man in her’ (RO 128): ‘the masculine dominates as whole to part, and we have returned to another version of the patriarchal structure’.3 The tension that is therefore created – between androgyny as promising creative potential beyond sexual divisiveness and Woolf’s appropriation of it in a context in which she is concerned with the material restrictions facing women writers – has led critics to view her theory as ‘contradictory’,4 echoing Woolf’s narrator who in the British Museum scene contrasts her ‘contradictory jottings’ with ‘the reader next door who was making the neatest abstracts, headed often with an A or a B or a C’ (RO 38). Indeed, at several points of A Room of One’s Own contradiction is evident: Jane Austen and Emily Brontë are praised by writing ‘as women write, not as men write’ (RO 97) at the same time as stressing ‘the fully developed mind […] does not think specially or separately of sex’ (RO 129); Woolf’s narrator simultaneously claims that Proust, as a man, ‘is terribly hampered and partial in his knowledge of women’ (RO 108) and that he is ‘wholly androgynous, if not perhaps a little too much of a woman’ (RO 135); and Charles Lamb is listed as a writer who ‘never helped a woman yet’ (RO 99) and who is androgynous (RO 135).

These contradictions are mirrored in the numerous critical responses to androgyny in terms of both its general relevance to feminism and its specific treatment by Woolf in the above ‘principal offending or inspiring passage’.5 These responses are well known to Woolf scholars, but it is worth briefly recounting two main phases. The first concerns the range of views in the 1970s, when the term gained traction in feminist debates, and includes celebratory readings of androgyny as a liberating concept in classic studies by Carolyn Heilbrun and Nancy Topping Bazin.6 More pessimistic responses to these accounts include assessments by Cynthia Secor, who dismisses the term as ‘essentially a male word’ that fails to dispose of gender/sexual dualisms,7 and by Daniel Harris, who notes that androgyny has always been aligned with sexism and heterosexism, including in its Greek and Roman usage.8 Where Woolf is concerned, Harris therefore sees the passages on androgyny as ‘a compromise, a retreat from the more radically feminist fury Woolf feared to express’,9a comment echoed by Elaine Showalter’s notorious accusation that ‘Androgyny was the myth that helped [Woolf] evade confrontation with her own painful femaleness and enabled her to choke and repress her anger and ambition.’10 Nonetheless, in the poststructuralist readings which followed this wave of interest androgyny is judged as valuable in its destabilising of binary constructions of identity. Focusing on the combining forces of Woolf’s aesthetic and feminist vision, Mary Jacobus (p.60) finds that Woolf’s androgyny concerns ‘a mind paradoxically conceived of not as one, but as heterogeneous, open to the play of difference’,11Minow-Pinkney sees androgyny as the ‘rejection of sameness’ which ‘aims to cultivate difference on an individual level’,12 and for Caughie it is a ‘refusal to choose’, where Woolf is ‘testing out the consequences of different concepts of language and identity’ without settling on any position.13 In the most well-known poststructuralist approach to Woolf’s androgyny, Toril Moi criticises not only Showalter for writing off the ‘abstract merits’ of androgyny and for claiming that Woolf was guilty of ‘the separation of politics and art’;14 Moi is also critical of Heilbrun for distinguishing Woolf’s androgyny from her feminism and of Bazin for positing a simple union of dualities of masculinity and femininity ‘that retain their full essential charge of meaning’. She instead argues that Woolf’s feminist politics and modernist aesthetics are closely bound,15and suggests that Woolf anticipates Kristeva’s third ‘attitude’ of feminism, as outlined in her hugely influential essay ‘Women’s Time’, which involves challenging ‘the very notion of identity’ and de-massifying difference so as to resist the oppositional struggle ‘between rival groups and thus between the sexes’.16 It is therefore distinguished from – although not an erasure of – the first stage characterised by the demand for ‘insertion into history’ and for ‘equal footing with men’, and the second by the demand for ‘recognition of an irreducible identity, without equal in the opposite sex’.17

In A Room of One’s Own, Mary Carmichael’s writing certainly appears indicative of this ‘third attitude’, and of poststructuralist readings more generally, where ‘Men were no longer to her “the opposing faction”; she need not climb on to the roof and ruin her peace of mind longing for travel, experience and a knowledge of the world and character that were denied her. Fear and hatred were almost gone’ (RO 120). And later, just after the narrative shifts from Mary Beton, Woolf more directly addresses this viewpoint: ‘All this pitting of sex against sex, of quality against quality; all this claiming of superiority and imputing of inferiority, belong to the private-school stage of human existence where there are “sides”, and it is necessary for one side to beat another side […] Praise and blame alike mean nothing’ (RO 138). But given that Moi herself now claims that for feminism and theory alike ‘the poststructuralist paradigm’ is ‘exhausted’,18 the question becomes whether the subversive potential signalled by post-structuralist readings of Woolf’s androgyny has been fully realised. Indeed, Brenda Helt has recently argued that not only is androgyny not a useful term for feminists but Woolf herself was always resistant to this ‘male-promoting concept’, with her comments on Coleridge providing (p.61) evidence that she ‘engaged in encouraging women to write history, psychology, even science from a woman’s perspective, not an androgynous one’.19 Yet whilst recent criticism has met with suspicion any attempt to return to the subversive potential of androgyny, in the first half of this chapter I want to reconsider Woolf’s use of it as a theoretically agile term which still has something to add to feminist considerations of sexual difference.20 Where the previous chapter explored the ways in which an extended understanding of Woolf’s theory of ‘granite and rainbow’ reconceptualises the relation between fact and fiction, nature and culture, materiality and language, here I am interested in reassessing Woolf’s ‘androgyny’ in order to demonstrate that in her wider exploration of sexual difference Woolf is not simply concerned with the play of language or the (de)construction of identity, nor about the transcendence of mind over body. Before going on to explore how the sexual politics of To the Lighthouse are intertwined with human bodies and nonhuman objects, materials, and environments, I will therefore look closely at the context in which androgyny is introduced in A Room of One’s Own, as well as at some of the ways in which Woolf’s use of the term extends into contemporary feminist debates, especially concerning Braidotti’s nomadic model of sexual difference which pays attention to the lived realities of female embodied subjectivity (a model which she distances from the notion of androgyny), and Deleuze and Guattari’s controversial ‘becoming-woman’ concept (which they themselves find evidence of in A Room of One’s Own) – three concepts with distinct relationships to the materiality of sexual difference but with shared interests, and all concerned with the materiality of theory. Ultimately, I want to suggest that Woolf’s reasons for writing about the material necessity of having ‘five hundred a year and a room with a lock on the door’ (RO 137) at the same time as theorising a move beyond sex-consciousness and becoming androgynous might be thought of as complementary rather than contradictory aspects of A Room of One’s Own.21

Androgyny and nomadism

If there was one sense in which Showalter was right in her reading of Woolf, it was in warning against the notion of a utopian androgynous mind as somehow an escape from material realities. As a leading figure of contemporary feminist debates on sexual difference, Braidotti too associates the concept of androgyny with a type of fleeing from material realities. In Transpositions she warns against ‘blurring the boundaries (p.62) of sexual difference, in the sense of a generalized androgynous drive’,22and in her earlier Nomadic Subjects (1994) she specifically opposes androgyny to the embodied female feminist subject: ‘we come to opposing claims: the argument that one needs to redefine the female feminist subject’ versus the argument that ‘the feminine is a morass of metaphysical nonsense and that one is better off rejecting it altogether, in favour of a new androgyny’.23 Braidotti does not refer directly to Woolf in her invocations of androgyny here, but given Woolf’s association with the term and Braidotti’s references to her on various other occasions, for example in her theorising of sexuality and desire discussed in the following chapter, it seems reasonable to suggest that Woolf may not be far from her mind. In addition, the dichotomous choice Braidotti presents recalls the aforementioned disagreements critics have had about Woolf’s own notion of androgyny, on issues relating to both materiality and theory. But despite Braidotti distancing her nomadic feminism from androgyny, a consideration of Woolf’s particular theorising of the term in the context of Braidotti’s project of nomadic feminism – and in particular her model of a non-unitary subjectivity which is nonetheless founded on a materially embodied sexual difference – is important in at least two ways: firstly, Woolf’s androgyny shares some valuable features with the figuration of the ‘nomadic subject’, helping us to think about it as both materially embedded and theoretically useful; secondly, far from limiting or misleading us in our understanding of Woolf’s feminism, androgyny can be a valuable concept in thinking through some potential limitations in Braidotti’s model of sexual difference, raising issues crucial to contemporary debates.

Braidotti’s affirmation of sexual difference as a subversive and necessary ‘fact’ permeates her work, evident in her first book Patterns of Dissonance (1991), and throughout her trilogy consisting of Nomadic Subjects, Metamorphoses (2002), and Transpositions. Her philosophical and political project rests on the attempt to negotiate a future for feminism, and for what she calls the ‘female feminist subject’,24 that ‘offers a way out of the essentialism–constructivism impasse’25 and therefore also moves beyond the opposition between nature and culture, materiality and theory. It is possible to see Braidotti’s aim as that of bringing together aspects of second- and third-wave feminisms in an attempt to move beyond this impasse, and her own rhetoric, especially in Nomadic Subjects, learns a lot from their respective militant and postmodern vocabularies: on the one hand her argument is founded on ‘the recognition of a band of commonality among women’26 or ‘the common world of women’,27 but on the other is the emphasis that women ‘are not, in any way, the same’, we must acknowledge ‘the (p.63) importance of rejecting global statements about all women’.28 Defining her project of nomadic feminism, and strongly influenced by Luce Irigaray, Braidotti posits ‘sexual difference as providing shifting locations for multiple female feminist embodied voices’29 – a paradoxical, pragmatic, and politically charged foregrounding of sexual difference that is the foundational element of a non-unitary subject as a ‘nomadic, dispersed, fragmented vision, which is nonetheless functional, coherent and accountable, mostly because it is embedded and embodied’.30 At the heart of Braidotti’s materially embedded theory of nomadism is her three-level ‘diagram’ or ‘methodological map’31 of sexual difference outlined in Nomadic Subjects, consisting of: 1) ‘Difference Between Men and Women’, 2) ‘Differences Among Women’, 3) ‘Differences Within Each Woman’.32 Level 1 is the ‘will to assert the specificity of the lived, female bodily experience; the refusal to disembody sexual difference […] the will to reconnect the whole debate on difference to the bodily existence and experience of women’.33 Wishing to avoid the pitfalls of essentialism, Braidotti’s second level focuses on heterogeneity between women, their different lived experiences, and level 3 attempts to hone in on each woman’s ‘multiplicity in herself: split, fractured’ which entails ‘an imaginary relationship to variables like class, race, age, sexual choices’.34 As she states in Metamorphoses, ‘internal or other contradictions and idiosyncrasies are indeed constituent elements of the subject’.35 Along similar lines to other contemporary materialist feminists such as Elizabeth Grosz, we are presented with a model which therefore proposes a sexed female body as the ground of subjectivity but which also refuses the notion of fixed foundations and locations; a subjectivity that is irrevocably feminine and female, but where this feminine or female must be determined in specific cases. On several occasions Braidotti cites Jinny’s statement in Woolf’s The Waves – ‘I am rooted, but I flow’ (W 83)36 – as exemplary of a nomadism which is ‘not fluidity without borders, but rather an acute awareness of the nonfixity of boundaries’.37

Considering Woolf’s own use of androgyny alongside this shifting, non-unitary, but also situated and materialist, model of sexual difference, the question I am posing is whether and to what extent the subject created by Woolf’s theory of androgyny (primarily of course the writing subject, although her discussion has implications beyond this) fits the mould of nomadism. On the evidence of the many contradictory readings of androgyny, and readings of androgyny as contradictory, it is certainly a term which does not sit easily under one definition for long. But more than that, Woolf’s formulation of androgyny appears to anticipate the three levels of sexual difference that Braidotti lays out. If (p.64) we recall Mary Beton’s vision of the ‘the girl and the young man’ getting into a taxi in A Room of One’s Own (RO 125) we might well view this as the bringing together of the sexes, where Woolf’s narrator goes on to extend an offer of ‘collaboration’ between woman and man ‘before the art of creation can be accomplished’ (RO 136). But throughout Woolf’s text there are also instances where differences between men and women are emphasised, and therefore where the first level of Braidotti’s paradigm is evident: in the aforementioned remarks by Woolf’s narrator that Coleridge did not have women much in mind in his formulation of the androgynous mind; in the discussion of the way in which ‘the values of women differ very often from the values which have been made by the other sex’ (where ‘it is the masculine values that prevail’) (RO 95–6); where the ‘mind’ (RO 99), the ‘shape’ of a ‘man’s sentence’ (RO 100), and the ‘nerves that feed the brain would seem to differ in men and women’– and note the very bodily, materialist descriptions of writing and the mind here (RO 101); and in the context in which A Room of One’s Own itself is written, during such a ‘stridently sex-conscious’ (RO 129) age created largely because in writing ‘virility has now become self-conscious – men, that is to say, are now writing only with the male side of their brain’ (RO 132). More important than these differences, however, is the desire, exemplified in the famous ‘Chloe liked Olivia’ scene, to write ‘relationships between women’ rather than depicting women always ‘in their relation to men’ (RO 107), and therefore to provide ‘more complicated’ explorations of women, including the differences between women and within each woman – levels 2 and 3 of Braidotti’s model.

Rather than setting women’s writing against men’s in a fixed and essential way, A Room of One’s Own continually explores differences between women writers. The ‘four famous names’ that are foregrounded in Chapter IV – Jane Austen, Charlotte Brontë, Emily Brontë, and George Eliot – represent ‘incongruous characters’: ‘what had George Eliot in common with Emily Brontë? Did not Charlotte Brontë fail entirely to understand Jane Austen?’ (RO 85–6) When the narrator then outlines the differences between Jane Eyre (1847) and Pride and Prejudice (1813), the differences between women are described precisely by focusing on the moment in Brontë’s novel when she emphasises similarities between men and women both in the content of what she is writing (‘but women feel just as men feel’) and through her tone of ‘indignation’ (RO 90). Therefore, as Woolf’s narrator puts it earlier when realising the limitations of her own anger, she was ‘angry because he was angry’ (RO 44).38 Woolf, then, does not stop at writing the differences between women and men; rather she concurrently begins (p.65) to de-emphasise such categorical differences based in identity. When Woolf praises the ‘genius’ and ‘integrity’ of Austen and Emily Brontë writing ‘as women write, not as men write’, she is clearly not defining or prescribing a feminine or female sentence, an écriture féminine or an essentialist form of writing necessarily shared by all women – after all, these are only two ‘of all the thousand women who wrote novels then’ – but a writing that does not define itself either for or against the ‘perpetual admonitions’ of patriarchy to ‘write this, think that’ (RO 97). Writing ‘as women write’ is itself historically and artistically variable, seen later when Mary Carmichael had ‘broken up Jane Austen’s sentence’ so that ‘there was no likeness between them’. Here too, by breaking ‘the sequence – the expected order’, Mary Carmichael wrote not ‘as a woman’ but ‘as a woman would, if she wrote like a woman’ (RO 119). This somewhat odd phrasing raises the question of who precisely ‘she’ refers to. Yet whether the ‘she’ is Mary Carmichael or ‘woman’, it is a ‘she’ separated from writing ‘like a woman’, the term ‘woman’ being thrown into confusion.

The emphasis Woolf places on differences between women, then, is also apparent in her reluctance to offer a fixed definition of ‘feminine’ or ‘woman’. Indeed, in her essay ‘Women Novelists’ written ten years before in 1918, Woolf touches on this issue in her remarks upon Brimley Johnson’s critique of women’s writing: ‘As Mr Brimley Johnson again and again remarks, a woman’s writing is always feminine; it cannot help being feminine; at its best it is most feminine: the only difficulty lies in defining what we mean by feminine’ (E2 316). Similarly, towards the end of A Room of One’s Own Woolf bemoans the view in ‘newspapers and novels and biographies that when a woman speaks to women she should have something very unpleasant up her sleeve. Women are hard on Women. Women dislike women. Women – but are you not sick to death of the word? I can assure you that I am’ (RO 145). Woolf’s assertion here should not be mistaken for a rejection of the material concerns of women (and in the following paragraph she notes what she likes about women and turns on men) but rather a criticism of the ways in which ‘women’ – as with Brimley Johnson’s ‘feminine’ – are discussed and appropriated by patriarchal culture. In both of these examples the serious point underlying the arch tone is a suspicion that terms such as ‘women’ and ‘feminine’ are of limited subversive potential because they are always defined in relation to ‘men’ and the ‘masculine’ (and indeed often defined and discussed by men). Whilst continuing to use these words throughout her writing – after all they are signifiers that need to be re-appropriated and worked through rather than rejected out of hand – Woolf is keen to look beyond the traditional categorisations they (p.66) have hitherto created. Pointing to the heterogeneity within the category ‘woman’, Woolf therefore does not present a common room of one’s own:

One goes into the room – but the resources of the English language would be much put to the stretch, and whole flights of words would need to wing their way illegitimately into existence before a woman could say what happens when she goes into a room. The rooms differ so completely […] one has only to go into any room in any street for the whole of that extremely complex force of femininity to fly in one’s face. How should it be otherwise? (RO 113–14)

As Peggy Kamuf comments in her reading of this passage, the dash in the opening sentence signifies a ‘punctuated hesitation’ creating doubt as to the identity of the ‘one’. The entry of women into a language from which they were previously excluded ‘will not simply substitute a “feminine” one for a masculine. Indeed, it cannot for a multiplicity already inhabits the site of this writing. […] In effect, Woolf displaces the issue of the “one” who enters the room by figuring in rapid succession a series of rooms to be entered, surveyed, plotted, described.’39 In her later, posthumously published essay ‘Professions for Women’ (1942), Woolf also emphasises that whilst gaining ‘rooms of your own in the house hitherto exclusively owned by men’ is of the utmost importance for women, these rooms, and the women inside them, will differ: ‘But this freedom is only a beginning; the room is your own, but it is still bare. It has to be furnished; it has to be decorated; it has to be shared. How are you going to furnish it, how are you going to decorate it? With whom are you going to share it, and upon what terms?’ (E6 483–4).

As well as differences within the category ‘women’ there are moments when emphasis is placed on differences within each woman in Woolf’s text. The inadequacy of language to express such non-unitary subjects is evident in the well-known discussion of the one-letter pronoun ‘I’, where its ‘dominance’ (RO 131) is linked to the patriarchal subject and male writer: ‘after reading a chapter or two a shadow seemed to lie across the page. It was a straight dark bar, a shadow shaped something like the letter ‘I’ […] the worst of it is that in the shadow of the letter ‘I’ all is shapeless as mist’ (RO 130). This often-cited passage places women in the shadow of this dominating ‘I’ and shares similarities with the use Braidotti makes of it for her nomadic feminist subject: ‘According to this vision of a subject that is both historically anchored and split, or multiple, the power of synthesis of the “I” is a grammatical necessity, a theoretical fiction that holds together the collection of differing layers.’40 As Goldman points out in her lucid reading of the above passage, the fact (p.67) that ‘Phoebe’ (meaning ‘the bright one’) then enters as the woman who is in the shadow illuminates precisely such differing layers: ‘In describing woman both as a source of light and as imprisoned in shadow, this passage shows how women’s place historically has been conceptually marked out (or inscribed) as shadow by the discourse of masculine enlightenment, and how women’s emancipation yet lies with the very illumination of this shadow.’41 Always interested in bringing women out of the shadow, Woolf’s use of ‘I’ throughout a book that has multiple narrators (although the narrative does at times shift to ‘we’ and ‘one’) creates not an ‘I’ that is an internalised fragmentation, collapsing in on itself, but a multiplicity open to new attachments, where ‘the experience of the mass is behind the single voice’ (RO 85). There is something playful in Woolf’s ‘I’, where she uses this one letter word ‘just for kicks’, to borrow a phrase from Deleuze and Guattari, re-appropriating it in each and every use, bringing out the multiplicity within the singular, injecting a lightness of touch to the ‘dark bar’ (RO 130) and showing that it does not have to remain a symbol of patriarchal dominance: ‘it is relatively easy to stop saying “I,” but that does not mean that you have gotten away from the regime of subjectification; conversely, you can keep on saying “I,” just for kicks, and already be in another regime in which personal pronouns function only as fictions’.42 It is this lighter, more flexibile and fictionalised, less self-conscious – that is to say more androgynous – use of the letter ‘I’ that holds potential for Woolf in A Room of One’s Own. After all, ‘ “I” is only a convenient term for somebody who has no real being’ (RO 5). That Woolf’s discussion of this ‘I’ immediately follows her most famous passage on androgyny serves as a reminder that becoming man-womanly or woman-manly – and also bearing in mind the unfixed nature of these sexed nouns – is not to cement a unitary ‘I’, but to reveal the multiplicity already within the androgynous subject.

Woolf’s theory of androgyny, and her concerns for the marginalisation of women in writing and in their materially situated position ‘in the shadow’ of men, both aim their criticism at a misplaced over-consciousness of a rigid division between two sexes. This is emphasised when after sketching the theory of androgyny the first words to actually be written (in the sixth and final chapter of the text) on the piece of paper entitled ‘Women and Fiction’ are:

it is fatal for anyone who writes to think of their sex. It is fatal to be a man or woman pure and simple; one must be woman-manly or man-womanly. It is fatal for a woman to lay the least stress on any grievance; to plead even with justice any cause; in any way to speak consciously as a woman. And fatal is (p.68) no figure of speech; for anything written with that conscious bias is doomed to death […] it cannot grow in the minds of others. (RO 136)

Whilst there is a further asymmetry in that the fatality of speaking as a woman has historically been dictated by patriarchy (it has clearly not been fatal in the same way for men to speak as men), Woolf is aware that maintaining this asymmetry is both pragmatically and theoretically limiting in that it reasserts the binary framework that keeps men and women apart. Her theory of androgyny is not, then, an unproblematic celebration of a subjectivity which dispenses with differences between men and women, but one which multiplies difference to create a subject that is more complicated and that is not defined by an oppositional relation. The androgynous subject is an emergent one with the potential to redraw the lines of asymmetry through collaboration. That is, the difference between Woolf’s androgyny and Braidotti’s nomadism is that where Braidotti maintains level 1 of her model – differences between men and women – as a category seemingly undisturbed by the multiple differences between women (level 2) and within women (level 3), Woolf’s androgyny points the way to more complex levels and combinations which challenge models that privilege differences of women against men.

The very last words we read from Mary Beton are perhaps most revealing of all: ‘the taxi took the man and the woman, I thought, seeing them come together across the street, and the current swept them away, I thought, hearing far off the roar of London traffic, into that tremendous stream’ (RO 137). The enduring image is not of the man and woman getting into the taxi but of the taxi cruising through the London traffic, and our attention is drawn to the material context in which this image first appeared. For Mary Beton did not simply observe the man and the woman standing together at the taxi; she saw them walking towards each other from the streets of London where ‘no two people are ever alike’ (RO 124), and she watched as ‘the cab glided off’ back into those streets. It is this movement towards and away from a partial, momentary connection that is the model in which androgyny is rooted, I would argue, where the further connections that these figures will make and have made before is brought into view, challenging the notion that this ‘girl in patent leather boots’ and this ‘young man in a maroon overcoat’ are emblems or symbols that stand in for all men and all women. If there is a ‘collaboration’ or a ‘marriage of opposites’ here – where ‘the mind celebrates its nuptials’ (RO 136) – then we are presented with a model similar to my description of Woolf’s granites and rainbows in Chapter 1. That is, I think of ‘marriage’ here as the many ‘swift marriages’ Woolf (p.69) describes in ‘Craftsmanship’, of becoming man-womanly or woman-manly as I did transposing granites and rainbows, where the coming together, or consummation, of these terms (in this instance ‘woman’ and ‘man’) does not represent two discrete entities creating one whole; rather we have the committed – but partial and fleeting – attraction of two non-fixed terms which create their own distinct meanings in their own distinct textual frameworks and material contexts.

Moreover, by including men in these nomadic ‘marriages’, Woolf’s androgynous feminist vision demonstrates a complex model of subjectivity that shares features of Braidotti’s nomadic subject, but ultimately goes further. Where Braidotti’s nomadic model of sexual difference often only has women in mind (where men are discussed they are invariably defined in opposition to women, as with level 1 of her model), Woolf considers, however ironically at times, differences between men and within each man. Therefore, one of the implications of considering Woolf’s theory of androgyny alongside Braidotti’s theory of nomadism is that we might extend Braidotti’s three-levelled model of sexual difference to include a fourth level of ‘differences among men’ and a fifth level of ‘differences within each man’. This fourth level can be seen from near the beginning of A Room of One’s Own when Woolf’s narrator cites ‘a direct contradiction’ between Pope and La Bruyère in their writings on women, and between such contrary figures as Napoleon and Dr Johnson, Goethe and Mussolini (RO 38). Where androgyny is concerned, certain male writers such as Shakespeare, Keats, and Sterne are judged to have been man-womanly whilst many, epitomised by Mr A but also including Milton, Wordsworth, and Tolstoy who had ‘a dash too much of the male in them’, were not (RO 135). The fifth level is evident in the very fact that Woolf’s theory of androgyny is an inclusive one, therefore the ‘I’ that is multiple is also an ‘I’ that is open to those men who become androgynous. Adding these levels of male difference to Braidotti’s levels of female difference only further unsettles the first level of her model, where differences between men and women are always already in place. It is in this sense that we might consequently think of Woolf’s feminism and her theory of androgyny as providing a positive model of complex, nomadic, and non-unitary subjectivity – not just on a theoretical level, but also a strategic one – which points beyond the binary apparatus of sexual difference.

In Undoing Gender (2004) Judith Butler considers both the subversive potential and limitations of Braidotti’s nomadism. In the first place, Butler does endorse Braidotti’s ‘relentless search for what is mobile and generative’43 and her emphasis on multiplicity as ‘a way of understanding the play of forces that work upon one another and that generate new (p.70) possibilities of life. Multiplicity is not the death of agency, but its very condition […] the very dynamism of life.’44 For Butler, however, sexual difference is something more elusive than Braidotti allows, a space from which to create questions rather than provide the firm basis for definitions, however mobile they may appear to be:

sexual difference is the site where a question concerning the relation of the biological to the cultural is posed and reposed, where it must and can be posed, but where it cannot, strictly speaking, be answered. Understood as a border concept, sexual difference has psychic, somatic, and social dimensions that are never quite collapsible into one another but are not for that reason ultimately distinct. Does sexual difference vacillate there, as a vacillating border, demanding a rearticulation of those terms without any sense of finality? Is it, therefore, not a thing, not a fact, not a presupposition but rather a demand for rearticulation that never quite vanishes – but also never quite appears?45

Of course, it is precisely this elusiveness which Braidotti finds problematic, and which she dismisses as ‘theoretical illusions of an infinitely malleable, free-floating gender’.46 But a question that Butler posed to Braidotti in an earlier interview on the subject remains pertinent to theorists of sexual difference:

what does it mean to establish that asymmetry [between men and women] as irreducible and irreversible, and then to claim that it ought to serve as a foundation for feminist politics? Doesn’t that simply reify a social asymmetry as an eternal necessity, thus installing the pathos of exclusion as the ‘ground’ of feminism?47

Or as Butler challenges in Undoing Gender, ‘must the framework for thinking about sexual difference be binary for this feminine multiplicity to emerge? Why can’t the framework for sexual difference itself move beyond binarity into multiplicity?’48 The paradox in Braidotti’s vision of sexual difference as ‘fact’ is that she is, of the two, the most firmly opposed to the anthropocentric landscape, the most fervent proponent of the positivity of difference, and the most committed to a theorisation of non-unitary subjectivity that takes into account the material, ontological co-involvements with animals, the environment, and with technology.49 Emphasising the entanglements of agencies, and pointing beyond the limitations of Braidotti’s model, Woolf’s theory of androgyny in A Room of One’s Own captures multiplicity as the very condition of writing sexual difference.

(p.71) Becoming-woman and minoritarian writing

In Kafka: Toward a Minor Literature (1975), Deleuze and Guattari outline three interrelated characteristics of a ‘minoritarian’ writing or ‘minor’ literature. Firstly, rather than ‘reterritorialising’ language within a dominant discourse, upholding its conventional utterances, minor literature involves writing with ‘a high co-efficient of deterritorialization’ so that a major language speaks in new ways.50 Secondly, minoritarian writing is intensely political. Where major literature is focused on the private concerns of the individual and the relegation of the social, political, environmental context to mere background, minor literature’s ‘cramped space forces each individual intrigue to connect immediately to politics. The individual concern thus becomes all the more necessary, indispensible, magnified, because a whole other story is vibrating within it.’ This leads to a story thus escaping a concern only with the familiar and familial, for ‘in this way, the family triangle connects to other triangles – commercial, economic, bureaucratic, juridical – that determine its values’.51 Thirdly, minor literature is always concerned with collectives, ‘everything takes on a collective value’.52 With its deterritorialisation of the patriarchal ‘I’, its emphasis on the material, social, artistic, and political struggles facing women, and its continued concern with collective relations between men and women ‘in relation to reality’ (RO 149), we might think of A Room of One’s Own as an example of such ‘minor’ – and therefore all the more subversive – literature. Moreover, Woolf’s theory of androgyny, with its deterritorialisation of terms such as ‘male’ and ‘female’, could be understood as an example of a specific form of minoritarian writing, what Deleuze and Guattari describe as the ‘becoming-woman’ of writing.

Deleuze and Guattari make reference to Woolf when discussing minoritarian writing and their concept of ‘becoming-woman’, to be understood not as being about representation of the woman as ‘molar entity […] defined by her form, endowed with organs and functions and assigned as a subject’, but as involving a deterritorialisation of subjectivity and the creation of ‘molecular’, multiplicitous, non-hierarchical attachments.53 In Dialogues, Deleuze suggests that Woolf forms such connections because she ‘forbade herself “to speak like a woman” ’ and ‘harnessed the becoming-woman of writing all the more for this’.54And, in A Thousand Plateaus, Deleuze and Guattari allude to Mary Carmichael’s writing ‘as a woman, but as a woman who has forgotten that she is a woman, so that her pages were full of that curious sexual quality which comes only when sex is unconscious of itself’ (RO 121), by insisting that ‘[Woolf] was appalled at the idea of writing “as a (p.72) woman.” Rather, writing should produce a becoming-woman as atoms of womanhood capable of crossing and impregnating an entire social field, and of contaminating men, of sweeping them up in that becoming.’55 Becoming-woman is therefore open to all, women and men, who form connections which are not based on models of opposition and ownership:

the majoritarian as a constant and homogeneous system; minorities as subsystems; and the minoritarian as a potential, creative and created, becoming. The problem is never to acquire the majority, even in order to install a new constant. There is no becoming-majoritarian; majority is never becoming. All becoming is minoritarian. Women, regardless of their numbers, are a minority, definable as a state or subset; but they create only by making possible a becoming over which they do not have ownership, into which they themselves must enter; this is a becoming-woman affecting all of humankind, men and women both.56

If Woolf’s androgyny is as an attempt to overcome sex-consciousness founded on binary oppositions and instead to present a more complex model of sexual differences (where emphasis is on intra-category and intra-subjective difference as much as it is on inter-category difference), then we can understand it in Deleuze and Guattari’s terminology as rejecting molar identities. Moreover, we can view her ‘man-womanly’ and ‘woman-manly’ formulation as the starting point of an attempt to articulate a becoming-minoritarian of both women and men, allowing for a multiplicity of different combinations, of different sexes where in the figuration of androgyny ‘the two sexes imply a multiplicity of molecular combinations bringing into play […] the man in the woman and the woman in the man […] a thousand tiny sexes’.57 It may be, then, that there are more than ‘two sexes in the mind corresponding to two sexes in the body’. As we read later in A Room of One’s Own, ‘two sexes are quite inadequate […] For we have too much likeness as it is, and if an explorer should come back and bring word of other sexes looking through the branches of other trees at other skies, nothing would be of greater service to humanity’ (RO 114).58 Considering that androgyny is so much about a rejection of patriarchy and phallogocentric (major) writing, becoming androgynous and becoming-woman form something of an affinity. As Catherine Driscoll notes, androgyny is an example of where ‘for Woolf, as for Deleuze […] woman is an infinitive, a process or event, a speaking position perhaps but not an identity’.59

Just as some critics view Woolf’s androgyny as sitting uneasily with her feminist aims relating to the material conditions of women, however, so there has been criticism of Deleuze’s becoming-woman by feminist (p.73) critics. In a recent article Gillian Howie associates becoming-woman with androgyny (albeit that she is not referring specifically to Woolf’s formulation) in her criticism of the term:

Becoming-woman suggests a radically androgynous transvaluation of values, and it certainly appears to leap over the risk of dimorphic essentialism in an un-gendered becoming. It does so by risking, instead, de-contextualising and appropriating the affective body; interning the same dimorphic values whilst cutting the ground from critical interjection.60

Becoming-woman also marks a site of contention for Braidotti, where she describes the ‘confrontation between Deleuze’s theories of multiplicity and becoming-minority and feminist theories of sexual difference and the becoming subject of women’.61 She argues that where ‘Deleuze proceeds […] as if there was clear equivalence in the speaking positions of the two sexes’ it is important from a feminist perspective to remember that ‘the identification of points of exit from the phallogocentric mode takes asymmetrical forms in the two sexes’62 – a point that is familiar to readers of Woolf’s theory of androgyny. Braidotti therefore takes issue with what she sees as Deleuze’s suggestion that feminists

should instead draw on the multisexed structure of the subject and claim back all the sexes of which women have been deprived; emphasis on the feminine is restrictive […] Women, in other words, can be revolutionary subjects only to the extent that they develop a consciousness that is not specifically feminine, dissolving ‘woman’ into the forces that structure her.63

These criticisms point to challenging aspects of Deleuze and Guattari’s concept of becoming-woman, where it can be seen to dispose of subjectivity at the very moment in history when feminism is beginning to gain a sense of identity, to undermine the lived realities of women and romanticise women’s struggles, and to function as another example of appropriation by masculine philosophy.64 Critics of becoming-woman could even point to Woolf’s own warning in A Room of One’s Own about how ‘woman’ can be appropriated and exploited by men: ‘Imaginatively she is of the highest importance, practically she is completely insignificant’ (RO 56).

It is not difficult to see some of the concerns about the kind of terminology used by Deleuze and Guattari when they talk about the women not having ‘ownership’ over their becomings. But rather than seeing becomings as a negative loss of agency, it is important to remember in all this that for Deleuze and Guattari it is molar identities and major categories that are sedentary; becomings are fundamentally about the (p.74) creation of new events, new modes of life. There is agency here, but, rather than belonging to an individuated subject it is a symbiotic form of agency that is shared with those other human and nonhuman elements that are entangled in a minoritarian becoming-other. Moreover, Deleuze and Guattari already anticipate questions such as those raised by Braidotti on ‘becoming-woman’, or, as Alice Jardine has put it, ‘why then do [Deleuze and Guattari] privilege the word woman?’65 Deleuze and Guattari form their response to this type of challenge by way of another question: ‘why are there so many becomings of man, but no becoming-man?’ Their answer is that ‘man is majoritarian par excellence, whereas becomings are minoritarian; all becoming is becomingminoritarian’.66 They are far from ignorant of the specifically feminist political struggles of women:

the woman as a molar entity has to become-woman in order that the man also becomes – or can become – woman. It is, of course, indispensable for women to conduct a molar politics, with a view to winning back their own organism, their own history, their own subjectivity: ‘we as women …’ makes its appearance as a subject of enunciation. But it is dangerous to confine oneself to such a subject, which does not function without drying up a spring or stopping a flow.67

In other words, becoming-woman, consistent with other becomings, goes beyond a politics of representation. Just as Woolf criticises Charlotte Brontë for ‘protesting that she was “as good as a man” ’ (RO 96), ‘becoming-woman’ is not a question of women or indeed men becoming ‘like’ an idealised image of woman – it is not a question of identity – an oversight often made in feminist discussions which tend to judge Deleuze and Guattari’s concept within a framework of specifically female or feminine subjectivity.

Feminist critics of becoming-woman (and of androgyny) too often identify sexual difference with a kind of natural asymmetry between men and women, so that even when certain feminist theorists are influenced by Deleuze there is a tension between the privileged form of ‘difference’ in ‘sexual difference’ and the Deleuzian form of ‘difference’ they advocate elsewhere in their work as taking us back to materiality and ontology, as rejecting cultural forms of understanding nature as purely constructed by language. Along with Braidotti’s work, this is evident in Grosz’s most recent book, Becoming Undone, where she brings Deleuze together with Darwin and Irigaray to argue that

Nature itself is dynamized, historical, and subject to dramatic change. Sexual difference remains the most creative and powerful means by which this (p.75) transformation is brought about. It is the means by which the natural cultivates culture, rather than culture cultivating nature. We do not leave nature behind, we do not surround ourselves with culture in order to protect ourselves against nature, for culture, cultures in their multiplicity, are complex forms of variation of natural forces, both human and nonhuman.68

In contrast, by the end of A Room of One’s Own Woolf does not privilege sexual difference as ‘the engine of all lived difference’69 precisely by pointing towards a material reality that is more than human, by referring to ‘the common life which is the real life’, by viewing ‘human beings not always in their relation to each other but in relation to reality; and the sky, too, and the trees or whatever it may be in themselves; […] our relation is to the world of reality and not only to the world of men and women’ (RO 149). Beyond concerns with the terminology of ‘becomingwoman’ there are many important contributions Deleuze can make to our understanding of an embodied, materialist but also nomadic sexual difference which challenges the boundaries between nature and culture, nonhuman and human, and which does not allow the ‘difference’ of sexual difference to become privileged, to become its own majoritarian term. Becoming-woman calls for us, as Claire Colebrook puts it, to ‘think of new modes of relationality: not a world which is synthesised by man as a thinking subject, who then turns back upon his own organising systems, but a world of divergent lines of relationality’.70 As both nomadic and minoritarian, I would suggest that Woolf’s theory of androgyny continues to be a key marker of what Pelagia Goulimari terms ‘minoritarian feminism’, the becoming-minoritarian of feminism. This therefore involves a double process of deterritorialisation – of the term androgyny from its perceived status as a ‘male-promoting concept’,71 and of feminism from the privileging of sexual difference in binary, hierarchical, static oppositions.

It is precisely with this attempt to view men and women in relation to the material world, and the emphasis on androgyny as a powerfully minoritarian and deterritorialising concept – one that offers lines of flight to the creation of new concepts – that I now turn to To the Lighthouse. Bearing in mind that Woolf’s woman-manly/man-womanly formula for androgyny is put forward by a persona, Mary Beton, rather than Woolf herself, Gayatri Spivak reminds us that we should be wary of reducing her other texts to ‘successful articulations’ of her theory.72 I would also hesitate to claim To the Lighthouse (or indeed any of her other texts) as wholly representative of Woolf’s theory – and wouldn’t want to make the claim, as Heilbrun does, that it is Woolf’s ‘best novel of androgyny’73 – but my discussion of androgyny does lead me to my own formulation of ‘tri-subjectivities’ or ‘tri-s’ which I introduce to frame my analysis of (p.76) the ways in which To the Lighthouse recasts triangular models of subjectivity at the same time as moving beyond dualistic models of sexual difference. Having focused on ‘becoming-woman’, in the remainder of this chapter I want to extend the dialogue between Deleuze and Woolf to look at various concepts including ‘smooth’ and ‘striated’ spaces, and the ‘rhizomatic’ image of thought. As Grosz put it in Volatile Bodies (1994), whilst acknowledging the difficulties of ‘becoming-woman’, ‘further points of overlap – points feminists may find of value in their projects – remain an open question, dependent on the kinds of work on Deleuze and Guattari’s texts that feminists are prepared to undertake.’74Where Woolf’s exploration of subjectivity and sexual difference in To the Lighthouse is concerned, Deleuze and Guattari illuminate their relationship to a materiality that reaches beyond the embodied human subject to include nonhuman objects and environments. Woolf’s novel engages with a mode of sexual difference which reimagines materiality precisely to move beyond the privileging of sexual difference.

Lines of becoming: from triangulation to tri-s

The only way to get outside the dualisms is to be-between, to pass between, the intermezzo – that is what Virginia Woolf lived with all her energies, in all of her work, never ceasing to become.75

In their discussion of triangular relations in Kafka, Deleuze and Guattari are concerned with moving away from what they see as ‘the hierarchy of triangles’,76 a ‘triangulation of the subject’ which is familial in origin and ‘consists in fixing one’s position in relation to the two other represented terms (father-mother-child)’.77 Put simply, where inter-subjective relationships are concerned triangles too often resemble an Oedipal design, and Deleuze and Guattari seek a way out of the insular environment or ‘intimate familial theatre’ of psychoanalysis.78 In Anti-Oedipus, they heavily criticise the fact that, broadly speaking, psychoanalysis continues to resort to the Oedipal triangle despite the known limitations of this framework within the field itself.79 Aiming to bring ‘production into desire’ and ‘desire into production’,80 they are interested in ‘a nonfigurative and nonsymbolic unconscious’,81 and in a Real that begins with ‘the immanent process of desire and seeks to mark both the interruptions of this process (reterritorializations) and its continuations and transformations (becomings, intensities …)’ in contrast to psychoanalysis which ‘begins with the symbolic and seeks out the “gaps” that mark the irruption of an “impossible” Real’.82 Theirs is a Real, as Grosz notes, (p.77) that learns from Bergson its positivity and dynamism, ‘with defining and refining being or reality so that its difference from itself, its fundamental structure of becoming or self-divergence, is impossible to ignore’.83 As Deleuze and Guattari explain in A Thousand Plateaus, where psychoanalysis relies on molar identities that are ‘totalizable and organizable’, they want to emphasise molecular becomings that are ‘intensive’ and ‘constantly construct and dismantle themselves in the cause of their communications’;84 it is the difference between ‘rigid segmentarity’ and ‘supple segmentation’.85

In To the Lighthouse, Woolf creates a supple textual framework through the productive entanglements of characters with their environments, the human with the nonhuman. Woolf’s novel begins with what critics often claim to be an Oedipal relationship of Mr Ramsay, Mrs Ramsay, and James, and yet from the very first pages these characters actually re-shape this triangular model of inter-subjective relations through their connections with their external environments (extra-subjective) as well as their internal complexities (intra-subjective). Indeed throughout her novel Woolf creates a series of what I am terming ‘tri-subjectivities’ or ‘tri-s’, which continually re-draw the lines and reshape the design of triangular relations. Following the above discussion of the relationship between Woolf’s ‘androgyny’, Braidotti’s ‘nomadic subject’, and Deleuze’s ‘becoming-woman’, my formulation of tri-s has three key components: 1) As a reading strategy, tri-s involve an analysis of characters in groupings of (at least) three, but do so only as a starting point. As I demonstrate in the following section, in To the Lighthouse, even when Woolf appears to be directly contrasting one character with another, she continually points outwards to other subjects and objects, bodies and environments, and in the process complicates these distinctions and undermines views of sexual difference as a dualistic construct. Tri-s remind us as readers and critics to try different combinations so as not to foreclose the relations between subjects in a fixed textual framework, whether dualistic or triangular. 2) As a theoretical framework, a geometry of tri-s moves beyond Braidotti’s three-level model of sexual difference (differences between men and women, differences among women, and differences within each woman) or a simple extension of it as remaining open to the additional levels of differences among men and differences within each man. Tri-s reveal contours of difference that are not rooted in identity or invested in a teleological project of subject formation; rather tri-s account for a process, a movement, an assembling of subjectivities which never resolve into a fixed, (pre)destined subject. 3) As a linguistic construct, the term tri-s is pronounced tries, working between its homonymic and synonymic relation to this word. The focus (p.78) is on the tri-s that the characters make, the trajectories they form, their attempts to form connections rather than to fix subjectivity.

Where the sexual politics of Woolf’s novel are concerned, then, the lines of becoming shared between human and nonhuman are crucial, and the remaining sections of this chapter aim to highlight that tri-s in To the Lighthouse transform triangles into multiplicities, setting into motion various creative becomings rather than a settling into categories of being. It is to ‘test what one meant by man-womanly, and conversely by woman-manly’ (RO 128) but to do so by considering ‘the world of reality and not only […] the world of men and women’ (RO 149), to account for men and women as ‘part of the nature of things’ (TL 213).

Mr Ramsay – Mrs Ramsay – James: severity and suppleness

Psychoanalytic critics have focused on the triangular relationship between the Ramsays and their son James as highlighting what Elizabeth Abel calls ‘Woolf’s Oedipal plot’ in To the Lighthouse.86 Laura Marcus notes that James’ role in particular is often understood in relation to Freud’s Oedipal complex; pointing to a passage in the latter part of Woolf’s novel when, stationary on the boat, ‘a rope seemed to bind him there and his father had knotted it and he could only escape by taking a knife and plunging it’ (TL 213), she suggests that ‘James is literally becalmed, like the Ancient Mariner, by this narrative, and metaphorically bound, as Oedipus was bound by the chains with which his father sought to secure his death.’87 Similarly, Bowlby notes that ‘the resentment of James […] for Mr Ramsay’s prior claims to his mother parallels Freud’s Oedipal scenario, where the boy wants nothing less than to put out of the way the father who asserts his rights to the mother.’88 Indeed, whilst acknowledging Woolf’s distrust of Freud,89 Nicole Ward Jouve aligns Woolf’s writing with a psychoanalysis that is ‘forever fending off the threat of disintegration, blurred boundaries, insecure identities’.90Contrary to these readings, I would like to suggest that the relationship between Mrs Ramsay, Mr Ramsay, and James in To the Lighthouse has little to do with an Oedipal triangle. Moreover, whilst acknowledging the autobiographical elements of the novel – for example the clear influence of Woolf’s parents on the characters in the text, and Woolf’s well-known reflection in ‘Sketch of the Past’ that writing it exorcised the ghost of her mother (MB 92) – I do not wish to foreground Woolf’s own familial relations here as psychoanalytic readings have tended to. Rather than understanding Woolf’s writing as resisting the ‘threat’ of ‘blurred boundaries’, the problem is instead, I would argue, the limitations of (p.79) reading Woolf’s depiction of the Ramsays through an Oedipal lens. Woolf, as Driscoll puts it, explores ‘assemblages of subject positions which escape Oedipal frames’,91 and in this section I want to focus on the early part of To the Lighthouse in order to bring out the supple segmentations that create new combinations later in the novel.

To see James’ narrative in To the Lighthouse as an Oedipal one risks overshadowing those nonfamilial experiences that are hinted at from the very beginning of Woolf’s novel. In only the second paragraph James connects with a range of objects which are irreducible to the figures of his parents, including a ‘wheelbarrow’, ‘lawn-mower’, ‘poplar trees’, ‘brooms’, and ‘dresses’: ‘all these were so coloured and distinguished in his mind that he had already his private code, his secret language’ (TL 5). In addition, the kind of nonparental attachments formed by James are also evident in To the Lighthouse when Mrs Ramsay watches on as her daughter Cam

dashed past. She was off like a bird, bullet, or arrow, impelled by what desire, shot by whom, at what directed, who could say? What, what? Mrs Ramsay pondered, watching her. It might be a vision – of a shell, or a wheelbarrow, of a fairy kingdom on the far side of the hedge; or it might be the glory of speed; no one knew. (TL 63)

If children not only form connections with parents, but also enter into what Deleuze and Guattari call ‘the line of flight of the building, the street, etc.’,92 then here Cam’s line of flight takes on a more literal quality as she runs away from the parental framework: ‘she would not stop for her father […] nor for her mother’ (TL 63). This recalls Woolf’s own memories of childhood in ‘Sketch of the Past’ where she emphasises the importance of such nonparental exploration, how she had ‘many adventures outside’ her familial world, and ‘often went far from it; and kept much back from it’ (MB 96). James’ ‘private code’ or ‘secret language’, Cam’s line of flight, and Woolf’s own nonfamilial ‘adventures’, serve as reminders that, as Deleuze and Guattari argue,

children don’t live as our adult memories would have us believe […] Memory yells ‘Father! Mother!’ but the childhood block is elsewhere, in the highest intensities that the child constructs with his sisters, his pal, his projects and his toys, and all the nonparental figures through which he deterritorializes his parents every chance he gets.93

It is not only nonparental childhood connections that Woolf hints at; her depiction of the Ramsays points beyond the molar identities that they are so often seen as representing, whether as stand-ins for Woolf’s (p.80) own parents, or as symbols of Victorian marriage. At the very beginning of the novel Mr Ramsay displays his dominance and severe manner in the patriarchal familial set-up: ‘ “But,” said his father, stooping in front of the drawing-room window, “it won’t be fine”’; ‘What he said was true. It was always true. He was incapable of untruth; never tampered with a fact’ (TL 6). But ‘severity’ is precisely, and somewhat ironically, what links Mr Ramsay to his wife and child in these opening exchanges: Mr Ramsay’s ruling against the lighthouse trip; Mrs Ramsay’s declaration ‘ “Nonsense” ’ is made with ‘great severity’ which she then turns against Nancy (TL 8); and even the young James outwardly ‘appeared the image of stark and uncompromising severity’ (TL 6). When the narrative later points to Mr Ramsay’s own ‘compound of severity and humour’ (TL 37), it is as if Woolf is gently satirising the tendencies we have to polarise into extreme categories, to emphasise severe differences. Thus there is a self-reflexive hint early on of how such severity and extremity will be undermined by a more nuanced vision of these characters’ relations. From these opening pages, and as I demonstrate in the following sections by focusing on further relations formed in To the Lighthouse – the tri-s that continually re-draw the lines and re-shape the design of triangular relations – Woolf may provide another example of what Deleuze and Guattari discover in Kafka’s writing: ‘triangles that remain in Kafka’s novels show up only at the beginning of the novels; and from the start, they are so vacillating, so supple and transformable, that they are ready to open into a series that break their form and explode their terms’.94

Despite what initially seems like a reassertion of difference as rigid and oppositional, a more flexible, supple form of difference begins to appear through Mrs Ramsay when, a few pages after the scene discussed above, the eight Ramsay children make way to their bedrooms ‘to debate anything, everything; Tansley’s tie; the passing of the Reform Bill; sea-birds and butterflies; people’. We are told of two kinds of ‘differences’:

Strife, divisions, difference of opinion, prejudices twisted into the very fibre of being, oh that they should begin so early, Mrs Ramsay deplored. They were so critical, her children […] It seemed to her such nonsense – inventing differences, when people, heaven knows, were different enough without that. The real differences, she thought, standing by the drawing-room window, are enough, quite enough. (TL 11)

The ‘real differences’ for Mrs Ramsay appear to be felt in the molar, binary oppositional categories of ‘rich and poor, high and low’ (TL 11). Similarly, there are many often-cited examples of how Mrs Ramsay props up molar identities of well-defined male and female roles, and (p.81) by upholding ‘the greatness of man’s intellect […] the subjection of all wives’ (TL 14) she has been compared to the idealised patriarchal looking-glass Woolf describes in A Room of One’s Own, ‘possessing the magical and delicious power of reflecting the figure of man at twice its natural size’ (RO 45). Critics have pointed to instances in the novel where Mrs Ramsay is seen giving her husband sympathy (TL 45), her ‘mania’ for marriage (TL 58, 83, 199), her role as mother (TL 38, 45) and her short-sightedness (TL 14, 36, 83, 182).95

But whilst it is tempting to view Mrs Ramsay as stuck within an oppositional framework, there are also moments when she looks beyond this. In the above passage her own relationship to these ‘real differences’ of rich and poor is somewhat ambiguous, with ‘the great in birth receiving from her, half grudging, some respect’ due to her own noble blood, and at the same time her concern with poverty, ‘the things she saw with her own eyes, weekly, daily, here or in London’ (TL 12). Mrs Ramsay’s engagement with political issues is more pronounced later, with her concern ‘about hospitals and drains and the dairy. About things like that she did feel passionately, and would, if she had had the chance, have liked to take people by the scruff of their necks and make them see. No hospital on the whole island. It was a disgrace’ (TL 67). More gravely, her concern for ‘the eternal problems’ of ‘suffering; death; the poor’ are twice repeated: ‘there was always a woman dying of cancer even here’ (TL 70; see also 74). But as well as her contradictory relationship to these class differences, it is intriguing that at the very moment Mrs Ramsay’s difference from her children is most pronounced she is ‘holding James by the hand’ (TL 11) – a phrase that is repeated on the following page – hinting at a connection with his more molecular experience of the world. Indeed James in this moment undermines her notion of what real differences are, for he escapes his own molar identity (as one of ‘her children’) ‘since he would not go with the others’ (TL 11). In relation to sexual difference, it is worth nothing here that the ‘molar aggregates’ par excellence, men and women, are not actually mentioned in the above quotation.96 Might Mrs Ramsay be less contented after all by the ‘relief of simplicity’ that ‘men, and women too, letting go the multiplicity of things, had allowed’? Even here, the narrative quickly moves from the ‘simplicity’ of men and women to Mrs Ramsay’s sense of dissatisfaction with the ‘vanity’ she recognises in her own efforts to please and uphold societal and familial frameworks (TL 49). She is not, after all, entirely able or willing to reduce multiplicity to simplicity.

In ‘The Window’ section of To the Lighthouse there are further examples when Mrs Ramsay does not appear to be as rigidly Victorian (p.82) in her ideals, as unflinchingly supportive of the status quo, or as ‘shortsighted’ as is initially presented. As Goldman notes, we can see both ‘Mrs Ramsay’s complicity with patriarchy and her potential to overthrow it’,97 and this more complicated view of Mrs Ramsay plays itself out at moments when she shows a level of awareness as to the ways in which her ‘singleness of mind’ consists of her ability to find ‘truth which delighted, eased, sustained’ but did so ‘falsely perhaps’ (TL 34). The fragility of her supposed ‘instinct for truth’ (TL 64) is reflected when ‘she made herself look in her glass a little resentful that she had grown old, perhaps, by her own fault. (The bill for the greenhouse and all the rest of it.)’ (TL 114). This time viewing the looking-glass rather than acting as though she herself is one, its reflection enables Mrs Ramsay’s acknowledgement of the transience of life matched by her awareness that things could and perhaps should be different in the future: ‘even if it isn’t fine tomorrow […] it will be another day’ (TL 31). It could be argued, then, that Mrs Ramsay is as aware of the fabrication of familial, sexed roles as Lily Briscoe, but is less willing or less able to let go of that illusion:

she let it uphold her and sustain her, this admirable fabric of the masculine intelligence, which ran up and down, crossed this way and that, like iron girders spanning the swaying fabric, upholding the world, so that she could trust herself to it utterly, even shut her eyes, or flicker them for a moment, as a child staring up from its pillow winks at the myriad layers of the leaves of a tree. Then she woke up. It was still being fabricated. (TL 122)

Mrs Ramsay’s view that ‘windows should be open’ (TL 33) – and later in ‘Time Passes’ it is Mrs McNab who is ‘directed to open all windows’ (TL 148) – as well as the fact that herself, her husband and James all stand or sit by the window at various points in the ‘The Window’ section of the novel, hints at a wish to maintain some connection with the social and material world outside of the familial, perhaps a less polemical portrayal of Deleuze and Guattari’s frustration with family-centred psychoanalysts: ‘Do these psychoanalysts who are oedipalizing women, children […] know what they are doing? We dream of entering their offices, opening their windows and saying, “It smells stuffy in here – some relation with the outside, if you please” ’!98 Or, as we read in a different context in A Room of One’s Own: ‘I thought how unpleasant it is to be locked out; and I thought how it is worse, perhaps, to be locked in’ (RO 31).

Mrs Ramsay’s vision does not always, therefore, focus on the familial: ‘She took a look at life, for she had a clear sense of it there, something real, something private, which she shared neither with her children nor (p.83) with her husband’ (TL 69). Moreover, whilst their specific concerns may be different, the short-sighted/long-sighted opposition of Mrs Ramsay and Mr Ramsay does not always ring true. As she regrets the lack of ‘a model dairy and a hospital up here – those two things she would have liked to do, herself’ but is unable to ‘with all these children’, and then immediately reflects upon the contentment of her position and that ‘she never wanted James to grow a day older, or Cam either […] She would have liked always to have a baby […] was happiest carrying one in her arms’ (TL 68), we are reminded of her husband’s own simultaneous regret (‘the father of eight children has no choice’) and contentment (‘he was for the most part happy; he had his wife; he had his children’) (TL 52; see also 80–1). Indeed, we even see in these early chapters an example of the Ramsay parents and James combined in a vision that goes further than their familial relationship when, despite the fact all three of them are present to Lily’s gaze, it is their materially embedded relation to the nonhuman surroundings, the entanglement of embodiment and environment, which is emphasised:

The sky stuck to them; the birds sang through them. And what was even more exciting, she felt, too, as she saw Mr Ramsay bearing down and retreating, and Mrs Ramsay sitting with James in the window and the cloud moving and the tree bending, how life, from being made up of little separate incidents which one lived one by one, became curled and whole like a wave which bore one up with it and threw one down with it, there, with a dash on the beach. (TL 55)

In this passage Mrs Ramsay, Mr Ramsay, and James are contained in parenthetical commas, and it is the way that ‘the sky stuck to them’ and ‘birds sang through them’, as well as ‘the cloud moving and the tree bending’, which takes Lily’s thoughts on life away from ‘little separate incidents which one lived one by one’ (as a sequence of subjective experiences) to life as ‘curled and whole like a wave’. Rather than a psychoanalytic family portrait, here Woolf re-frames the Ramsay familial triangle as the image of tri-s.

Mrs Ramsay – Mr Ramsay – Lily: bending trees and becoming grass

In Dialogues, Deleuze and Parnet argue that ‘trees are planted in our heads: the tree of life, the tree of knowledge’. Their interest lies not in the tree as metaphor, but as the dominant ‘image of thought’ in Western philosophy:99

(p.84) a whole apparatus that is planted in thought in order to make it go in a straight line and produce the famous correct ideas. There are all kinds of characteristics in the tree: there is a point of origin, seed or centre; it is a binary machine or principle of dichotomy, with its perpetually divided and reproduced branchings, its points of arborescence; […] a hierarchical system or transmission of orders […] The whole world demands roots. Power is always arborescent.100

They go on to contrast the tree as image of thought with grass: ‘not only does grass grow in the middle of things but it grows itself through the middle […] Grass has its line of flight and does not take root. We have grass in the head and not a tree.’101 As Deleuze and Guattari clarify in A Thousand Plateaus, where the tree grows with arborescent rigidity, is rooted in phallogocentrism and promotes the binary machine, grass is aligned with the horizontal, multiple growths of the subterranean ‘rhizome’:

The tree imposes the verb ‘to be,’ but the fabric of the rhizome is the conjunction, ‘and … and … and’. This conjunction carries enough force to shake and uproot the verb ‘to be’. Where are you going? Where are you coming from? What are you heading for? These are totally useless questions […] seeking a beginning or a foundation – all imply a false conception of voyage and movement.102

What counts most for Deleuze then is always ‘the middle and not the beginning or the end, grass which is in the middle and which grows from the middle, and not trees which have a top and roots. Always grass between the paving stones.’103

In relation to Woolf, this ‘grass between the paving stones’ brings to mind the opening episode of A Room of One’s Own, when the narrator provokes ‘horror and indignation’ by strolling onto the Oxbridge turf reserved for the male ‘Fellows and Scholars’ (RO 7), and the territory of sexual politics is clearly but also complexly marked. As Judith Allen writes in Virginia Woolf and the Politics of Language, this ‘gendered landscape […] holds within, in its sedimentary layers, the archaeological remains of its ancient past’. An exploration of this geological and textual site prompts readers to think about the ‘ground on which the social, political and economic events of the past have made their marks, developed their cultures and created their so-called “civilisations” ’.104But as well as prompting us to dig into the past, A Room of One’s Own looks forward, and contemporary revisitings to this scene suggest that readers continue to ‘look carefully’ for that elusive ‘thought’ which was ‘laid on the grass’ precisely as we are presented with the image of a ‘burning tree’, and moments before the narrator trespasses (RO (p.85) 6). My focus in this section is not so much on determining what this thought precisely was or is, but on the very association Woolf makes here between thought and grass as one that she has already explored two years previously in To the Lighthouse. Whilst Allen’s aforementioned book makes reference to A Thousand Plateaus in exploring Woolf’s rhizomatic ‘wild flowing grasses’ as a place where women are linked together at the ‘exclusion of men’,105 in To the Lighthouse grass actually becomes an important site in which Woolf points beyond a politics of exclusion (whether of women or of men); ultimately, her grass becomes an inclusive space in which no one is locked out or locked in. By focusing firstly on the relations between Mrs Ramsay, Mr Ramsay, and trees, and secondly between Lily, Mr Carmichael, and grass, I want to emphasise that the movements of tri-s resist arborescence and are rhizomatic; in other words, the rhizome grows tri-s instead of trees.

The fragility of arborescent foundations in To the Lighthouse is hinted at early on when a pear tree in the orchard is shaken by Lily’s ‘undeniable, everlasting, contradictory’ thoughts about Mr Ramsay and ‘a flock of starlings’ (TL 29–30), and also the aforementioned passage when Lily watches Mr and Mrs Ramsay surrounded by a ‘tree bending’ (TL 55). Later, Woolf’s exploration of the rhizomatic and arborescent is seen in the final two sections of ‘The Window’. In the opening paragraphs here Mrs Ramsay appears to be searching for clearly defined points: ‘She felt rather inclined just for a moment to stand still after all that chatter, and pick out one particular thing; the thing that mattered; to detach it; separate it off; clean it of all the emotions and odds and ends of things’ (TL 129). In contrast to the inseparability of rhizomatic entanglements, Mrs Ramsay even wishes to introduce ‘the moment’ to patriarchal judgement, to institutionalise it: ‘bring it to the tribunal […] the judges she had set up to decide these things. Is it good, is it bad, is it right or wrong? Where are we going to?’ Thus rooted to arborescence – exemplified by this last question which echoes Deleuze and Guattari’s ‘false conception of voyage and movement’ above – she ‘used the branches of the elm trees outside to stabilise her position’. Her ‘sense of movement’ is here a restricted one where ‘all must be order. She must get that right and that right, she thought, insensibly approving of the dignity of the trees’ stillness’ (TL 130).

What follows, however, is a reminder that the arborescent and rhizomatic are not fixed oppositions creating their own binary framework but always already holding the potential to transpose each other. As Deleuze and Guattari put it: ‘there are two kinds of voyage, distinguished by the respective role of the point, line and space […] Tree travel and rhizome travel […] But nothing completely coincides, and everything (p.86) intermingles, or crosses over.’106 In To the Lighthouse we witness a rhizomatic transformation of the tree itself, the becoming-cosmic of the tree: ‘It was windy, so that the leaves now and then brushed open a star, and the stars themselves seemed to be shaking and darting light and trying to flash out between the edges of the leaves’ (TL 130). In contrast to the ending of the previous section of the novel where Mrs Ramsay seems to abide by an arborescent point-system of time and memory when she comments, following her dinner, that ‘it had become, she knew, giving one last look at it over her shoulder, already the past’ (TL 128), now her rhizomatic becoming refuses a settling into melancholic nostalgia, instead transforming into something affirmative:

They would, she thought, going on again, however long they lived, come back to this night; this moon; this wind; this house; and her too […] wound about in their hearts, however long they lived she would be woven; and this, and this, and this, she thought, going upstairs, laughing, but affectionately, at the sofa on the landing (her mother’s) at the rocking chair (her father’s) at the map of the Hebrides. All that would be revived again in the lives of Paul and Minta. (TL 130)

As Mrs Ramsay becomes entangled with her surroundings, there is a diffusion of subject, object and time, and a rhizomatic movement prevails in which ‘the line frees itself from the point, and renders points indiscernible’107 and which emphasises the conjunction ‘and … and … and’108 – ‘and this, and this, and this’, as Woolf writes in the above passage. This rhizomatic movement brings forth ‘that community of feeling with other people which emotion gives as if the walls of partition had become so thin that practically (the feeling was one of relief and happiness) it was all one stream, and chairs, tables, maps, were theirs, it did not matter whose’ (TL 131).

While Mrs Ramsay’s evasion of arborescent thinking in this moment is fleeting, it becomes apparent that some change has endured. For example, even when she is seduced again by the idea of marriage – ‘How extraordinarily lucky Minta is! She is marrying a man who has a gold watch in a wash-leather bag!’ (TL 134) – there is a hint of self-mocking as she is ‘tickled by the absurdity of her thought’ (TL 135). Moreover, it initially appears that Mr Ramsay brings his wife back to arborescence with his presence in the same vein in which he earlier appears to stifle Lily’s creativity: ‘she grew still like a tree which has been tossing and quivering and now, when the breeze falls, settles, leaf by leaf, into quiet’ (TL 136). But to Mrs Ramsay this stillness appears to have been reimagined, somehow liberated, perhaps becoming what Deleuze and Guattari refer to as ‘motionless voyage’109 where the question of beginning or (p.87) ending is superfluous, where we ‘voyage in place: that is the name of all intensities […] To think is to voyage.’110 In her motionless voyage Mrs Ramsay decides that ‘it didn’t matter, any of it, she thought. A great man, a great book, fame – who could tell?’ (TL 136) In grasping at something beyond the confines of her familial relationship with her husband, ‘dismissing all this’, Mrs Ramsay affirms ‘there is something I want – something I have come to get’ (TL 136). As she murmurs of ‘trees and changing leaves’ from Charles Elton’s ‘Luriana Lurilee’, the description of her then reading lines from William Browne’s ‘The Siren’s Song’ – in the book she finds on the table – is a rhizomatic one, and one which signals the becoming-rhizome of the tree itself: ‘zigzagging this way and that, from one line to another as from one branch to another’ (TL 137).111

The sound of Mr Ramsay then ‘slapping his thighs’ would ordinarily signal another interruption and overcoding of the arborescent, but instead sees him swept up in a rhizomatic entanglement: ‘Their eyes met for a second; but they did not want to speak to each other. They had nothing to say, but something seemed, nevertheless, to go from him to her […] now, he felt, it didn’t matter a damn who reached Z (if thought ran from an alphabet from A to Z). Somebody would reach it – if not he, then another’ (TL 137–8). This ‘if not he, then another’ echoes the ‘it did not matter whose’ from Mrs Ramsay’s earlier ‘stream’. In addition, the sex-neutral terms the narrator employs here (‘somebody’, ‘another’) are important, and the parenthetical use of the second conditional – a tense used for improbable events – indicates a doubting of the arborescent linearity through which he had previously thought of his philosophical endeavours. Again temporarily escaping his familial role, Mr Ramsay reads Walter Scott writing about ‘these fishermen, the poor old crazed creature in Mucklebackit’s cottage made him feel so vigorous, so relieved of something that he felt roused and triumphant and could not choke back his tears’ (TL 138). In the mocking tone that follows as he ‘forgot himself completely (but not one or two reflections about morality and French novels and English words and Scott’s hands being tied but his view perhaps being as true as any other view)’, it seems as though this time Mr Ramsay is also in on the joke, which adds to the sense in which the arborescent Mr Ramsay who took himself and his philosophy so seriously is beginning to be uprooted. Feeling ‘more secure’ in his less rooted state of mind, he ‘could not remember the whole shape of the thing’. In what could almost be a direct response to Mrs Ramsay’s earlier depiction of her judges, Mr Ramsay realises he must ‘keep his judgement in suspense’ (TL 138). He now resists the temptation to demand sympathy from his wife: ‘One ought not to complain, thought (p.88) Mr Ramsay, trying to stifle his desire to complain to his wife that young men did not admire him. But he was determined; he would not bother her again’ (TL 139). Whilst it is important to remember that Woolf does not present us with a utopian vision here – after all, we do still see Mr Ramsay interrupting Mrs Ramsay (TL 134) and patronising her when she is reading (TL 140) – the fact Mr Ramsay is capable of being swept up (even if momentarily) in this nonarborescent becoming would suggest that the particular form of sexual difference at play in the novel looks further than the male/female binary and towards a politics of inclusion.

As difficult as it may be to let go of old traditions – and sections of ‘Time Passes’ are certainly an elegy of and for that – the vision Woolf presents us with as the novel continues is one of molecular connections rather than molar categorisations: ‘there was scarcely anything left of body or mind by which one could say “This is he” or “This is she” ’ (TL 144). If, as Deleuze and Guattari suggest, ‘the tree has implanted itself in our bodies, rigidifying and stratifying even the sexes’,112 then the ‘wind and destruction’ of ‘Time Passes’ is therefore necessary to triumph over arborescence. In other words, to bend a tree requires a storm: ‘the trees plunge and bend and their leaves fly helter skelter until the lawn is plastered with them and they lie packed in gutters and choke rain pipes and scatter damp paths’ (TL 146). Crucially, it is here that the focus turns from the plunging and bending trees to the grass lawn on which part of ‘The Lighthouse’ section of the novel will be set. Amongst the death and ruin of ‘Time Passes’, this lawn becomes a site of the regeneration of art when Mrs McNab is clearing out the house and realises that the ‘mouldy’ books have ‘to be laid out on the grass in the sun’ (TL 154).

In ‘The Lighthouse’ section, the fact that the final lines of both the painting and Woolf’s novel occur while Lily is sitting on this lawn is significant in itself as an example of reclaiming the grass and rejecting the arborescent. That Lily shares this lawn with Mr Carmichael, however, points to Woolf’s grass as an inclusive space which welcomes an inclusive politics irreducible to dualistic antagonisms between men and women. Silent for almost all of the novel, Mr Carmichael does not adopt the role of the dominating male – to borrow Goldman’s description, he ‘does not threaten, but seems, muse-like, to assist Lily’s progress’.113 Indeed he shares a thought-connection with Lily: ‘A curious notion came to her that he did after all hear the things she could not say’ (TL 203); he ‘seemed (though they had not said a word all this time) to share her thoughts’ (TL 220). Rather than being a ‘blank or absence in the text’, as Minow-Pinkney claims,114 we might say that he partakes with Lily in their becoming-grass together, where sitting on the lawn is ‘sitting on the world’, a world envisaged beyond arborescent thought and patriarchal (p.89) exclusion: ‘The lawn was the world; they were up here together, on this exalted station’ (TL 220). Have they achieved the kind of imperceptible, impersonal connection that Deleuze and Guattari claim makes one ‘like grass: one has made the world, everybody/everything into a becoming’ (TL 309)? To the Lighthouse would therefore be refusing to steer clear of the grass just as the narrators (and readers) of A Room of One’s Own are caught ‘audaciously trespassing’ (RO 7) on the turf that patriarchy had tried to keep exclusively for men. It would mean that both Lily and Mr Carmichael, in silent collaboration with each other and perhaps even with the Ramsays, are affirming: ‘I refuse to allow you, Beadle though you are, to turn me off the grass’! (RO 98)

Mr Ramsay – Cam – James: smoothing the sea

In A Thousand Plateaus, Deleuze and Guattari argue that different molar and molecular, rigid and supple, movements are brought into play variously in what they term ‘smooth’ and ‘striated’ spaces, where the smooth is ‘an intensive rather than extensive space […] not of measures and properties’ and the striated where ‘one goes from one point to another’ (TL 528):

The smooth and the striated are distinguished first of all by an inverse relation between the point and the line (in the case of the striated, the line is between two points, while in the smooth, the point is between two lines); and second, by the nature of the line (smooth-directional, open intervals; dimensional-striated, closed intervals). Finally, there is a third difference, concerning the surface or space. In striated space, one closes off a surface and ‘allocates’ it according to determinate intervals, assigned breaks; in the smooth, one ‘distributes’ oneself in an open space, according to frequencies and in the course of one’s crossings[.]115

For Deleuze and Guattari it is the sea that provides the best illustration that the smooth and striated is no fixed opposition, but one that ‘gives rise to far more difficult complications, alternations, and superpositions’:116

This is where the very special problem of the sea enters in. For the sea is a smooth space par excellence, and yet was the first to encounter the demands of increasingly strict striation […] the striation of the sea was a result of navigation on the open water […] bearings, obtained by a set of calculations based on exact observation of the stars and the sun; and the map, which intertwines meridians and parallels, longitudes and latitudes, plotting regions known and unknown onto a grid.117

(p.90) The smooth space of the sea is therefore described as having always been there ‘before longitude lines had been plotted’, where ‘there existed a complex and empirical nomadic system of navigation based on the wind and noise, the colours and sounds of the seas’.118

In To the Lighthouse, smooth and striated spaces are crossed when Mr Ramsay, Cam, and James attempt to row out to the lighthouse in the final part of Woolf’s novel. At first it seems as though Mr Ramsay inhabits the sea as a striated space, or turns it into this with his presence, for example when he mocks Cam’s ignorance of ‘the points of the compass’ (TL 190).119 But it would be too simple to depict Mr Ramsay as holding a striated space whilst Cam and James participate in the smoothing of the sea. As Deleuze and Guattari again clarify, this time with the example of the land: ‘As simple as this opposition is, it is not easy to place it. We cannot content ourselves with establishing an immediate opposition between the smooth ground of the nomadic animal raiser and the striated land of the sedentary cultivator.’120 Mr Ramsay may be ‘acting instantly his part’ (TL 189) as sedentary regulator of the sea as well as ‘sedentary cultivator’ of the land in To the Lighthouse, but we cannot reduce him to pure striation. The possibility of a more subversive space occupied by Mr Ramsay is signalled by his becoming engaged with the smoothing of the sea. As Deleuze and Guattari repeatedly state, ‘becoming’ always happens ‘through the middle’,121 and it is worth pausing at the moment in Woolf’s novel when we are told that Mr Ramsay ‘sat in the middle of the boat’ which itself stops still in the ‘middle of the bay’ (TL 206). Abel views this motionless moment as the point where ‘the Oedipal structure that dominates James’ childhood in “The Window” is completed’. She suggests that ‘in the motionless “middle of the bay” – which mirrors the empty middle of the text, in which Mrs Ramsay vanishes – James submits to his father’s will and “cease[s] to think” about his mother’.122 But rather than seeing this as a moment of Oedipal completion where James identifies with his father and becomes separated from his mother, it is partly Mr Ramsay’s move away from his dominating role which means James can join him. Instead of representing a site where ‘thoughts have ceased, their velocity is no more and they stagnate in familial tensions’,123 what we see is a molecular, ‘motionless voyage’ similar to Mrs Ramsay’s in the previous section, where you ‘keep moving even in place’.124 What we see is, indeed, their shared becoming, for as Deleuze writes in his essay ‘What Children Say’, ‘it is becoming that turns the most negligible of trajectories, or even a fixed mobility, into a voyage’.125 It is whilst ‘the boat made no motion at all’ (TL 184) that Mr Ramsay is portrayed more affectionately by his children, albeit that their other view of him as ‘tyrant’ is never quite (p.91) erased. This is Mr Ramsay’s capacity to inhabit smooth as well as striated spaces. For example, whilst Cam continues to feel the pressure of her father’s dominance, alongside this we also see her smoothing the way to pass ‘a private token of the love she felt’ for him: ‘no one attracted her more; his hands were beautiful to her and his feet, and his voice, and his words, and his haste, and his temper, and his oddity, and his passion, and his saying straight out before every one, we perished, each alone, and his remoteness’ (TL 191).

As they are stationed in the middle of the sea, even James realises that it is the system of patriarchy, and not specifically his father, that he detests: ‘now, as he grew older, and sat staring at his father in an impotent rage, it was not him, that old man reading, whom he wanted to kill, but it was the thing that descended on him – without his knowing it perhaps’ (TL 209). Could this be James’ becoming-minoritarian or even his becoming-woman?: ‘he would track down and stamp out – tyranny, despotism, he called it – making people do what they did not want to do, cutting off their right to speak’ (TL 209). Importantly, it is at this moment that James goes on to think about the multiple potential actions of his father, showing a sensitivity to molecular creativity rather than molar fixity. Mr Ramsay becomes filled with the subversive potential of supple movement rather than rooted to his more despotic utterances such as ‘Come to the lighthouse. Do this. Fetch me that’ (TL 209):

then next moment, there he sat reading his book; and he might look up – one never knew – quite reasonably. He might talk to the Macalisters. He might be pressing a sovereign into some frozen old woman’s hand in the street, James thought; he might be shouting out at some fisherman’s sports; he might be waving his arms in the air with excitement. Or he might sit at the head of the table dead silent from one end of the dinner to the other. Yes, thought James, while the boat slapped and dawdled there in the hot sun; there was a waste of snow and rock very lonely and austere; and there he had come to feel, quite often lately, when his father said something which surprised the others, were two pairs of footprints only; his own and his father’s. They alone knew each other. (TL 209–10)

‘What then was this terror, this hatred?’ James’ conclusion appears to associate his father with the childhood recollection of ‘a wagon crush[ing] ignorantly and innocently, someone’s foot’. But if Mr Ramsay is here becoming-wheel, it is important to note that ‘the wheel was innocent’ (TL 210). As James tries to locate in his memory the episode of the wagon and the wheel, he recalls the enunciation: ‘ “It will rain,” he remembered his father saying. “You won’t be able to go to the Lighthouse” ’ (TL 211). If the wheel is not in full control of the wagon, (p.92) then the voicing of this utterance, the narrative seems to imply, cannot be forever rooted to, and held against, his father.

As their boat starts to move again, Mr Ramsay in this middle space raises his hand and lowers it ‘as if he were conducting some secret symphony’ (TL 213) – recalling James’ ‘secret language’ (TL 5) and Mrs Ramsay’s ‘secret chambers’ (TL 60) – in contrast to the more rigid linearity of his other preoccupation with walking ‘up and down’ (TL 18, 140, 168). Later, as they reach the lighthouse, the expectations of Mr Ramsay from Cam and James, and from the reader, are confounded when, instead of declaring once again in his self-indulgent tone ‘But I beneath a rougher sea’, he finally praises James: ‘ “Well done!” James had steered them like a born sailor’ (TL 234). Immediately following this, James’ reaction is revealed through Cam’s thoughts, and the supple movements of tri-s are evident once again through the narrative’s shifting (free) indirect discourse,126 creating what Deleuze often refers to as a ‘collective assemblage of enunciation’,127 signalling a connection and collaboration between Cam and James, female and male:

she knew that this is what James had been wanting, and she knew that now he had got it he was so pleased that he would not look at her or at his father or at any one […] He was so pleased that he was not going to let anybody take a grain of his pleasure. His father had praised him. They must think that he was perfectly indifferent. But you’ve got it now, Cam thought. (TL 234–5)

Mr Ramsay is crucial to this collaboration, and plays his own part in resisting Cam and James’ instinct to offer him the chance to reassert his patriarchal rule. Both Cam and James have the urge to ask him ‘What do you want?’ and they are poised to give him whatever is required. Yet, as with his earlier decision not to demand sympathy from Mrs Ramsay, ‘he did not ask them anything’. Patriarchal demands are replaced by potentialities: ‘he might be thinking, We perished, each alone, or he might be thinking, I have reached it. I have found it, but he said nothing’ (TL 236).

Lily – Canvas – Line: becoming paint

Between Lily, her canvas and her final brushstroke, the ending of To the Lighthouse is not so much a celebration of the individual achievement of the female artist as it is a collective creation beyond molar divisions. It is the moment in the text when Woolf’s theorising of sexual difference is located in the materiality of paint and canvas; it is the becoming-paint of (p.93) sexual difference, the shaping of molecular intensities rather than molar forms, the latter of which, we know from early on in To the Lighthouse, Lily does not attempt to capture. Her first painting, recalling the ‘secret’ molecular world of James, Mrs Ramsay, and Mr Ramsay, is ‘the residue of her thirty-three years, the deposit of each day’s living, mixed with something more secret than she had ever spoken or shown in the course of all these days’ (TL 61). Certainly not myopic, Lily has an ability to keep everything in view at once, the smallest material detail and her larger environs: ‘Even when she looked at the mass, at the line, at the colour, at Mrs Ramsay sitting in the window with James, she kept a feeler on her surroundings’ (TL 22). From its very inception, then, Lily’s painting is much more than an attempt to present an image of Mrs Ramsay and James on a blank canvas. Indeed, as Deleuze argues in Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation (1981),

it is a mistake to think that the painter works on a white surface […] If the painter were before a white surface, he – or she – could reproduce on it an external object functioning as a model. But such is not the case. The painter has many things in his head, or around him, or in his studio. Now everything he has in his head or around him is already in the canvas, more or less virtually, more or less actually, before he begins his work. […] He does not paint in order to reproduce on the canvas an object functioning as a model; he paints on images that are already there[.]128

As a result, Deleuze suggests that it is important to ‘define […] all these “givens” that are on the canvas before the painter’s work begins, and determine, among these givens, which are an obstacle, which are a help’.129 Entangled in her surroundings, I want to consider the role of Mr Ramsay and the other men in To the Lighthouse as a part of Lily’s painting, where at the beginning they are seen to impede Lily’s creativity, to be an obstacle on the canvas, but where they collaborate more and more throughout the novel.

Like the inclusive sexual politics in To the Lighthouse modelled on the rhizomatic grass, Lily’s painting, completed sitting on the grass lawn, seems to anticipate the affirmation in A Room of One’s Own that a writer’s pages should be filled with a ‘sexual quality’ that is ‘unconscious of itself’ (RO 121): ‘subduing all her impressions as a woman to something much more general; becoming once more under the power of that vision which she had seen clearly once and must now grope for among hedges and houses and mothers and children – her picture’ (TL 62). As the picture is dissociated from Lily’s own subjectivity – ‘it had been seen; it had been taken from her’ – we learn that by observing the painting William Bankes ‘had shared with her something profoundly intimate’ (p.94) (TL 63). Crucially, Lily does not credit his sex for this intimacy, nor even him as a separated and determined subject: ‘thanking Mr Ramsay for it and Mrs Ramsay for it and the hour and the place, crediting the world with a power which she had not suspected, that one could walk away down that long gallery not alone any more but arm-in-arm with somebody’ (TL 63). As if to emphasise the connection to her painting, even her paint-box is entangled in this ‘most exhilarating moment’ as we are told that ‘she nicked the catch of her paint-box to, more firmly than was necessary, and the nick seemed to surround in a circle for ever the paint-box, the lawn, Mr Bankes, and that wild villain, Cam, dashing past’ (TL 63). It is important, too, to recognise Mr Ramsay as a part of the becoming-paint of To the Lighthouse. In ‘The Lighthouse’ section of the novel, Lily’s vision seems to be initially blocked by Mr Ramsay and his demands, where ‘he permeated, he prevailed, he imposed himself. He changed everything. She could not see the colour, she could not see the lines […] That man, she thought, her anger rising in her, never gave; that man took’ (TL 169–70). For good or for ill, however, we cannot overlook the fact that ‘he permeated’ and ‘changed everything’; any vision we attribute to Lily should not therefore be seen as a complete escape from, or erasure of, Mr Ramsay. That is, Lily’s ability to continue with her painting is not achieved by an outright rejection of Mr Ramsay or the men in the novel; there must be some collaboration between them despite their differences because opposition is an inadequate design: ‘For whatever reason she could not achieve that razor edge of balance between two opposite forces; Mr Ramsay and the picture; which was necessary. There was something perhaps wrong with the design? Was it, she wondered, that the line of the wall wanted breaking, was it that the mass of the trees was too heavy?’ (TL 219)

The place of men in Lily’s art is noted by Goldman when she argues that ‘Lily is no longer painting in the same social and political space […] her picture must come, not from opposition to Ramsay, but from her new sense of collectivity.’130 As well as her connection with Mr Carmichael on the lawn, there are clear instances elsewhere in the text where Lily connects with men. There is the revelation, for example, that ‘one could talk of painting then seriously to a man. Indeed, his friendship had been one of the pleasures of her life. She had loved William Bankes’ (TL 200). This world that ‘seemed to dazzle him’ is also a world in which, again recalling my discussion above, the tree is not given precedence, but is just another part of their surroundings: ‘they strolled through the courtyards, and admired, summer after summer, the proportions of the flowers […] as they walked, and he would stop to look at a tree, or the view over the lake, and admire a child (it was (p.95) his great grief – he had no daughter)’ (TL 201). Domesticated roles are not fixed to any stereotypes: ‘he must buy a new carpet for the staircase. Perhaps she would go with him to buy a new carpet for the staircase’ (TL 201). Lily and William then share their androgynous gaze towards Mrs Ramsay as ‘[Lily] saw, through William’s eyes, the shape of a woman’ (TL 201). But whilst Goldman concludes that for Lily ‘it is a social, multi-subjective view of Mrs Ramsay that she comes to desire’, it is not, ultimately, a view that goes beyond the sexed binary: Lily’s painting shows Mrs Ramsay as ‘the feminine object of the feminine gaze’, and her final line, no longer a tree as in her first painting, ‘suggests the feminine reclamation of the first person’.131

There is certainly an element of this in Lily’s final line, but taking into account the rhizomatic connections which involve many characters, male and female, in this novel, I would agree with Beatrice Monaco’s claim in Machinic Modernism that Lily’s painting expresses ‘the liberation of the psyche from social and sexual limitations’ of a binary nature,132 and would argue that the ‘lines running up and across’ suggests the rhizomatic aesthetic, and politics, of the painting – that there is the impossibility of determining the precise angle of the final ‘line there, in the centre’ (TL 237). We are not only left with a line that rejects arborescence, but this line could, conceivably, reach anywhere on the canvas; it takes on a conceptual dimension, resisting what Deleuze and Guattari call the ‘submission of the line to the point’,133 at the same time as it exemplifies the kind of modernist brushstroke that Deleuze and Guattari claim is ‘without origin’, a line that

begins off the painting, which only holds it by the middle […] it is without localizable connection, because it has lost not only its representative function but any function of outlining a form of any kind […] the line has become abstract, truly abstract and mutant […] The line is between points, in their midst, and no longer goes from one point to another. It does not outline a shape.134

Lily’s line also coincides with the uncertainty that surrounds the lighthouse at the end of the novel, where this previously monolithic object ‘had become almost invisible, had melted away into a blue haze’ (TL 236); the becoming-paint of To the Lighthouse, which is the becoming-imperceptible of the lighthouse.

Lily’s ‘vision’ (TL 137) at the end of the novel would therefore paint her as one ‘of those with long-distance vision, the far-seers, with all their ambiguities […] They see a whole microsegmentarity, details of details […] tiny movements that have not reached the edge, lines or vibrations that start to form long before there are outlined shapes […] A whole (p.96) rhizome.’135 As with the final brushstroke of the painting, this far-sightedness is evident in the use of the present perfect in the final sentence of the novel: ‘I have had my vision’ (TL 137). A tense ambiguous about its place in time, we do not know whether Lily is referring to the very recent past as she finished her painting or indeed to the decade before or before that still; it is in all these potentialities that her vision is perfectly present.

Notes

(1.) For a thorough discussion of these various links see the special issue of Women’s Studies (1974).

(2.) Woolf refers here to Coleridge’s statement that ‘a great mind must be androgynous’ in The Table Talk and Omniana of Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1918) which she first wrote about in a review for the TLS in 1918, entitled ‘Coleridge as Critic’ (E2 221–5).

(3.) Bowlby, Feminist Destinations, p. 39.

(4.) Goldman, The Cambridge Introduction, p. 100; Hargreaves, ‘Virginia Woolf’, p. 52.

(5.) Bowlby, Feminist Destinations, p. 35.

(6.) Heilbrun, Toward a Recognition; Bazin, Virginia Woolf.

(7.) Secor, ‘Androgyny’, p. 162.

(8.) Harris, ‘Androgyny’, p. 174.

(9.) Ibid

(10.) Showalter, A Literature, p. 264. In this respect Showalter precedes critics such as Alex Zwerdling who see Woolf as compromising her artistic integrity to appease men in a short-term strategy of conciliation in order to achieve political goals and Jane Marcus who holds Woolf up as a ‘guerrilla fighter in a Victorian skirt’. See Zwerdling, Virginia Woolf, p. 259, and Marcus, ‘Thinking Back’, pp. 1–30.

(11.) Jacobus, ‘The Difference of View’, p. 20.

(12.) Minow-Pinkney, Virginia Woolf, p. 9.

(13.) Caughie, Virginia Woolf and Postmodernism, p. 82, p. 80.

(14.) Showalter, A Literature, p. 288.

(15.) Moi, Sexual/Textual, p. 16.

(16.) Kristeva, ‘Women’s Time’, p. 875.

(17.) Ibid

(18.) Moi, ‘ “I Am Not a Feminist, But …” ’, p. 1735.

(19.) Helt, ‘Passionate Debates’, p. 132; p. 151.

(20.) I focus primarily, although not uncritically, on ‘sexual difference’ rather than ‘gender’ in this chapter, following the preferred term used by materialist feminists such as Braidotti and Grosz, who are interested in the epistemological and ontological workings of sexual differences that do not pertain to the separation of essentialist/constructivist, material/discursive, (p.97) sex/gender. In addition, in the other texts I focus on in this chapter, Deleuze and Woolf discuss ‘sex’ and not ‘gender’.

(21.) By bringing androgyny into the context of our own contemporary debates around sexual difference I am answering Bazin and Freeman’s call to ‘expand it, alter it, and, above all, render it more concrete by defining it in terms of our own historical situation […] we must go beyond past definitions of androgyny’. Bazin and Freeman, ‘The Androgynous Vision’, p. 185.

(22.) Braidotti, Transpositions, p. 49.

(23.) Braidotti, Nomadic Subjects, p. 153.

(24.) Ibid

(25.) Braidotti, Transpositions, p. 185.

(26.) Braidotti, Nomadic Subjects, p. 163.

(27.) Ibid

(28.) Ibid

(29.) Ibid

(30.) Braidotti, Transpositions, p. 4.

(31.) Braidotti, Nomadic Subjects, 2nd edn, p. 151. Braidotti notes that this model is not intended to provide ‘dialectically ordained phases’ or ‘categorical distinction[s]’, though she maintains the urgency of viewing them ‘from the perspective of sexual difference’. Braidotti, Nomadic Subjects, p. 158

(32.) Braidotti, Nomadic Subjects, pp. 158–65.

(33.) Ibid

(34.) Ibid

(35.) Braidotti, Metamorphoses, p. 39.

(36.) See Braidotti, Metamorphoses, p. 1; Braidotti, Transpositions, pp. 199– 200; Braidotti, Nomadic Subjects, 2nd edn, p. 21.

(37.) Braidotti, Nomadic Subjects, p. 36.

(38.) In contrast, Jane Marcus has strongly argued that anger is ‘a primary source of creative energy’ for female writers: ‘Rage and savage indignation sear the hearts of female poets and female critics.’ See ‘Art and Anger’, pp. 94–5. Brenda Silver also comments that anger is ‘the most compelling source of our [feminism’s] strength’. See ‘The Authority of Anger’, pp. 340–70. Lili Hseih has more recently offered a nuanced contribution to the debate on Woolf and anger where she argues the political merits of indifference in Three Guineas. See ‘The Other Side’, pp. 20–54.

(39.) Kamuf, ‘Penelope at Work’, pp. 16–17.

(40.) Braidotti, Nomadic Subjects, p. 166.

(41.) Goldman, Feminist Aesthetics, p. 17.

(42.) Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, p. 152.

(43.) Butler, Undoing Gender, p. 196.

(44.) Ibid

(45.) Ibid

(46.) Braidotti, Transpositions, p. 185. Braidotti’s problems with the term ‘gender’ range from what she sees as its politically unfocused project, its Anglo-centric roots, and its academic institutionalisation. See Braidotti, Nomadic Subjects, 2nd edn, pp. 141–50.

(47.) Braidotti and Butler, ‘Feminism’, pp. 43–4.

(p.98) (48.) Butler, Undoing Gender, p. 196.

(49.) Butler admits plainly in Undoing Gender that she is ‘not a very good materialist. Every time I try to write about the body, the writing ends up beings about language’ (198).

(50.) Deleuze and Guattari, Kafka, p. 16.

(51.) Ibid

(52.) Ibid

(53.) Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, p. 304.

(54.) Deleuze and Parnet, Dialogues, p. 32. This text translates Deleuze’s concept as ‘woman-becoming’ rather than the more common translation of ‘becoming-woman’. For consistency, I have changed all citations to ‘becoming-woman’.

(55.) Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, p. 304.

(56.) Ibid

(57.) Ibid

(58.) Some critics have linked this quotation to Edward Carpenter’s notion of a ‘third-sex’ in The Indeterminate Sex (1912). For a summary see Hargreaves, ‘Virginia Woolf’, pp. 10–20.

(59.) Driscoll, ‘The Woman in Process’, p. 80. Drawing links between Kristeva’s ‘subject in process’, Braidotti’s ‘nomadic subject’, and Deleuze’s becoming, Driscoll places Woolf firmly on the side of Deleuze: ‘Woolf’s style is not amorphous and fluid, after the style of Kristeva’s maternalising vision of the postmodern, nor simply an internalised contradiction of identification after Braidotti’s postmodern woman.’

(60.) Howie, ‘Becoming-Woman’, p. 103.

(61.) Braidotti, Nomadic Subjects, 2nd edn, p. 251.

(62.) Ibid

(63.) Braidotti, Nomadic Subjects, p. 78.

(64.) Colebrook, ‘Introduction’, p. 10. For a thorough and balanced discussion of both the limitations and subversive potential of Deleuze’s ‘becomingwoman’ for feminism, see Grosz, Volatile Bodies, pp. 160–83.

(65.) Jardine, ‘Woman in Limbo’, p. 53.

(66.) Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, p. 320.

(67.) Ibid

(68.) Grosz, Becoming Undone, p. 168.

(69.) Ibid

(70.) Colebrook, ‘How Queer’, p. 29

(71.) Helt, ‘Passionate Debates’, p. 132.

(72.) Spivak, ‘Unmaking’, p. 42.

(73.) Heilbrun, Toward a Recognition, p. 156.

(74.) Grosz, Volatile Bodies, p. 182.

(75.) Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, p. 305.

(76.) Deleuze and Guattari, Kafka, p. 56.

(77.) Ibid

(78.) Deleuze and Guattari, Anti-Oedipus, p. 335

(79.) Ibid

(80.) Deleuze, Negotiations, pp. 17–18.

(81.) Deleuze and Guattari, Anti-Oedipus, p. 385.

(82.) Smith, ‘The Inverse Side’, pp. 645–6.

(p.99) (83.) Grosz, Becoming Undone, p. 54.

(84.) Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, p. 36.

(85.) Ibid

(86.) Abel, Virginia Woolf, p. 50. For a recent survey of psychoanalytic readings of Woolf’s work, see Minow-Pinkney, ‘Psychoanalytic Approaches’. See also Minow-Pinkney, Virginia Woolf, p. 87.

(87.) Marcus, Virginia Woolf, p. 114.

(88.) Bowlby, Feminist Destinations, p. 59.

(89.) See for example Woolf’s 1920 essay ‘Freudian Fiction’ (E2 195–7).

(90.) Jouve, ‘Virginia Woolf and Psychoanalysis’, p. 256.

(91.) Driscoll, ‘The Woman in Process’, p. 65.

(92.) Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, p. 15.

(93.) Deleuze and Guattari, Kafka, p. 79.

(94.) Ibid

(95.) For an excellent recent survey of the changing critical responses to Mrs Ramsay, see Silver, ‘Editing Mrs. Ramsay’, pp. 1–10.

(96.) Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, p. 45.

(97.) Goldman, Feminist Aesthetics, p. 173.

(98.) Deleuze and Guattari, Anti-Oedipus, p. 391.

(99.) For a discussion of some examples of trees in philosophy, and an alternative reading of trees in Woolf’s writing from the one I provide in this section, see Mao, Solid Objects, pp. 43–58. In addition to philosophy, Goldman reminds us that the tree is also a symbol of patriarchal patronage in pastoral poetry. See Goldman, Feminist Aesthetics, p. 170.

(100.) Deleuze and Parnet, Dialogues, p. 19.

(101.) Ibid

(102.) Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, p. 27.

(103.) Deleuze and Parnet, Dialogues, p. 19.

(104.) Allen, Virginia Woolf, p. 66.

(105.) Ibid

(106.) Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, p. 531.

(107.) IbidWorlds

(108.) Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, p. 27.

(109.) Ibid

(110.) Ibid

(111.) In his eight-hour interview with Claire Parnet, Deleuze ends with a discussion of the movement of a ‘zigzag’ which, he says, ‘is perhaps the elementary movement, perhaps the movement that presided at the creation of the world’. See Deleuze and Parnet, From A to Z.

(112.) Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, p. 20.

(113.) Goldman, Feminist Aesthetics, p. 182.

(114.) Minow-Pinkney, Virginia Woolf, p. 115.

(115.) Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, p. 530.

(116.) Ibid

(p.100) (117.) Ibid

(118.) Ibid

(119.) Landefeld, ‘Becoming Light’, p. 61.

(120.) Deleuze and Guttari, A Thousand Plateaus, pp. 530–1.

(121.) Ibid

(122.) Abel, Virginia Woolf, p. 46. See also Minow-Pinkney, Virginia Woolf, p. 112.

(123.) Landefeld, ‘Becoming Light’, p. 61.

(124.) Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, p. 177.

(125.) Deleuze, Critical and Clinical, p. 65.

(126.) Michael Whitworth notes that free indirect discourse allows Woolf to explore ‘several distinct consciousnesses’ and also ‘consciousnesses that were several but indistinct, a “group consciousness” ’. Whitworth, Authors in Context, p. 95. Though Woolf is so often conflated with ‘stream-of-consciousness’ writing, Whitworth goes on to outline some key differences between the style in Joyce’s Ulysses and Woolf’s writing. For an early discussion of ‘stream of consciousness’ and Woolf’s novels see Naremore, The World, pp. 60–76. See also Doyle, ‘ “These Emotions” ’. Influenced by French phenomenologist Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Doyle proposes ‘intercorporeal narrative’ as a description of Woolf’s narrative technique in To The Lighthouse. For an insightful discussion of Woolf’s free indirect discourse in relation to the public and private realms see Snaith, Virginia Woolf, pp. 63–87. Snaith offers the term ‘communal free indirect discourse’ as a way of understanding Woolf’s use (74).

(127.) Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, p. 93.

(128.) Deleuze, Francis Bacon, p. 61.

(129.) Ibid

(130.) Goldman, Feminist Aesthetics, p. 182.

(131.) Ibid

(132.) Monaco, Machinic Modernism, p. 51.

(133.) Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, p. 323.

(134.) Ibid

(135.) Ibid

Notes:

(1.) For a thorough discussion of these various links see the special issue of Women’s Studies (1974).

(2.) Woolf refers here to Coleridge’s statement that ‘a great mind must be androgynous’ in The Table Talk and Omniana of Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1918) which she first wrote about in a review for the TLS in 1918, entitled ‘Coleridge as Critic’ (E2 221–5).

(3.) Bowlby, Feminist Destinations, p. 39.

(4.) Goldman, The Cambridge Introduction, p. 100; Hargreaves, ‘Virginia Woolf’, p. 52.

(5.) Bowlby, Feminist Destinations, p. 35.

(6.) Heilbrun, Toward a Recognition; Bazin, Virginia Woolf.

(7.) Secor, ‘Androgyny’, p. 162.

(8.) Harris, ‘Androgyny’, p. 174.

(9.) Ibid

(10.) Showalter, A Literature, p. 264. In this respect Showalter precedes critics such as Alex Zwerdling who see Woolf as compromising her artistic integrity to appease men in a short-term strategy of conciliation in order to achieve political goals and Jane Marcus who holds Woolf up as a ‘guerrilla fighter in a Victorian skirt’. See Zwerdling, Virginia Woolf, p. 259, and Marcus, ‘Thinking Back’, pp. 1–30.

(11.) Jacobus, ‘The Difference of View’, p. 20.

(12.) Minow-Pinkney, Virginia Woolf, p. 9.

(13.) Caughie, Virginia Woolf and Postmodernism, p. 82, p. 80.

(14.) Showalter, A Literature, p. 288.

(15.) Moi, Sexual/Textual, p. 16.

(16.) Kristeva, ‘Women’s Time’, p. 875.

(18.) Moi, ‘ “I Am Not a Feminist, But …” ’, p. 1735.

(19.) Helt, ‘Passionate Debates’, p. 132; p. 151.

(20.) I focus primarily, although not uncritically, on ‘sexual difference’ rather than ‘gender’ in this chapter, following the preferred term used by materialist feminists such as Braidotti and Grosz, who are interested in the epistemological and ontological workings of sexual differences that do not pertain to the separation of essentialist/constructivist, material/discursive, (p.97) sex/gender. In addition, in the other texts I focus on in this chapter, Deleuze and Woolf discuss ‘sex’ and not ‘gender’.

(21.) By bringing androgyny into the context of our own contemporary debates around sexual difference I am answering Bazin and Freeman’s call to ‘expand it, alter it, and, above all, render it more concrete by defining it in terms of our own historical situation […] we must go beyond past definitions of androgyny’. Bazin and Freeman, ‘The Androgynous Vision’, p. 185.

(22.) Braidotti, Transpositions, p. 49.

(23.) Braidotti, Nomadic Subjects, p. 153.

(25.) Braidotti, Transpositions, p. 185.

(26.) Braidotti, Nomadic Subjects, p. 163.

(30.) Braidotti, Transpositions, p. 4.

(31.) Braidotti, Nomadic Subjects, 2nd edn, p. 151. Braidotti notes that this model is not intended to provide ‘dialectically ordained phases’ or ‘categorical distinction[s]’, though she maintains the urgency of viewing them ‘from the perspective of sexual difference’. Braidotti, Nomadic Subjects, p. 158

(32.) Braidotti, Nomadic Subjects, pp. 158–65.

(35.) Braidotti, Metamorphoses, p. 39.

(36.) See Braidotti, Metamorphoses, p. 1; Braidotti, Transpositions, pp. 199– 200; Braidotti, Nomadic Subjects, 2nd edn, p. 21.

(37.) Braidotti, Nomadic Subjects, p. 36.

(38.) In contrast, Jane Marcus has strongly argued that anger is ‘a primary source of creative energy’ for female writers: ‘Rage and savage indignation sear the hearts of female poets and female critics.’ See ‘Art and Anger’, pp. 94–5. Brenda Silver also comments that anger is ‘the most compelling source of our [feminism’s] strength’. See ‘The Authority of Anger’, pp. 340–70. Lili Hseih has more recently offered a nuanced contribution to the debate on Woolf and anger where she argues the political merits of indifference in Three Guineas. See ‘The Other Side’, pp. 20–54.

(39.) Kamuf, ‘Penelope at Work’, pp. 16–17.

(40.) Braidotti, Nomadic Subjects, p. 166.

(41.) Goldman, Feminist Aesthetics, p. 17.

(42.) Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, p. 152.

(43.) Butler, Undoing Gender, p. 196.

(46.) Braidotti, Transpositions, p. 185. Braidotti’s problems with the term ‘gender’ range from what she sees as its politically unfocused project, its Anglo-centric roots, and its academic institutionalisation. See Braidotti, Nomadic Subjects, 2nd edn, pp. 141–50.

(47.) Braidotti and Butler, ‘Feminism’, pp. 43–4.

(p.98) (48.) Butler, Undoing Gender, p. 196.

(49.) Butler admits plainly in Undoing Gender that she is ‘not a very good materialist. Every time I try to write about the body, the writing ends up beings about language’ (198).

(50.) Deleuze and Guattari, Kafka, p. 16.

(53.) Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, p. 304.

(54.) Deleuze and Parnet, Dialogues, p. 32. This text translates Deleuze’s concept as ‘woman-becoming’ rather than the more common translation of ‘becoming-woman’. For consistency, I have changed all citations to ‘becoming-woman’.

(55.) Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, p. 304.

(58.) Some critics have linked this quotation to Edward Carpenter’s notion of a ‘third-sex’ in The Indeterminate Sex (1912). For a summary see Hargreaves, ‘Virginia Woolf’, pp. 10–20.

(59.) Driscoll, ‘The Woman in Process’, p. 80. Drawing links between Kristeva’s ‘subject in process’, Braidotti’s ‘nomadic subject’, and Deleuze’s becoming, Driscoll places Woolf firmly on the side of Deleuze: ‘Woolf’s style is not amorphous and fluid, after the style of Kristeva’s maternalising vision of the postmodern, nor simply an internalised contradiction of identification after Braidotti’s postmodern woman.’

(60.) Howie, ‘Becoming-Woman’, p. 103.

(61.) Braidotti, Nomadic Subjects, 2nd edn, p. 251.

(63.) Braidotti, Nomadic Subjects, p. 78.

(64.) Colebrook, ‘Introduction’, p. 10. For a thorough and balanced discussion of both the limitations and subversive potential of Deleuze’s ‘becomingwoman’ for feminism, see Grosz, Volatile Bodies, pp. 160–83.

(65.) Jardine, ‘Woman in Limbo’, p. 53.

(66.) Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, p. 320.

(68.) Grosz, Becoming Undone, p. 168.

(70.) Colebrook, ‘How Queer’, p. 29

(71.) Helt, ‘Passionate Debates’, p. 132.

(72.) Spivak, ‘Unmaking’, p. 42.

(73.) Heilbrun, Toward a Recognition, p. 156.

(74.) Grosz, Volatile Bodies, p. 182.

(75.) Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, p. 305.

(76.) Deleuze and Guattari, Kafka, p. 56.

(78.) Deleuze and Guattari, Anti-Oedipus, p. 335

(80.) Deleuze, Negotiations, pp. 17–18.

(81.) Deleuze and Guattari, Anti-Oedipus, p. 385.

(82.) Smith, ‘The Inverse Side’, pp. 645–6.

(p.99) (83.) Grosz, Becoming Undone, p. 54.

(84.) Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, p. 36.

(86.) Abel, Virginia Woolf, p. 50. For a recent survey of psychoanalytic readings of Woolf’s work, see Minow-Pinkney, ‘Psychoanalytic Approaches’. See also Minow-Pinkney, Virginia Woolf, p. 87.

(87.) Marcus, Virginia Woolf, p. 114.

(88.) Bowlby, Feminist Destinations, p. 59.

(89.) See for example Woolf’s 1920 essay ‘Freudian Fiction’ (E2 195–7).

(90.) Jouve, ‘Virginia Woolf and Psychoanalysis’, p. 256.

(91.) Driscoll, ‘The Woman in Process’, p. 65.

(92.) Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, p. 15.

(93.) Deleuze and Guattari, Kafka, p. 79.

(95.) For an excellent recent survey of the changing critical responses to Mrs Ramsay, see Silver, ‘Editing Mrs. Ramsay’, pp. 1–10.

(96.) Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, p. 45.

(97.) Goldman, Feminist Aesthetics, p. 173.

(98.) Deleuze and Guattari, Anti-Oedipus, p. 391.

(99.) For a discussion of some examples of trees in philosophy, and an alternative reading of trees in Woolf’s writing from the one I provide in this section, see Mao, Solid Objects, pp. 43–58. In addition to philosophy, Goldman reminds us that the tree is also a symbol of patriarchal patronage in pastoral poetry. See Goldman, Feminist Aesthetics, p. 170.

(100.) Deleuze and Parnet, Dialogues, p. 19.

(102.) Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, p. 27.

(103.) Deleuze and Parnet, Dialogues, p. 19.

(104.) Allen, Virginia Woolf, p. 66.

(106.) Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, p. 531.

(107.) IbidWorlds

(108.) Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, p. 27.

(111.) In his eight-hour interview with Claire Parnet, Deleuze ends with a discussion of the movement of a ‘zigzag’ which, he says, ‘is perhaps the elementary movement, perhaps the movement that presided at the creation of the world’. See Deleuze and Parnet, From A to Z.

(112.) Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, p. 20.

(113.) Goldman, Feminist Aesthetics, p. 182.

(114.) Minow-Pinkney, Virginia Woolf, p. 115.

(115.) Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, p. 530.

(p.100) (117.) Ibid

(119.) Landefeld, ‘Becoming Light’, p. 61.

(120.) Deleuze and Guttari, A Thousand Plateaus, pp. 530–1.

(122.) Abel, Virginia Woolf, p. 46. See also Minow-Pinkney, Virginia Woolf, p. 112.

(123.) Landefeld, ‘Becoming Light’, p. 61.

(124.) Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, p. 177.

(125.) Deleuze, Critical and Clinical, p. 65.

(126.) Michael Whitworth notes that free indirect discourse allows Woolf to explore ‘several distinct consciousnesses’ and also ‘consciousnesses that were several but indistinct, a “group consciousness” ’. Whitworth, Authors in Context, p. 95. Though Woolf is so often conflated with ‘stream-of-consciousness’ writing, Whitworth goes on to outline some key differences between the style in Joyce’s Ulysses and Woolf’s writing. For an early discussion of ‘stream of consciousness’ and Woolf’s novels see Naremore, The World, pp. 60–76. See also Doyle, ‘ “These Emotions” ’. Influenced by French phenomenologist Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Doyle proposes ‘intercorporeal narrative’ as a description of Woolf’s narrative technique in To The Lighthouse. For an insightful discussion of Woolf’s free indirect discourse in relation to the public and private realms see Snaith, Virginia Woolf, pp. 63–87. Snaith offers the term ‘communal free indirect discourse’ as a way of understanding Woolf’s use (74).

(127.) Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, p. 93.

(128.) Deleuze, Francis Bacon, p. 61.

(130.) Goldman, Feminist Aesthetics, p. 182.

(132.) Monaco, Machinic Modernism, p. 51.

(133.) Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, p. 323.