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Virginia Woolf and the Materiality of TheorySex, Animal, Life$
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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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Quantum Reality and Posthuman Life: The Waves

Quantum Reality and Posthuman Life: The Waves

(p.171) Chapter 5 Quantum Reality and Posthuman Life: The Waves
Virginia Woolf and the Materiality of Theory

Derek Ryan

Edinburgh University Press

This chapter considers the ways in which Woolf, primarily in The Waves, engages with the materiality of life itself. The first half of the chapter addresses ‘matter’ by focusing on how The Waves engages with many of the philosophical issues concerning materiality arising out of the new physics in the first decades of the twentieth century, before turning to the ways in which the novel anticipates more recent debates which include Karen Barad’s work on Niels Bohr’s ‘philosophy-physics’ and her theory of ‘agential realism’ and ‘intra-action’ in Meeting the Universe Halfway (2007). The second half of this chapter considers the conceptualisation of ‘life’ in Woolf’s novel, drawing especially on Eugene Thacker’s consideration of Aristotelian psukhe and the distinction between ‘Life’ and ‘the living’, Jane Bennett’s ‘vital materialism’ and ‘thing-power’, and Deleuze’s ‘assemblage’, ‘haecceity’, and ‘pure immanence’. Through its exploration of the material entanglements of human bodies and nonhuman objects, things, and environments, The Waves is read as presenting an immanent, posthuman ontology of life.

Keywords:   Virginia Woolf, The Waves, quantum physics, posthumanism, life, philosophy, Karen Barad, Immanence, Gilles Deleuze, Jane Bennett

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